BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer Brian Tufano, who shot such acclaimed movies as Trainspotting, Shallow Grave and Billy Elliot, has died at the age of 83. The renowned British filmmaker’s agents at McKinney Macartney Management confirmed the news to Deadline.
In an obituary on his agent’s website, Tufano was described as the “cinematographers’ cinematographer,” whose work will endure for time to come. “His legacy lives on – not only through those works – but also through the careers of those students he nurtured over the years,” it added. “Our lives are richer for having known Brian and we shall miss him tremendously.”
From 2003 to 2016, Tufano was head of cinematography at the UK’s National Film and Television School (NFTS), and continued working there afterward as a visiting tutor until recently. At the NFTS, he fostered a new generation of cinematographers, including Charlotte Bruus Christensen (The Girl on the Train, Far From the Madding Crowd, A Quiet Place, Black Narcissus) and Vanessa Whyte (Ted Lasso,All Creatures Great and Small, Murdered For Being Different).
Jon Wardle, the Director of the NFTS, shared a tribute to the cinematographer on Twitter: “Very sorry to have to share that Cinematography legend and former @NFTSFilmTV Head of Department Brian Tufano has died,” Wardle’s tweet read. “He shot so many amazing films and did so much to champion new talent, in particular female DPs. We loved him and will REALLY miss him.”
While speaking to David A. Ellis of filmint in 2016 about his career, Tufano said: “I always wanted to work with camera when I was at school. There was nothing else in my mind but it was the process of getting there. … I find I can adapt to each director easily. I used to prefer it when the director was standing next to me and next to the camera. They were involved with the actors and the crew. The majority of young directors don’t seem to be able to work unless they are looking at a monitor.”
Tufano was born in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, in 1939. He first entered the movie industry in 1956 as a pageboy at Lime Grove Studios, a former BBC film and television studio. Tufano later worked as a technical apprenticeship at the public broadcaster, where he went on to spend over 20 years as a cinematographer. While there, he collaborated with such directors as Ken Loach, Ken Russell and Stephen Frears on television features.
Tufano’s first feature after the BBC was the 1978 drama, The Sailors Return, which was helmed by Jack Gold. He went on to work on a varied and extensive list of movies, including Quadrophenia (1979), East is East (1999) and Billy Elliot (2000), for which he was nominated for the Best Cinematography BAFTA.
Tufano was also nominated for a BAFTA television award in 1995 for his work on director Anthony Page’s limited series, Middlemarch. The show was based on the 1871 novel of the same name by George Eliot.
However, Tufano is best known for his work with Oscar-winning British filmmaker, Danny Boyle. The pair first worked together on the 1993 TV limited series, Mr. Wroe’s Virgins. They went on to shoot four movies together, including the black comedy-crime features Shallow Grave, the director’s breakout debut, and cult favorite, Trainspotting. They also worked on the 1997 romantic black comedy, A Life Less Ordinary, and the 2008 short film, Alien Love Triangle.
The cinematographer’s other movie credits include Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002), Adulthood (2008), Kidulthood (2006) and Everywhere and Nowhere (2011). He also provided additional photography on Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic sci-fi drama, Blade Runner.
In 2001, Tufano was awarded a BAFTA for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television. In 2002, he won the Special Jury Award for Outstanding Contribution to Independent Film at the British Independent Film Awards.
The cinematographer had been semi-retired for the last decade. His last feature credit was the 2011 documentary, Gymnast, which followed the British gymnastics team that participated in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Tufano died on January 14, but his cause of death has not been revealed. He’s survived by his wife and daughter.