Inventor; cinematographer (Rocky, The Shining, Return of the Jedi);
Oscar winner; inventor of the Steadicam™, Skycam™, the underwater Mobycam™ and more
My career as a cinematographer turned me into an inventor. I wanted to be able to walk and film with a hand-held camera and have a smooth shot instead of using a huge dolly, so I invented the Steadicam™. Thirty-five years ago I filmed my then-girlfriend, now my wife, while chasing her up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, and that’s the shot that led to my working on Rocky. It tickles me that the museum steps are now the second-biggest tourist attraction in Philly.
I usually dress in a casual way, but when somebody wants to give you an award, you really have to dress up. When I was nominated for my first Oscar [Technical Oscar, 1978], I didn’t care for the tuxedos I saw, so Jeff Glass said, “We’ll make you one.” I liked a particular black suit, and the tailors turned it into a tux. I wore that for years–loved it.
When I got another Oscar [Scientific and Technical Achievement, 2006], Jeff made me a new tux. Then when I was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2009, I went to Jeff again. This time he said, “Why don’t we have Armani make you a bespoke suit?” It turned out so well! Although I’m 6’6”, the tailors at Boyds have always been able to fit me with precision.
I’ve retired from cinematography, but I now travel all over the world teaching people how to operate the Steadicam™. I also invented the Skycam™, which you probably know from the aerial views it provides of football plays, and the underwater Mobycam™, among other creations. When my wife and I come and go through Philadelphia airport, the customs forms ask your occupation. I used to say “cameraman,” but now I say “inventor.”