Magazine article American Cinematographer

In Memoriam: Miroslav Ondrícek, ASC, ACK, 1934-2015

Magazine article American Cinematographer

In Memoriam: Miroslav Ondrícek, ASC, ACK, 1934-2015

Article excerpt

Czech cinematographer Miroslav Ondrícek, ASC, ACK, who received Academy Award nominations for his work on Ragtime and Amadeus, died on March 28 in the Czech Republic at the age of 80.

Born in Prague in 1934, Ondrícek was 4 years old when he saw his first movie. He was so captivated he tiptoed behind the screen "to find out how these pictures were made," he told AC (March '04). As he grew up, he spent many hours watching movies from America and other Western countries, and after graduating from high school, he landed an apprenticeship in the laboratory at Barrandov Studios.

He worked at Barrandov for several years, eventually moving up to assistant on documentary crews and then features. Between projects, he attended FAMU, the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. "The most important aspect of my development at that point was the opportunity I had to assist the great cinematographers of that era: Jaroslav Tuzar, Jan Curík and Jaroslav Kucera," Ondrícek told AC. "These men were the pillars of cinematography."

In 1957, Ondrícek was chosen by Barrandov to join a small group of filmmakers who would further their studies in night school. The other participants included Milos Forman, Jan Nëmec and Ivan Passer, whose subsequent collaborations with Ondrícek would help to define the Czech New Wave. These films included Intimate Lighting, The Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball.

When the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, Ondrícek moved to England, where he made three films with Lindsay Anderson, The White Bus (a.k.a. Red, White and Zero), If.... and 0 Lucky Man! In 1970, he joined Forman in New York to film Taking Off, and then George Roy Hill came calling about SlaughterhouseFive. "1 never felt l had to change my ways to make films in America," Ondrícek told AC. "A person can have the American feel even if he or she is born in Warsaw or Moscow or Prague. It has to do with the way you think, the way you express freedom in how you approach life; it's a combination of this and the willingness to work hard. That's what I appreciate and love about America."

Ondricek's collaborations with Forman included three acclaimed period pieces: Hair, Ragtime and Amadeus. Upon receiving word of his Oscar nomination for Ragtime, Ondrícek was "amazed," he told AC. …

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