Vilmos Zsigmond, ‘Close Encounters’ Cinematographer, Dead at 85

The sci-fi tale brought Zsigmond an Academy Award. He was nominated for “The Deer Hunter” and two others

Hungarian cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, an Oscar winner for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” has died at 85, several of his colleagues said Sunday.

In addition his Oscar for the Steven Spielberg-directed 1997 sci-fi tale, Zsigmond was nominated for “The Deer Hunter,” “The River” (1984) and “The Black Dahlia” (2006).

Zsigmond ranked among the 10 most influential cinematographers in film history in a 2003 survey conducted by the International Cinematographers Guild.

His extensive resume, created over five decades, included “Deliverance,” “Blow Out,” “The Ghost and the Darkness” and the Robert Altman films “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and “The Long Goodbye.”

“The cinematography world lost a great talent today. Vilmos’ genius was not only in his images, but in his sense of duty to honest storytelling,” said Stephen Poster, president of the American Society of Cinematographers Guild in a statement Sunday. “As one of our most esteemed members, Vilmos was an inspiration and mentor to many of us in the International Cinematographers Guild.

“There is not a member at the International Cinematographers Guild who has not been impacted by his brilliant photography and his personal story,” Poster said. “His brave beginnings providing footage from the Hungarian revolution will always be an important part of his legacy and to future generations of cinematographers and film students. He made a difference. He will continue to be an inspiration to cinematographers everywhere.”

Zsigmond, who escaped from his native Hungary after the 1956 Russian invasion, eventually made Los Angeles his new home. He broke out with Altman’s stylistically impressive “McCabe” (1971), in which he used a limited palate of low-key colors. After that he was selected by John Boorman to be the cinematographer on “Deliverance,” the 1972 classic.

For the next two decades Zsigmond was one of the busiest cinematographers in Hollywood, working with directors as Michael Cimino, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma and George Miller.

Earlier this year, Zsigmond joined host Anthony Bourdain on the CNN travel and food show “Parts Unknown” for a tour of Bucharest, Hungary. And he also shot a number of episodes of the Fox sitcom “The Mindy Project” from 2012-14.