Allen Daviau, Cinematographer on ‘E.T.’ and ‘The Color Purple,’ Dies at 77 of Coronavirus

Daviau was a five-time Academy Award nominee

Allen Daviau cinematographer
Photo credit: Getty Images

Allen Daviau, five-time Academy Award nominated cinematographer who worked on films like Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” “The Color Purple” and “Empire of the Sun,” died on Wednesday. He was 77.

His cousin, Christopher Rice, wrote on Facebook that Daviau died of COVID-19. “Goodbye, my sweet, brilliant cousin. You live on for us in the many frames of beautiful film you helped bring into the world. And your loss sadly makes this terrible pandemic feel all the more real,” he wrote.

Additionally, food editor and writer Colman Andrews sent his condolences on Twitter. “RIP Allen Daviau, my friend of almost 60 years, cinematographer and bon vivant, five-time Academy Award nominee, dining companion extraordinaire, pure soul, who left us last night at the MPTF Hospital, his longtime home, after contracting COVID-19. Salut, mon ami.”

A spokesperson for Daviau also confirmed his death to TheWrap.

Daviau was nominated for Oscars for “The Color Purple,” “Empire of the Sun,” “E.T” and the Barry Levinson films “Avalon” and “Bugsy.” His other nominations include 2 BAFTAs (he won one).

His other credits include Spielberg’s “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” John Schlesinger’s “The Falcon and the Snowman,” William Dear’s “Harry and the Hendersons,” Frank Marshall’s “Congo” and most recently, Stephen Sommers’ “Van Helsing.”

Daviau started his career by shooting pre-MTV music videos, before he shot a 26-minute film called “Amblin” with Spielberg in 1968. The film had no dialogue — it just featured music and sound effects.

Spielberg on hearing of Allen’s passing said, “In 1968, Allen and I started our careers side by side with the short film ‘Amblin.’ Allen was a wonderful artist but his warmth and humanity were as powerful as his lens. He was a singular talent and a beautiful human being.”

“He was the ‘it guy’ of American cinematography in the 80s, a master of light and a connoisseur of the science and magic of film, a memorable physical presence, a lover of great food and wine, and a long time Los Angeleno who didn’t drive,” MPTF’s President & CEO Bob Beitcher said in a statement.

John Toll, a two-time Academy Award winner in cinematography and Allen’s camera operator for several years, added: “He was as creative and knowledgeable of the art, craft, and history of cinematography as anyone I’ve ever known.”

Daviau is the fourth Motion Picture & Television Fund (MPTF) nursing facility resident to pass away from COVID-19. Disney animator Ann Sullivan died on April 13 at the facility. Actor Allen Garfield, 80, and John Breier, 64, the husband of a longtime IATSE member, died at the MPTF facility last week. Like many other nursing homes, the coronavirus outbreak has hit MPTF hard, as 13 other residents have tested positive for the virus, with 10 currently being treated in isolation units. Eight caretakers have also tested positive.

See Rice’s post below.