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AHF Cultural News: Lászlo Kovács

7/24/2007 - Cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs dies at 74
By Carolyn Giardina

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Laszlo Kovacs, one of Hollywood's most influential and respected directors of photography, died Saturday night in his sleep. He was 74.

Kovacs lensed the landmark cinematic achievement "Easy Rider" and compiled about 60 credits including "Five Easy Pieces," "Shampoo," "Paper Moon," "New York, New York," "What's Up, Doc," "Ghostbusters," "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "Miss Congeniality."

The Hungary-born cinematographer also carried during his career a remarkable story of courage that occurred 50 years ago during his country's revolution.

Kovacs was born and raised on a farm in Hungary when that country was isolated from the Western world, first by the Nazi occupation and later during the Cold War. Kovacs was in his final year of school in Budapest when a revolt against the Communist regime started on the city streets.

He and his lifelong friend Vilmos Zsigmond made the daring decision to document the event for its historic significance. To do this, they borrowed film and a camera
from their school, hid the camera in a paper bag with a hole for the lens and recorded the conflict.

The pair then embarked on a dangerous journey during which they carried 30,000 feet of documentary film across the border into Austria. They entered the U.S. as political refugees in 1957. Their historic film was featured in a CBS documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite.

Against the odds, Kovacs and Zsigmond went on to become two of Hollywood's most influential directors of photography.

Kovacs was an active member of the American Society of Cinematographers, and in 2002, he received the ASC Lifetime Achievement Award, the organization's highest honor.

In 1998, he received two lifetime achievement awards for cinematography: one at the Hawaii International Film Festival and one at CamerImage, the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography, in Torun, Poland.

Kovacs was a member of the ASC's board of directors and demonstrated a deep commitment to education by leading the ASC Education Committee.

Kovacs is survived by his wife, Audrey, and two daughters, Jullianna and Nadia. - Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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More about Laszlo Kovacs
(courtesy of www.thehungarypage.com's Nobel Prize Winners and Famous Hungarians)

Lászlo Kovács ASC
(b. May 14, 1933, Hungary)
Legendary Cinematographer.

"The great achievements of Laszlo Kovacs, A.S.C., are not only those of a world-renowned and respected cinematographer, but also those of a man of courage, strength, and determination who overcame great obstacles to achieve his filmmaking dreams." - hollywoodawards.com

International Film Festivals have celebrated "the extraordinary impact Kovacs has made in advancing the art of filmmaking." They also cited his influence on young filmmakers in every part of the world. Laszlo Kovacs has compiled more than 60 narrative films credits, including Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Paper Moon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Shampoo, The Rose, New York, New York, What’s Up Doc?, The Last Waltz, The Runner Stumbles, Ghostbusters, The Mask, Little Nikita, F.I.S.T., Blow Out, Legal Eagles, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Return to Me, Copycat, Multiplicity, Sliver, and Miss Congeniality.

Kovacs was born and raised in Hungary during the World War II Nazi occupation of his native land. His parents were farmers, who lived in a small village some 60 miles from Budapest. Despite his penchant for skipping school to go to the movies and a less-than-perfect academic record, Kovacs, on his second try, was accepted at the Academy of Drama and Film Art in Budapest, where George Illes, a legendary Hungarian filmmaker and head of the cinema department, took him under his wing. Kovacs was in his final year at school in 1956, when a spontaneous revolt that began on the streets of Budapest seemed to be on the verge of moderating the communist regime. Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, a recent graduate, borrowed a 35mm camera from the school, along with a generous supply of film. They used the camera to document incredible acts of bravery as citizens armed only with homemade weapons tried to stop Soviet tanks and soldiers when they poured into the city en masse and brutally crushed the revolt. Kovacs and Zsigmond were forced to flee or face severe reprisals at the hands of the invading Russians. They arrived together in the U.S. as political refugees in 1957.

Kovacs worked his way up from prints to documentaries and a low budget Western. His talents were noticed and he was introduced to Robert Altman and Peter Bogdanovich with whom he worked on a number of their earliest films. In 1969, Lewis introduced Kovacs to Dennis Hopper who was getting ready to shoot a film with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. The reluctant Kovacs agreed to film "Easy Rider" and the rest is history!

Trivia: Wears a T-Shirt that says "I am not Vilmos" (Acclaimed Cinematographer friend and colleague, Vilmos Zsigmond that is!)


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