The man who shot E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Bugsy, The Color Purple, and many more classic films has died. The Associated Press reports that Allen Daviau passed away on Tuesday; on Twitter, a friend said he died “after contracting COVID-19.” The AP confirmed Daviau’s passing with the American Society of Cinematographer. Daviau was 77 years old.

Daviau had not worked regularly as a cinematographer since the mid-2000s, but in his prime he was one of the most reliable — not to mention talented — directors of photography in Hollywood. His single greatest achievement is probably his work on Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. So many images from that movie have become legendary, like E.T. and Elliott’s hug and the gravity-defying bike chase.

Daviau teamed with Spielberg regularly through the 1980s. He worked on Spielberg’s Twilight Zone: The Movie as well as his Amazing Stories television show, and he also worked as his cinematographer on two more features, Empire of the Sun and The Color Purple. Daviau was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography five times during the ’80s and ’90s, including all three of the features he shot for Spielberg.

Daviau’s other Oscar nominated work was in Barry Levinson’s Avalon and Warren Beatty’s hugely successful biopic Bugsy. The images in all of these movies speak for themselves.

Daviau continued doing great work all through the 1990s and into the early 2000s; his other movies include Defending Your LifeFearlessThe Astronaut’s WifeVan Helsing, and one of my absolute favorites of the era, the sublimely silly B-movie Congo. 

Here’s Daviau talking about his craft, and how digital filmmaking was changing it, from an interview around the time of Van Helsing.

Daviau literally produced some of the most memorable visuals in the history of motion pictures. His work has delighted generations of moviegoers, and it will continue delighting generations more for as long as people watch film. This is another tragic loss caused by coronavirus.

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