Don McAlpine, one of a handful of veteran Australian cinematographers who have directed a broad range of local and Hollywood films, is to be the 2012 recipient of the Raymond Longford Award, one of the Australian film industry's highest accolades.
“I know who has received this honour before so I am chuffed,” said McAlpine when actor Jack Thompson delivered him the news at an informal gathering in Sydney, about two weeks ago. The news was made public this week and an official presentation will be made on January 15.
“Few others can claim the skill, achievement, artistry and professional longevity of Don McAlpine,” Thompson said. He also recalled McAlpine seeking his advice, decades ago, on whether he should give up school teaching and pursue cinematography.
The only other cinematographer to be honoured with the Raymond Longford Award since it was created in 1968 is Russell Boyd. Up to now it has been presented under the banner of the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards but these awards are now known as the AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema Television Arts) Awards.
McAlpine first won an AFI Award for his tenth feature film, My Brilliant Career, in 1979, then repeated the achievement in the following year with Breaker Morant. He went on to have a brilliant career of his own, directing the camera crew on another 40 or so films. He won a third AFI in 2001 for Moulin Rogue!
In 1998, McAlpine was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Romeo+Juliet and, four years later, for a BAFTA and an Oscar for Moulin Rogue! He didn't convert any of these three nominations into a statue but received a significant consolation prize in 2009 when he became the first Australian to win the American Society of Cinematographers' international award. He had been admitted into the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) hall of fame more than a decade earlier in 1997.
Australia films with McAlpine's name in the credits include his first film, The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Don's Party, The Getting of Wisdom, Patrick, The Odd Angry Shot, The Club, Puberty Blues and The Fringe Dwellers. His Hollywood films include Predator, Patriot Games, Man Without a Face, Mrs. Doubtfire, Clear and Present Danger, Stepmom, Anger Management, The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
McAlpine is in his late 70s but constantly works still. His most recent film, and the first to be shot using digital technology rather than film, is Mental, directed by PJ Hogan and not yet released. Like Hogan's 1994 debut, Muriel's Wedding, it stars Toni Collette. This time around she plays Shaz, a nanny hired to look after five sisters aged 11 to 16 years, after their mother is committed to a mental hospital by her political husband. The film also features Liev Schreiber and Anthony LaPaglia.
McAlpine is the subject of a documentary, Show Me the Magic, directed by Cathy Henkel and to be screened next year on SBS TV.
The full list of nominees for the AACTA Awards is being announced on next week. They will be presented across two events: a lunch on January 15, to include the official presentation to McAlpine, and a ceremony on January 31.
A clip of Thompson informing McAlpine of his win is available at www.aacta.org