Michael Ballhaus, the acclaimed, three-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer who worked on Gangs of New York and Goodfellas, died Tuesday evening in Berlin after a short illness. He was 81.
Born August 5, 1935 in Germany, Ballhaus was an accomplished cinematographer, working closely with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on 16 films, beginning with 1970’s Whity and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, Satan’s Brew and Chinese Roulette, among others.
Ballhaus also worked with Martin Scorsese on six projects, including After Hours (1985), The Color of Money (1986), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990), The Age of Innocence (1993), Gangs of New York (2002) and the Oscar-winning The Departed (2006).
Ballhaus was known for his 360 degree tracking shots that moved in circles around the actor, as well as the “vertigo effect,” where, while zooming in, he moved the camera backwards.
The cinematographer received three nominations, his first for 1987’s Broadcast News, the second for The Fabulous Baker Boys in 1989 and his third for Gangs of New York.
With more than 120 credits to his name, he did cinematography on Prince’s 1986 film Under the Cherry Moon, Paul Newman’s The Glass Menagerie, Frank Oz’s What About Bob, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Robert Redford’s Quiz Show and The Legend of Bagger Vance, and Nancy Meyer’s Something’s Gotta Give. His final film was Sherry Hormann’s 3096 Days.
In 1990, Ballhaus was the Head of the Jury at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival and in 2006 he released his documentary In Berlin with Ciro Cappelari.
Ballhaus is survived by two children, Sebastian and Florian Ballhaus.