Career profile: Robert Richardson, ASC
Without Limits: Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Robert Richardson, ASC, continues to demonstrate an uncontainable spirit of cinematic exploration.
Published in the February 2019 issue of American Cinematographer.
The fact that Robert Richardson, ASC—recipient of this year’s ASC Lifetime Achievement Award—counts Vittorio Storaro as a big influence is a telling detail. It’s not just Storaro’s expressionistic lighting and mastery of camera moves that Richardson admires. It’s also his collaborative spirit, which led to long and fruitful relationships with such brilliant directors as Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Ford Coppola, and Carlos Saura.
Now, almost forty years into his career, Richardson occupies a similar position: He’s lauded as a master operator who’s equally adept at expressive lighting, and he’s forged long and fruitful relationships with his own roster of brilliant auteurs, most notably Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino. With Stone, he shot 11 films and got his first Academy Award nomination (Platoon) and first win (JFK). His output with Scorsese includes seven films and two Oscars (The Aviator and Hugo). He just wrapped his sixth opus with Tarantino; the first five racked up three more cinematography nominations from Oscar (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight). His filmography also includes work with directors Scott Hicks (snagging yet another Oscar nomination, for Snow Falling on Cedars), John Sayles, Barry Levinson, Robert De Niro, Ben Affleck, Robert Redford, and Matthew Heineman, among others.
Filmmaker Errol Morris, who’s collaborated with Richardson on three documentaries and various commercials, says, “I sometimes give DPs two grades: a grade for operating and a grade for lighting. Bob gets an A+ for both.” Visual effects supervisor/second unit director-cinematographer Rob Legato, ASC, says working with Richardson is like playing tennis with a pro who ups your game tenfold: “If you show up at Wimbleton, you’re expected to be a championship tennis player.” Richardson’s longtime key grip Chris Centrella observes that “Bob doesn’t settle. He doesn’t do a shot just to knock it off the shot list. With Bob, every shot is 100 percent, even if it’s just 36 frames.”