Family & Companions
Acclaimed as a superior color cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel began his career shooting the stunning John Cassavetes film "A Woman Under the Influence" (1974). The Philadelphia native studied at USC and the American Film Institute and with Gordon Willis before embarking on his career. While working as a director of photography, Deschanel also shot several short films (including the prize-winning "Trains" 1976), documentaries and TV commercials. He received widespread acclaim for two 1979 features, Carroll Ballard's "The Black Stallion" and Hal Ashby's "Being There." In the former, Deschanel's lyric cinematography and almost fauvistic use of strong, pure color, captured the budding "love story" between Kelly Reno and the horse, (making the texture of Picasso's less vivid "A Boy and His Horse" seemingly come alive). The film is often cited as one of (if not THE) most beautifully lensed of the 70s; its pictorial beauty greater, perhaps, than the narrative. "Being There" was in many ways an opposite canvas, in which the dialogue had prominence, yet the look of the feature was just as lyric, but with diffused color so as not to offset the eccentric reality the film was trying to uncover. Deschanel earned back-to-back Oscar nods for his work on Philip Kaufman's paean to the space program, "The Right Stuff" (1983) and Barry Levinson's period baseball drama "The Natural" (1984). The latter used light as a force, an almost overblown imagery that unsettles the audience, leaving it to question the reality within the narrative yet at the same time, providing a melodic sensibility to baseball, a game to which words have paid homage, but films have rarely been able to put into equally poetic pictures.
Deschanel moved up to the director's chair with "The Escape Artist" (1982), a muddled tale of a child magician. Critics praised the visual stylings of the film (although some carped over the director's mixed use of period and contemporary details), but found the script to be lacking. His second feature, "Crusoe" (1988), a retelling of Daniel Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" with Aidan Quinn, was exhibited at Cannes and earned respectful reviews but failed to find an audience. Like "The Black Stallion," the imagery was put above the words in "Crusoe," but the film's examination of fear and betrayal might have benefited from a less sensitive and more biting quality of light. Deschanel directed three episodes of the David Lynch-produced ABC TV series "Twin Peaks" (1990-91) before returning to cinematography with 1994's "It Could Happen to You," a surprise hit in which he transformed a romance with few surprises into a fairy tale of almost innocent discovery through his moving the lighting base from a matter-of-fact realism to tonal dream-like moments. He reteamed with director Carroll Ballard on the acclaimed "Fly Away Home" (1996), which featured breathtaking aerial camerawork that earned him third Oscar nomination.
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First film as director of photography, John Cassavetes' "A Woman Under the Influence"
First collaboration with director Carroll Ballard, "The Black Stallion"
Initial collaboration with director Hal Ashby "Being There"
Feature directing debut, "The Escape Artist"
Garnered first Oscar nomination for "The Right Stuff"; film also featured his wife Mary Jo
Earned second Academy Award nomination for "The Natural"
Last collaboration with Hal Ashby "The Slugger's Wife"
Directed second feature "Crusoe"
Directed three episodes of the David Lynch-produced TV series "Twin Peaks"
Participated as one of the interviewees in the documentary "Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography"
Shot first feature as cinematographer in eight years "It Could Happen to You"
Second collaboration with Carroll Ballard, "Fly Away Home"; won third Oscar nomination
Was director of photography for Forest Whitaker's "Hope Floats"
Cinematographer for "Anna and the King"
Served as cinematographer on the Revolutionary War-set drama "The Patriot"; garnered fourth Academy Award nomintion
Collaborated with Mel Gibson on the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ"; earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography