In his 50 years behind the camera, Michael Ballhaus has worked with directors like Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorsese. The Berlin Film Festival is now honoring him as "one of the greatest cinematographers."
In his long Hollywood career, the German cinematographer has filmed with stars such as Michelle Pfeiffer in "The Fabulous Baker Boys" (1989) and Daniel Day-Lewis in "Gangs of New York" (2003). Having made a name for himself in Germany working with directors like Rainer Werner Fassbender in th 1970s, Ballhaus moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s.
"I'm especially happy about this award," Ballhaus said about the Berlinale's Golden Bear in an interview with news agency dpa. "I've seen many wonderful films here. 1980 was my first encounter with Martine Scorsese who presented his film 'Raging Bull' here."
Creative bond with Martin Scorsese
Ballhaus has worked with some of the greatest directors in Hollywood: Francis Ford Copolla, Wolfgang Petersen, Robert Redford, and, most importantly, Martin Scorsese. Scorsese and Ballhaus formed a creative team and produced seven films together over the years. Ballhaus was also the cinematographer for Scorsese's seminal film "Goodfellas" (1990), which Ballhaus describes as the best film of his career.
Ballhaus said about their relationship that "Scorsese is a director who thinks in images. That's something wonderful for a cinematographer because then you speak the same language." Renowned for his legendary 360-degree tracking shots, Ballhaus was nicknamed "The Flying Eye" in Hollywood. He is also praised for perfecting the use of the steady-cam.
Ballhaus has received three Academy Award nominations, the last one for "Gangs of New York," but has never won the award.
In his 50-year career, Ballhaus has made more than 150 movies and received numerous German and international awards. In 2014, he announced that he was suffering from glaucoma, a disease which gradually impedes his eyesight. Without the disease, Ballhaus would probably still be working.
jb/kbm (with dpa)