Michael Chapman, ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Raging Bull’ Cinematographer, Dies at 84

Cinematographer and director Michael Chapman, known for his work on Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “The Last Waltz,” died Sunday. He was 84.

His spouse, screenwriter and film director Amy Holden Jones’ Facebook page confirmed the news of his death, writing: “Michael Chapman ASC, love of my entire adult life, has passed. Until we meet again.” 

He was nominated for two Oscars for best cinematography, for “Raging Bull” — with its distinctive black and white photography — and “The Fugitive.” 

Chapman began his film career as a camera operator, working on projects such as Hal Ashby’s “The Landlord,” “The Godfather” and “Jaws.” He cited his mentor, Gordon Willis, the director of Ashby’s “The Last Detail,” French cinematographer Raoul Coutard and Scorsese, with whom he collaborated several times, as people who impacted him greatly.

His later films as director of photography or cinematographer included “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” “Space Jam,” “The Lost Boys” and “Ghostbusters II.”

The cinematographer was born on Nov. 21, 1935 in New York City. Chapman entered film work through his father-in-law, Oscar-nominated French American cinematographer Joe Brun, who didn’t want him working as a freight brakeman. He received the lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers, of which he was a member since 1995, in 2004 and from the Camerimage International Film Festival in 2016. 

Visual splendor can be “a terrible mistake,” he told Variety upon the occasion of the Camerimage honor. “It shouldn’t be beautiful — it should be appropriate.”

He also ventured into directing in the 1980s with “Clan of the Cave Bear” and “All the Right Moves,” starring a young Tom Cruise.

Chapman retired after shooting his last film “The Bridge to Terabithia.” 

He is survived by Jones and son Andrew Chapman. 

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