The Australian Cinematographers Society will dedicate its annual awards to be handed out in Hobart on Saturday to one of its most esteemed members, Andrew Lesnie, who died on Monday.
ACS president Ron Johanson spoke for many when he told IF today, “Andrew was one of our greatest cinematographers. It’s a huge loss. He leaves such a void.”
Lesnie, who was 59, had been suffering from heart problems. He won an Oscar for Best Cinematography in 2002 for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and a BAFTA award in 2004 for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
He shot The Hobbit trilogy and Jackson's King Kong and The Lovely Bones, a collaboration which spanned eight movies and 17 years.
On his Facebook page Jackson wrote, "Andrew created unforgettable, beautiful images on screen, and he did this time and again, because he only ever served what he believed in – he was his own artist, separate from me, but always working generously to make what we were trying to create together better.
"Dearest Andrew, you never sought nor wanted praise – you never needed to hear how good you were, you only ever cared about doing great work and respecting the work of others. But on behalf of all those who were lucky enough to collaborate with you, love you and in turn, respect your mastery of story, of light and of cinema magic – you are one of the great cinematographers of our time."
His last film was Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner. Crowe Tweeted, "Devastating news from home. The master of the light, genius Andrew Lesnie has passed on."
He lensed Healing for director Craig Monahan, whom he had known since film school. Monahan tells IF, “Andrew's films grossed more than $3 billion. For some that is a measure of success. For Andrew it was largely meaningless. Andrew was always more interested in the story and the people. He was my friend. I will miss him greatly.”
Johanson said, “He was a genius in every sense of the word. More than that he was a fine man. He listened to people and he encouraged people.
“Whenever he rang he would say, ‘’Have you got a minute?’ An hour later he would say, ‘Have you gotta go?’”
Born in Sydney, Lesnie studied film and television at TAFE and AFTRS before joining the ABC as a camera assistant. After going freelance, he divided his time as a professional assistant and shooting low budget short films and music videos. He assisted on documentaries, several feature films and hundreds of TVCs.
He spent 18 months on Simon Townsend's Wonder World!, a children's afternoon magazine style show where he was able to experiment and pioneer new photographic techniques.
Among numerous honours, he received ACS Golden Tripod Awards for Babe, Spider & Rose and Temptation of a Monk. His other feature credits include Babe: Pig In The City, The Sugar Factory, Two If By Sea, Dark Age, The Delinquents, Boys In The Island, Daydream Believers, Love's Brother, I Am Legend, Bran Nue Dae and M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender.
His TV credits include The Rainbow Warrior Conspiracy, Melba and Cyclone Tracy (which won an ACS Golden Tripod Award for best photographed mini-series.)
Director Kriv Stenders said, "Andrew taught me at film school and was wonderfully generous and passionate. I learned so much from him and also had the pleasure of working with him a few years after graduating."
Johanson thinks Lesnie would appreciate the tribute at the ACS Awards at MONA. "He'd tell us to get on with it," he said.
He is survived by his partner Marce and sons Jack and Sam.
A private family funeral service will be held on Friday. The ACS will host a celebration of his life at the ACS HQ in the next few weeks.