Cinematographer Roger Deakins, finally an Oscar-winner for "Blade Runner 2049"

Ryan Gosling in "Blade Runner 2049." Cinematography by Roger Deakins.

Warner Brothers

After earning 14 Academy Award nominations, gifted cinematographer Roger Deakins -- long a bridesmaid at the award ceremonies – received his first Oscar Sunday for his work on the science fiction film "Blade Runner 2049." 

90th Academy Awards - Oscars Backstage - Hollywood

Roger A. Deakins holds the Oscar for Best Cinematography for "Blade Runner 2049."


He received a standing ovation at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood as he received the award. "The idea of following up that original film was a little scary, to say the least, yeah," Deakins said Sunday.

Ridley Scott's 1982 "Blade Runner" (shot by Jordan Cronenweth) is regarded as one of the most beautiful movies ever made. When asked whether he had tried to pay homage to the original, Deakins replied, "I think you do in a way, because it's all part of your kind of film memory, if you like. ... Whether you're aware of the film that went before it, it's like, I couldn't light like Jordan. I mean, I think what he did on that film was stunning, but I'm a different person, and I kind of see things slightly differently."


A scene from "Blade Runner 2049." Cinematography by Roger Deakins.

Warner Brothers

View clips below from "Blade Runner 2049" and from other examples of Deakins' peerless work.

In this scene below, set in a wasteland that was once Las Vegas, a policeman, K (Ryan Gosling), and Deckard (Harrison Ford) come under attack by agents seeking Deckard and the central figures of a replicant resistance movement.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) - They Found Us Scene (7/10) | Movieclips by Movieclips on YouTube

This clip features a compendium of haunting imagery from "Blade Runner 2049," for which Roger Deakins received this year's Academy Award.  

The Cinematography of Blade Runner 2049 by Leslie Drawdy on YouTube

Born in 1949 in Torquay, England, Deakins studied graphic design, photography and film before working as a cameraman for documentaries, and shot early music videos, before expanding to narrative features, including Michael Radford's wartime romance "Another Time, Another Place" (1983).  

The following year, Deakins shot Radford's adaptation of George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984," with a palette drained of color and, indeed, life.

1984 (1/11) Movie CLIP - Two Minutes Hate (1984) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

After several impressive credits, including "Sid and Nancy," "White Mischief," "Mountains of the Moon" and "Air America," Deakins began a long collaboration with Joel and Ethan Coen, with 1991's "Barton Fink." Set in a hellishly-warm L.A. hotel, where screenwriter Barton Fink (John Turturro) toils on a wrestling epic, the air is palpably thick, and warm enough to make wallpaper peel off the walls.

Barton Fink - Heat Scene by Upermuk on YouTube

Deakins received his first Academy Award nomination of the 1994 prison drama "The Shawshank Redemption." In this scene, we witness Tim Robbins' Andy Dufresne, sentenced to life for murders he didn't commit, entering the prison, all hope fading around him.

Shawshank Redemption Andy's entrance by NFLGUITARSMOVIES on YouTube

After shooting the Coen Brothers' "Fargo," Deakins traveled to Morocco to shoot Martin Scorsese's "Kundun," the life story of the Dalai Lama.

Kundun - "The Chinese have invaded" by Stephen Menick on YouTube

Though Deakins maintained his preference for shooting on film stock even as more movies were going digital, his work on the Coen Brothers' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" was revolutionary for the digital age. After scanning the camera negative, the film was edited and color timed in the digital realm, artificially altering the colors throughout to create a de-saturated, autumnal glow. In addition to the glorious look of the film, it was the first time that a digital internegative master copy of a color-timed film was produced.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (1/10) Movie CLIP - Yours Truly (2000) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

Deakins and the Coens used a digital post-production scheme to convert the color photography of "The Man Who Wasn't There" into black-and-white. Partly this was for practical reasons (fewer labs were capable of processing black-and-white stock), but it also gave Deakins enormous control over contrast.

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) - Reasonable Doubt Scene (6/10) | Movieclips by Movieclips on YouTube

Deakins' ability to shoot evocative night scenes was vividly proven in "Jarhead" (2005), about U.S. Marines participating in Operation Desert Shield in the Arabian desert, where oil well fires pierced the inky blackness.

Jarhead Fight The Power Scene by THESSALONIAN31N on YouTube

In this tense, quiet scene from the Coens' "No Country for Old Men" (2007), Deakins uses tiny pools of light and some telling shadows to depict the jeopardy facing Josh Brolin's character being hunted by a hired killer.

No Country for Old Men (3/11) Movie CLIP - Waiting in a Dark Hotel Room (2007) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

The same year as "No Country for Old Men" -- a contemporary western -- Deakins shot one of his most beautiful works, director Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." In this scene, James and his gang hijack and rob a train at night.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2008) - 'The Money Train' scene by Screen Themes on YouTube

Deakins' use of cool and warm light sources to underscore conflict can be appreciated in this scene from the drama "Doubt," in which Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) protests the actions of Sister Aloysius Beauvier.

Doubt (8/10) Movie CLIP - What Have I Done? (2008) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

In this scene from the Coens' period western "True Grit" (2010), Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld)  demonstrates her own particular style of true grit. There is no fussiness to the lighting, with seemingly natural sources used, though Deakins was skilled at making scenes such as this look as if no artificial lighting were used. 

CLASSIC SCENE:True Grit by ClassicMovieScenes on YouTube

After shooting on digital for the first time on the science fiction film "In Time," Deakins shot the James Bond film "Skyfall" with the Alexa ALEV III. Deakins' shooting of Bond's fight with an assassin, illuminated only by Translight screens representing skyscraper billboards, is masterful.

Skyfall - Patrice Fight Scene (HD) Clip by HD Trailers on YouTube

In "Sicario," about the drug wars along the U.S.-Mexico border, Deakins used silhouettes and deep shadows of figures in the desert at dusk to create a haunting sense of dread. And when things got really dark -- shooting in a drug-smuggler's tunnel  --  Deakins adapted military-grade night-vision goggles and a thermal camera, and shot without any light at all.

Sicario scene - at dusk before entering the tunnel HD by Movie Remixer on YouTube

From utter realism, to utter theatricality: For "Hail, Caesar!" the Coens' period comedy set in Hollywood, Deakins recreated the look of 1950s Technicolor Biblical epics.

Hail, Caesar! - Got Most Of It Scene (9/10) | Movieclips by Movieclips on YouTube
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at and