Martin Scorsese Remembers Michael Ballhaus as a ‘Precious and Irreplaceable Friend’

“He was a lovely human being, and he always had a warm smile for even the toughest situations,” filmmaker says of “Goodfellas” cinematographer, who died Wednesday

Martin Scorsese has paid tribute to his former colleague, longtime partner and friend, Michael Ballhaus, following his death at 81.

The Oscar-winner described his director of photography on “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “The Departed,” and “Goodfellas” as a “precious and irreplaceable friend … this is a great loss for me.”

Ballhaus, who received three Academy Award nominations over the course of his own 25-year career, passed away on Tuesday.

“He was a lovely human being, and he always had a warm smile for even the toughest situations — anyone who knew him will remember his smile,” Scorsese continued.

Along with his collaborations with Scorsese, Ballhaus also worked with talents like Robert Redford on “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “Quiz Show,” Frank Oz in “Dirty Little Scoundrels,” and Wolfgang Petersen in “Air Force One.”

His final Hollywood achievement was “The Departed” in 2006 starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Wahlberg.

The Boston crime drama was a critical and commercial success and won several awards, including four Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Wahlberg was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

See Scorsese’s full tribute below.

“For over 20 years, Michael Ballhaus and I had a real creative partnership, and a very close and enduring friendship. By the time we met, he had already made film history with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and I revered him. He was a lovely human being, and he always had a warm smile for even the toughest situations–anyone who knew him will remember his smile.

We started working together in the 80s, during a low ebb in my career. And it was Michael who really gave me back my sense of excitement in making movies. For him, nothing was impossible. If I asked him for something difficult, he would approach it with enthusiasm: he never told me we couldn’t do something, and he loved to be challenged.

If we were running out of time and light, he would figure out a way to work faster. And if we were behind schedule and getting into a situation where we had to eliminate set-ups, he would sit down with me calmly and we would work it out together: instead of getting frustrated about what was being taken away, he would always think in terms of what we had. 

Really, he gave me an education, and he changed my way of thinking about what  it is to make a film. He was a great artist. He was also a precious and irreplaceable friend, and this is a great loss for me.”