I’ve referred to Haskell Wexler, ASC many times during the run of this blog, and with good reason.  Beside being a great artist, he was a most unusual man (in a good way) and I considered him a friend.  It’s a shame he’s no longer with us.  In a time during which our society – indeed, the world – is completely off its axis, we sure could use a dose of his clarity and directness.

              Below is an anecdote related by International Cinematographers Guild Local 600 President John Lindley, ASC.  I’ve had a similar experience on one or two occasions and though I admire President Lindley’s restraint, Haskell’s response can’t help but appeal to my wilder side.

            President Lindley relates the tale in his own words.

            “When my youngest child was born, Haskell Wexler covered me on a feature in New York for a week.  The leading actress had a demanding and annoying make up artist who often made lighting suggestions.  I chose to listen and ignore him, which seemed to work although it was time consuming.  On the first day Haskell shot for me, the make up artist suggested Haskell use some bounce light under the camera.  His response?  “Why don’t you bounce a light off my two fucking Oscars?”  After that, the director called Haskell the Designated Hitter and the lighting suggestion box had closed for good when I got back.”

            Man…  If only the rest of our issues could be solved like that!

            President Lindley will be leaving office at the end of this month.  I send him sincere thanks for his years of service and wish him the best of luck in all future endeavors!


15 thoughts on “NEVER MINCE WORDS”

  1. Brilliant. Can you imagine if a DP on today’s set said that to a make-up guy? HR would put the DP in chains and escort him to the parking lot.

  2. Hello Richard –
    I always love reading your stories…
    I became friends with Haskell during his later years – and I always enjoyed my conversations because he never polished his words or feelings… As a Brooklyn Boy that I am, I gravitated to that core of purity and honesty… When I read this particular story, I almost fell off my chair laughing… What a smile I had! Thank you for that… Of course, this day and age climate of filmmaking, that would never ever fly – with so much corporate suits looking at you with magnifying glasses – just waiting for that one hiccup to slice your head off… God bless Haskell…. ♥️

  3. Fantastic story.
    Thank you John for your gift of service and time. It was a very tough period for all of us in the industry and no one would have matched the perfect leadership that you tenured for us. I am very grateful.

  4. Thank you for sharing this Haskell Wexler moment Richard! A perfect direct response to deal with a team member busy body, know it all. Not the most gentle way to let your feelings be known, but effective.

  5. Crescenzo, my Brooklyn brother – I know exactly what you mean! I don’t care what anyone says. It was a better world then.

  6. Russ – that story is just one reason out of the 4,332 others why things were so much better then than now!

  7. Great story dear Richard ! Let me try add another stroke of brush to your fabulous portrait of Haskell. Bill Butler told me once a very funny detail regarding his beautiful friendship with Haskell, in spite of all those unfortunate twists of fate. As all know Bill replaced him twice on two major movies – “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Conversation”, for reasons which are now history. Haskell kept his high spirit and humour under those (undoubtedly) tragic circumstances for any professional in the field, not only for one of the best. He transformed the drama in a huge joke when he made a habitude of calling Bill on the phone every time he started a new film. He used to say just that (laughing): “Hey Bill, be prepared, I’m starting a new one !”

  8. Great story, Mr. Crudo! I was brought up with mostly rough and tumble DP’s, who didn’t take “suggestions” from outside their keys.
    I’ve heard similar retorts to different situations.
    I try to be inclusive and collaborative on my sets. However, there are times that my
    Canarsie style directness emerges, but always with humor; it seems to work for me.
    Looking forward to your next installment.

  9. First off, congratulations on your 201st post, Richard!

    I loved Haskell, what a wonderful and talented cinematographer and amazing human being. I feel very privileged to have known and worked with him.

    Haskell taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned about cinematography and life in general. It was on the ground breaking IMAX film “Rolling Stones At the Max”. Haskell came in as one of the 6 camera operators, he knew and had worked with IMAX co-founder Graeme Ferguson on a film or two. The day before our first shoot we were prepping cameras backstage when Haskell came up to me and out of the blue asks “so how do you shoot this shit?”, referring to the IMAX camera I was going over. I was floored to say the least, here’s the Haskell Wexler, ASC asking me how to shoot! After I got over the initial shock we had a very nice conversation about the giant screen and how to take advantage of the grandeur of the image.

    Moral of the story: no matter how good you are, don’t be afraid to ask advice!

  10. That’s a great story, James…and so in keeping with the kind of guy he was. No bullshit about him at all. We could use more of that across the board today!

  11. Gary – First Crescenzo, now you! This post seems to be bringing all the Brooklyn boys out of the woodworks. Must be something about Haskell’s approach that appeals to us!

  12. Thank you, David! As you well know, Haskell is sorely missed around the Clubhouse…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.