The 68-year-old Briton finally struck Oscar gold — on his 14th nomination — for his artful rendering of a drizzly, neon-lit futuristic Los Angeles and the burnt orange hellscape of Las Vegas in Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049.”
“I really love my job. I’ve been doing it a long time, as you can see, but you know, one of the reasons I really love it is the people I work with, both in front of the camera and behind the camera,” he told the audience at the Dolby Theatre.
The award caps a 35-year career that has seen Deakins win numerous prizes from the American Society of Cinematographers, the British motion picture academy and the Independent Spirit Awards — but never the Oscar.
He had the unenviable claim to fame heading into Sunday’s ceremony of having more Academy Award nominations for cinematography without a win than anyone else.
That unlikely scenario came despite the fact that Deakins was behind the camera for a number of movies that went on to win or be nominated for best picture.
He is widely considered one of the most reliable and innovative photographers in the history of cinema.
Deakins has explained, however, that he doesn’t subscribe to the notion that an Oscars win can be “overdue.”
– ‘I just move on’ –
“I just move on and I like shooting films. I mean, okay, it’s such a weird, weird thing when a film gets ignored or a film gets talked about. It doesn’t make any sense to me,” he recently told IndieWire.
“Some of what I consider my best work and some of the best films that I’ve ever worked on kind of disappear without a trace. There’s no accounting for it. Something connects or something doesn’t.”
Many critics believe his latest work is his finest, and he has been the overwhelming favorite for the entire Oscars race, far ahead of Hoyte van Hoytema (“Dunkirk”), Dan Laustsen (“The Shape of Water”), Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) and Bruno Delbonnel (“Darkest Hour”).
He beat the same four rivals to the outstanding achievement in cinematography at the American Society of Cinematographers Awards, where the winner has gone on to take the Oscar in six of the past 10 years.
Deakins “paints with light and shadow, creating a wonderfully tactile sense of space and texture, using a palette of slate, cerulean and marigold. The aesthetic is subdued, yet thrilling,” said Katie Walsh of the Tribune News Service.
Set some 30 years after the events of cult classic “Blade Runner” (1982), the sequel sees Harrison Ford reprise his role from Ridley Scott’s original as Rick Deckard, a Los Angeles cop who hunts rogue androids.
A new “blade runner” (Ryan Gosling) unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos, and he embarks on a quest to find Deckard, who has been missing since the events of the first film.
– Long partnership with Coen brothers –
Born in southwest England, the son of an actress and a builder, Deakins developed a love of painting at school and took up photography while studying graphic design at art college.
He began his 12-movie collaboration with the Coen brothers in 1991 on the film “Barton Fink,” picking up his first major award from the American Society of Cinematographers three years later for “The Shawshank Redemption.”
In 2008, Deakins became the first cinematographer to be nominated twice in the same year by the ASC for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and “No Country for Old Men.”
He repeated the feat the following year with “Revolutionary Road” and “The Reader,” both starring Kate Winslet, and was nominated again for “True Grit” (2010).
Deakins has been married 27 years to script supervisor James Ellis and lives in the southwestern English county of Devon, where he hones his skills in his hobby, still photography.
He is also known for his work in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1984), “Sid and Nancy” (1986), “Dead Man Walking” (1995), “Jarhead” (2005), “Skyfall” (2012) “Unbroken” (2014) and “Sicario” (2015).