Martin Scorsese pays tribute to Goodfellas and The Departed cinematographer Michael Ballhaus: 'For him, nothing was impossible'

The pair worked together on six films

Jack Nicholson in The Departed
Jack Nicholson in The Departed

Michael Ballhaus has died at the age of 81, the director of photography on Oscar-winning films who served as Head of the Jury at the 40th Berlin International Film Festival.

Ballhaus collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola on Dracula but is best known for his work with Martin Scorsese, heading up cinematography of six of his films: 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 Departed (2006).

Scorsese paid tribute to his friend and credited him with invigorating his career in the 80s.

He said in a statement:

“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.”

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