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Remembering Cinematographer Gilbert Taylor

Cinematographer on the first Star Wars film who worked with Hitchcock and Polanski

A scene from Repulsion, directed by Roman Polanski with cinematography by Gilbert Taylor. 'He mostly used reflected light bounced off the ceiling or walls,' recalled Polanski. Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Rex Features

A scene from Repulsion, directed by Roman Polanski with cinematography by Gilbert Taylor. Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Rex Features

A scene from Repulsion, directed by Roman Polanski with cinematography by Gilbert Taylor. ‘He mostly used reflected light bounced off the ceiling or walls,’ recalled Polanski.

The British cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, who has died aged 99, was best known for his camerawork on the first Star Wars movie (1977). Though its special effects and set designs somewhat stole his thunder, it was Taylor who set the visual tone of George Lucas’s six-part space opera.

“I wanted to give it a unique visual style that would distinguish it from other films in the science-fiction genre,” Taylor declared. “I wanted Star Wars to have clarity because I don’t think space is out of focus … I thought the look of the film should be absolutely clean … But George [Lucas] saw it differently … For example, he asked to set up one shot on the robots with a 300mm camera lens and the sand and sky of the Tunisian desert just meshed together. I told him it wouldn’t work, but he said that was the way he wanted to do the entire film, all diffused.” Fortunately for everyone, this creative difference was resolved by 20th Century Fox executives, who backed Taylor’s approach.

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