Roger Deakins: The celebrated cinematographer behind 1917

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

Few boast a body of work like that of Roger Deakins, who is the most decorated cinematographer in Bafta history.

The Devon-born cameraman, who celebrated his 70th birthday last year, counts The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, A Beautiful Mind, Skyfall and Blade Runner 2049 among his best-known features.

Widely considered one of the most influential cinematographers of all time, his long-standing relationships with the Coen brothers and Sir Sam Mendes have won him countless awards.

(PA Graphics)

Among those are five Baftas for best cinematography and one Oscar in the same category.

He found notoriety for his lack of success at the Oscars, where he received 13 nominations before finally scoring a win in 2018 for Blade Runner 2049.

Deakins was born in Torquay, Devon, on May 24 1949.

After college he applied for the National Film School but failed to secure a place as his photography was reportedly considered not “filmic” enough.

He spent the next year photographing the local area’s rural life and was eventually admitted.

After graduating, he worked as a cameraman on documentaries about conflicts in Africa, and as crew on a yacht for nine months to film the Whitbread Round the World Race.

Sir Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins on the set of 1917 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

During the late 1970s and early 1980s he worked on music projects including Blue Suede Shoes, about the UK rockabilly scene, and films for Sir Van Morrison and Sir Ray Davies.

In 1991, he began his long-term collaboration with the Coen brothers, starting with the film Barton Fink before going on to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and True Grit.

Deakins and Sir Sam first worked together on the 2005 film Jarhead, then on Revolutionary Road and Bond adventure Skyfall.

However, it was Sir Sam’s ambitious and complex First World War film 1917 – currently on release – where their partnership was most challenged.

The film, starring George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, is shot as if in one long take.

Deakins said of this task: “With those long takes, when you get towards the end you think ‘Now I’ve got to pan with them as they go round here and it’s really fast and am I going to get that right?’ and the pressure was pretty extreme really.”

His other film credits include Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, and John Crowley’s The Goldfinch.

Deakins was appointed a CBE in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to film.

He is married to script supervisor Isabella James Purefoy Ellis.