Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who died Tuesday at the age of 81, is remembered fondly by Martin Scorsese as “a great artist” who “gave me back my sense of excitement in making movies,” Martin Scorsese said of the man who lensed “Goodfellas” and “Gangs of New York.”
For over two decades, the Scorsese and Ballhaus “had a real creative partnership, and a very close and enduring friendship,” Scorsese said in a statement. “By the time we met, he had already made film history with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and I revered him. He was a lovely human being, and he always had a warm smile for even the toughest situations—anyone who knew him will remember his smile. We started working together in the 80s, during a low ebb in my career. And it was Michael who really gave me back my sense of excitement in making movies.”
“For him, nothing was impossible,” the director continued. “If I asked him for something difficult, he would approach it with enthusiasm: he never told me we couldn’t do something, and he loved to be challenged. If we were running out of time and light, he would figure out a way to work faster. And if we were behind schedule and getting into a situation where we had to eliminate set-ups, he would sit down with me calmly and we would work it out together: instead of getting frustrated about what was being taken away, he would always think in terms of what we had. Really, he gave me an education, and he changed my way of thinking about what it is to make a film. He was a great artist. He was also a precious and irreplaceable friend, and this is a great loss for me.”
Ballhaus passed away Tuesday evening in Berlin after a short illness. He is survived by two sons, both in the industry, Florian Ballhaus and Jan Sebastian Ballhaus.