Veteran cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, whose lensing of “Blade Runner” garnered him the British Academy Award in 1982, died Nov. 29 of Parkinson’s Disease in Los Angeles. He was 61.
One of the most creative and admired cameramen of the 1970s and 1980s, Cronenweth was the director of photography on a handful of films that helped redefine the language of cinematography, including his groundbreaking work on “Blade Runner” and such visually arresting films as “Altered States,” “Cutter’s Way” and “Peggy Sue Got Married.”
“He was, without question, one of the outstanding cinematographers of his generation,” said Allen Daviau, ASC, the d.p. on such Spielberg-directed films as “E.T.” and “Empire of the Sun.” “When you look at the diversity of the body of his work you see why he is regarded as one of the outstanding cinematographers of his generation. ‘Blade Runner’ alone will live as a testament to that.”
Born in L.A. in 1935, Cronenweth attended North Hollywood High School and later Los Angeles City College majoring in Engineering.
While in college he worked summers at Columbia Pictures as a runner in the lab and following a brief stint working as a cameraman in Oklahoma, left school to work full time. His early feature film credits as a d.p. include “Brewster McCloud” (1970), “Play It As It Lays” (1974), “Zandy’s Bride,” “The Front Page” (1974), “Citizen’s Band” (1977) and “Altered States.”
But it was “Blade Runner,” Scott’s 1982 futuristic thriller based on Phillip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” that made cineastes outside the d.p. ranks sit up and take notice of Cronenweth.
“It was Ridley Scott’s futuristic concept, but the photography had density and texture in a way that gave a look of dread to this picture in an extremely creative way,” Daviau said. Although Cronenweth was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1978, he continued to work on ambitious projects such as Francis Ford Coppola’s “Gardens of Stone” (1987), as well as the U2 concert film “Rattle and Hum” (1988) and “State of Grace” (1990), both directed by Phil Joanou.
“The thing that you have to admire so much with Jordan, is that with the way he suffered from his illness, still he never let up with the intensity with which he approached his work despite the physical pain he suffered,” Daviau said.
He is survived by his mother, Mrs. William E. (Rosita) Cronenweth; and three children.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Dec. 28 in the Sanctuary of the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, 16221 Mulholland Drive in L.A.
Family suggests contributions be directed to: In Memory of Jordan Cronenweth, ASC, National Parkinson’s Foundation, 15840 Ventura Blvd., Suite 215, Encino, CA 91436.