Steven Spielberg leads tributes to ‘E.T.’ cinematographer Allen Daviau after death from coronavirus

"He was a singular talent and a beautiful human being"

Steven Spielberg has led the tributes to Allen Daviau after it was announced that the celebrated cinematographer had died, aged 77.

According to his agent, Daviau, who was a frequent collaborator with Spielberg on many of his projects, passed away following complications to Covid-19 after contracting coronavirus earlier this month.

Daviau was a resident at the Motion Picture and Television House and Hospital in California at the time of his death. Its president and CEO, Bob Beitcher, Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital told Deadline: “Allen was diagnosed about a week ago and went to West Hills Hospital because of underlying conditions.

“In the last few days, as his condition went downhill and it was clear that he wasn’t going to survive, his friends and healthcare advocates and our staff worked to bring him back to MPTF, because he wanted to die at home. This had been his home for the last eight years.”

He went on to describe Daviau as “a master of light and a connoisseur of the science and magic of film, a memorable physical presence, a lover of great food and wine, and a long-time Los Angeleno who didn’t drive.”

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg

Daviau had worked on a number of films with Spielberg including E.T., Empire of the Sun and The Colour Purple, all of which had earned him Oscar nominations.

Paying tribute on Twitter, Spielberg wrote: “In 1968, Allen and I started our careers side by side with the short film AMBLIN.

“Allen was a wonderful artist, but his warmth and humanity were as powerful as his lens. He was a singular talent and a beautiful human being.”

Spielberg also sent a letter to Daviau during his final days. Beitcher explained to Deadline: “We got the most beautiful letter from Steven Spielberg, which he asked to be read to Allen. So it was read to him continuously for the last day and a half until he passed. It was by his bedside, and as caregivers came in to check on him, they would read it to him. And each time, he got a little smile on his face.

“The last night, the nurse on call was a first-timer – it was her first night at MPTF – and she came to Allen’s bedside, saw the letter, and started reading it to him. And when she got to the end, she looked at him; he took two breaths, and passed away. She was discovering who he was as he was leaving the world.”

You can see some of the many tributes to Daviau on social media below:

Throughout his career, Daviau was nominated for five Academy Awards in total, with Bugsy Malone and Avalon also earning him nods in addition to those with Spielberg.

Other notable films Daviau worked on included Defending Your LifeThe Astronauts Wife and Van Helsing, which would be the last feature feature film he worked on.

Daviau also worked on early music videos for artists including The Who and Jimi Hendrix; he also shot some of the earliest official photos of American band The Monkees.

In 2007, The American Society of Cinematographers awarded Daviau its Lifetime Achievement Award.

In a statement, their president Kees van Oostrum added: “Allen was active in our society in many ways like chairing our membership committee for several years. Also, his commitment to teaching our craft and being very accessible for young cinematographers will forever be engraved in our memories.

“He will be remembered fondly for his sense of humour, his taste for the best of foods and his laugh that unmistakably marked his presence from far away.”

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