Willis’ film career spun out of his Korean War service, where he served in the Air Force as a Photographic and Charting Serviceman. After years as first an assistant camerman, he made his debut as a cinematographer with four features in 1970 – the comedy End of the Road, Irvin Kershner’s Loving, the drama The People Next Door and Hal Ashby’s The Landlord.
But Willis’s most last contribution was his work for Coppola’s Godfather trilogy. His use of shadows as much as his use of light, marked a sea change in how films would be shot. Willis, and some of his fellow cinematographers, talk about his Godfather trilogy work in the video clip below.
Although he received Academy Award nominations for his collaborations with Woody Allen on Zelig and Coppola on The Godfather Part III, he would only receive one Oscar when he was awarded n Honorary Academy Award in 2010 “for unsurpassed mastery of light, shadow, color and motion.”