Vale – Michael Ballhaus ASC BVK (5 August 1935 – 11 April 2017)

The ACS are very sad to learn that legendary cinematographer Michael Ballhaus ASC BVK has passed away.

Michael Ballhaus was born in Berlin, Germany, and was influenced by family friend Max Ophüls.

He came to prominence with his work on sixteen films for Rainer Werner Fassbinder beginning with:

Whity (1971) and, including
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972),
Chinese Roulette (1976) and
The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978).

After settling in the United States he worked on many American films, including:

Michael Ballhaus ASC BVK

Baby It’s You (1983) for John Sayles;
Old Enough (1984) for Marisa Silver;
After Hours (1985)
The Color of Money (1986)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Goodfellas (1990)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Gangs of New York (2002)
The Departed (2006) for Martin Scorsese;
Dracula (1992) for Francis Ford Coppola,
Sleepers (1996) for Barry Levinson.


Ballhaus was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, for:

Broadcast News (1987)
The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
Gangs of New York (2002)

However he never won. he did win the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography for Goodfellas.

His unforgettable tracking shot from GOODFELLAS still leaves us breathless today.

Watch now and witness his artistry again:

Copacabana shot from Goodfellas (1990) from Single Shot Film Festival on Vimeo.

From Richard Crudo ASC

Just learned of the passing of Michael Ballhaus ASC BVK.

He was a lovely man possessed of a humility rarely found in the movie industry.

While sharing a ride with him after he was honoured by the Palm Springs Film Festival some years back, I expressed my amazement at the breadth of his career. He replied,

“Well, Richard, I really haven’t accomplished anything any of us couldn’t have done given the opportunities I’ve had and the directors I’ve worked with.”

I ask you – how many of our colleagues of equal stature would be so humble? May he rest in peace.

He will be sorely missed…