First presented in 1968 under the Australian Film Institute (AFI), the Raymond Longford Award is the highest honour that the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) can bestow upon an individual.
Australian cinematography legend, Donald M. McAlpine (ACS/ASC), was announced the recipient of the nation’s highest screen accolade – the AACTA Raymond Longford Award – at the Inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards.
McAlpine’s career spans more than 50 films made over 40 years, and includes Australian classics such as Don’s Party and Breaker Morant, through to international blockbusters such as Predator, Patriot Games and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
He has received numerous accolades throughout his career including an Oscar® and BAFTA nomination for Best Cinematography for Moulin Rouge!, a BAFTA nomination for William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, working with Baz Luhrmann, as well as three AFI Awards.
This marks the first award to be bestowed by the newly-established Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA).
McAlpine will be officially awarded with a special presentation at the Inaugural Samsung AACTA Awards Luncheon on Sunday 15 January – the first of AACTA’s two awards events, both of which will be held in January to fall within the international screen awards season. The Luncheon will include special tributes for McAlpine by fellow screen luminaries Bruce Beresford, Jack Thompson and P.J. Hogan.
McAlpine, now aged 77, is still working at full speed and continues to adapt to new digital technology. With his lifelong partner, his wife Jeanette, at his side, he has just completed filming for P.J. Hogan’s latest feature film, Mental, starring Toni Collette, Liev Schreiber and Anthony LaPaglia.
Upon being told of the Award, Don McAlpine said, “I accept the Raymond Longford Award as a great personal honour. I am thrilled with the honour it implies to the art and craft of Australian cinematographers.”
A history of achievement in international cinematography
From his birth in the small Outback town of Quandialla NSW, to the bright lights of Hollywood, and now back again, McAlpine’s own life and career has mirrored not only the development of film and cinema technology over the last 70 years, but also the growth and expansion of the Australian screen industry and its international profile.
Starting his career as an amateur photographer in country NSW, where he was working as a school teacher, McAlpine quickly rose to prominence in the burgeoning local film industry of the late 1960s and 70s.
Having freelanced for the ABC, then becoming Chief Cameraman for the Commonwealth Film Unit (CFU), McAlpine took leave to shoot his first feature film: Bruce Beresford’s The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972) – the first feature fully financed by the new Australian Film Development Corporation, and an internationally successful movie that spearheaded the resurgence of local production.
McAlpine went on to shoot many more films for Bruce Beresford, including Don’s Party (1976), The Getting of Wisdom (1978), ‘Breaker’ Morant (1980) and Puberty Blues (1981). During this period, McAlpine also shot for other directors, including Richard Franklin (Patrick, 1978), Tom Jeffrey (The Odd Angry Shot, 1979), and Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, 1979).
After coming to the attention of New York director Paul Mazursky, who asked McAlpine to shoot his influential 1982 film Tempest, McAlpine began working steadily in the US. His work from early 1980s with Mazursky and iconic directors like Alan J. Pakula (Orphans, 1987; See You in the Morning, 1989) and Martin Ritt (Stanley & Iris, 1989) led to projects with high profile Hollywood directors including Ron Howard (Parenthood, 1989) and Chris Columbus (Mrs Doubtfire, 1993; Stepmom, 1998).
Working in Hollywood, Don McAlpine’s Australian connections have remained strong. He has worked there as cinematographer for fellow Australian directors Phil Noyce (Patriot Games, 1992; Clear and Present Danger, 1994), Mel Gibson (The Man Without a Face, 1993) and P.J. Hogan (Peter Pan, 2003). McAlpine has also shot two films for Baz Luhrmann: William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), and then Moulin Rouge!, for which he was nominated for an Oscar® for Best Cinematography in 2002.
Whether he’s working on edgy performance-based dramas like Anger Management (2002) or on big budget special effects-laden spectacles like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (2004) or X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2008), McAlpine is known within the industry for his extraordinary ability to adapt his skills to the stories he is filming, and to complement the particular strengths and weaknesses of the people he is working with.
Don is currently the subject of a documentary, Show Me The Magic, to be screened next year on SBS and at key festivals. The film is being directed by Cathy Henkel, who is producing alongside Trish Lake, who says this of McAlpine: “Don is a man of artistry, skill, vision, ethics and amazing fortitude. He is a living legend.”
Tributes for Don McAlpine
“Don and I have known each other for about 40 years. He's a good friend. His cinematography has been instrumental in both my career as an actor and the establishment of an Australian film industry that is recognised worldwide for excellence. No one deserves this award more than Don. His contribution to cinema is without peer. Good on ya mate!” Jack Thompson AM
“Don has photographed a staggering number of feature films, both in Australia and overseas. He is a great artist, capable of varying his style to suit the subject matter of the film. He is a delight to work with. A credit to the Australian film industry.” Bruce Beresford
“I first became aware of Don when I became involved in our industry back in the early 1970s and films such as The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, The Getting of Wisdom, ‘Breaker’ Morant and My Brilliant Career played a key role in establishing our local production credentials both in Australia and Internationally.
Don has now once again been recognised for his role as a cinematographer who has made significant and substantial contributions to the global art of filmmaking.” Alan Finney, AFI Chairman