Emmanuel Lubezki is a Mexican-born multi-Oscar nominated cinematographer who has worked with some of Hollywood’s greatest directors including Alfonso Cuarón, Terrence Malick, and Tim Burton. This year he is up for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Gravity. As is the case for most behind-the-camera talents, he rarely gets the spotlight as much as he deserves. His incredible gift for photography is undeniable. We are definitely rooting for him to win this Sunday.
At the time of this original post in 2014, Emmanuel Lubezki had just received his sixth Oscar nomination for Gravity. It was only a year ago, that he ended up beating out the competition and won his first Academy Award for cinematography. This year, he is nominated again — for his collaboration with Alejandro González Iñárritu on Birdman — bringing his total noms to seven. The film, which appears as if it’s one continuous long shot, is a technical marvel, and will likely bring el chivo a second Oscar.
Here’s even more facts you probably didn’t know about Emmanuel Lubezki…
1. He’s multicultural.
Lubezki was born into a Jewish family in Mexico City and his grandmother is from Russia. He explains, “Her family escaped to China during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. She lived in Shanghai for a while, but wanted a career as an actress in Hollywood, and convinced her family to move there. They had to stop in Mexico, because the quota restriction for immigrants in the U.S. was closed. She lived in Mexico City where she met and married my grandfather.”
2. His father, Muni Lubezki, is an actor.
Muni Lubezki is an actor and producer, known for Ámbar, From Mesmer, with Love or Tea for Two, and Es hora de recuperar.
3. He went to film school with Alfonso Cuarón.
They both met while studying at Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos (known as CUEC) at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Mexico City. Neither of them finished their studies and were expelled for “questioning the ways of doing films.”
4. His friends call him “el chivo.”
When he was 5 years old a friend gave him the nickname. “I guess it was my face that looked like a goat, but almost every boy in the school had the animal nickname — there was the shark and the chicken and a pig.”
5. He did the cinematography for Reality Bites and the Birdcage.
Lubezki is well-known for his striking photography on recent films like Children of Men and The Tree of Life but his early work is less lauded. We are big fans of Reality Bites and Birdcage. They are both classics in their own right. How did a young director of photography who barely spoke English land a job in Hollywood? Here’s the story direct from el chivo’s mouth, “What happened was that after I finished shooting a little movie called The Harvest, both Sólo con tu pareja (Love in the Time of Hysteria) and Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) were invited to screen at the Toronto Film Festival. After that, agents started calling me. I didn’t even know you needed an agent, and I could barely speak English, but I came to Los Angeles to meet some agents and started getting scripts. Jeanne Tripplehorn saw and liked Como agua para chocolate. She was going to perform in a little movie called Reality Bites that was directed by Ben Stiller. She recommended me to him. At that point, my English wasn’t good enough to understand the script or the humor, but I liked Ben and Jeanne, and he wanted me to do the movie.”
6. His lucky number is 6.
Actually, I totally made that up. But, if he is a betting man he should definitely put money on the number 6. He’s made 6 films with his best bud Alfonso Cuarón: Sólo con tu Pareja (1991), A Little Princess (1995), Great Expectations (1998), Y tu mamá también (2001), Children of Men (2006) and Gravity (2013). Plus, he just earned his sixth Oscar nomination for his cinematography work on Gravity. Despite all the noms, Lubezki hasn’t won an Academy Award yet but maybe the sixth time’s the charm!