Haskell Wexler is considered to be one of the most important cinematographers working in the film industry today. Wexler has photographed a wide range of films that have earned him five Academy Award nominations and two Oscars for Best Cinematography. His nominations came for his work on his first feature documentary, The Living City; a short film, T for Tumbleweed; Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; John Sayles’ Matewan; and Touchstone Picture’s Blaze. He took home his statuettes for his work on Mike Nichols’ Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory. Other films shot for Ashby include Coming Home, Second-Hand Heart, and Lookin’ to Get Out.
Born in Chicago, Wexler attended the University of California at Berkeley for a year before joining the Merchant Marines. He stayed at sea for five years, became a second officer, then returned to Chicago where he spent ten years making documentary and educational films before moving to California in 1955.
Among Wexler’s other credits are the Norman Jewison films In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Other People’s Money; George Lucas’ American Graffiti; Dennis Hopper’s controversial hit, Colors; Touchstone Picture’s hit comedy, Three Fugitives; a Universal Picture’s film, The Babe; the Rolling Stones World Tour At The Max (an IMAX film and a photographic breakthrough); a second John Sayles film, The Secret of Roan Inish; a film directed by Michael Moore, Canadian Bacon; another IMAX film, IMAX: Mexico; an MGM/The Zanuck Co. film, Mulholland Falls; Rich Man’s Wife; and a third John Sayles film, Limbo. Recently, HBO 61* has received several Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Cinematography.
As a director, Wexler crafted two features: Medium Cool, a groundbreaking film shot during the Democratic convention in Chicago, and Latino, a film shot in Nicaragua which received a special honor at Canne Film Festival. Both films broke the mold of conventional story-telling by using the immediacy of documentary-style filmmaking. Wexler has directed over fifty documentaries, rock videos, and award-winning commercials, including The Bus, Bus II and Bus Riders Union; Introduction to the Enemy, shot in Vietnam with Jane Fonda; Interview with My Lai Veterans, which also won an Academy Award; No Nukes, with Barbara Kopple; and Target Nicaragua: Inside a Secret War.
Wexler has also received many honors: The American Society of Cinematographers’ Lifetime Achievement Award, Liberty Hill Foundation’s Upton Sinclair Award, Poland’s Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award, and Eastman Kodak’s Outstanding Photographic Achievement for Blaze and Matewan, to name a few. He has received Honorary Doctorates from Columbia College, American Film Institute, and California Institute of the Arts, and has been elected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to the Board of Governors to represent the Cinematographers Branch.