Cinematographer Owen Roizman, a 2017 honorary Oscar winner, looks back on his career

Josh Rottenberg, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

A: You know, the honest answer is I had no idea. Each movie that came along was a gift that I was fortunate enough to get that piece of material to work on. I was a bit fussy about what I was going to do most of the time, because I always had commercials to fall back on -- that was where I started my career. That allowed me to be choosier about what I was selecting to shoot.

Q: Did you ever turn down anything that you later wished you hadn't?

A: The truthful answer to that is I don't feel like I turned down anything that I regretted turning down. I turned down some great films but for different reasons.

Steven Spielberg called and asked me to do "Jaws." We spoke for maybe three hours on the phone, and I really liked him -- and I still to this day love the guy. But what he didn't know is that I was thinking to myself the whole time, as he was describing the story to me, 'Jesus, a shark terrorizing a town on Long Island -- that means going on a boat a lot.' I get seasick. So that didn't sound too inviting to me. So I turned it down really for that reason.

Q: The technology of both the way movies are shot and the way we watch them has changed so much since you started working in Hollywood in the early '70s. Do you worry that today's audiences are losing the appreciation for the experience of seeing movies on the big screen?

A: That part of it bothers me. For someone to watch a movie on their iPad or their phone or whatever, I feel they're missing out. Then again, some of the TVs that you have at home now for not that much money have amazing pictures.

As far as the process of moviemaking, it's really the same. It's just that the tools are so different now.

I remember when my buddy 1/8cinematographer3/8 Roger Deakins shot his first digital film. He had been resisting it forever because he was just a film nut. I asked him, "How did you like it?" And he just looked at me and said, "No more sleepless nights." Because you can see your work right away. You don't have to send it to the lab to be developed and printed.

Q: Being nominated five times for an Oscar and never actually winning one before now, did you ever feel like you got numb to it?

A: You never get numb to it. It's always exciting. The first time I was nominated, for "The French Connection," I had never anticipated getting nominated for anything in my life. It was thrilling just to get the nomination. Then, when it came along each time, it surprised me.

I used to joke to my wife, "Well, I guess I fooled them." And when I was nominated the last time, for "Wyatt Earp," my wife said, "Guess what? You fooled them again."

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times

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