May 29, 2024

John Bailey, a seasoned Hollywood cinematographer who served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 2017 to 2019, died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Bailey’s death was announced by his wife, Carol Littleton, in a statement released by the Academy on Friday evening.

”It is with deep sadness I share with you that my best friend and husband, John Bailey, passed away peacefully in his sleep early this morning,” Littleton wrote. “During John’s illness, we reminisced how we met 60 years ago and were married for 51 of those years. We shared a wonderful life of adventure in film and made many long-lasting friendships along the way. John will forever live in my heart.”

“All of us at the Academy are deeply saddened to learn of John’s passing,” said Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang in a joint statement. “John was a passionately engaged member of the Academy and the film community. He served as our president and as an Academy governor for many years and played a leadership role on the cinematographers branch. His impact and contributions to the film community will forever be remembered. Our thoughts and support are with Carol at this time.”

Bailey’s credits as a cinematographer led him to collaborating with notable directors like Robert Redford, James L. Brooks, Wolfgang Petersen and Harold Ramis. In 1985, he earned recognition for best artistic contribution at the Cannes Film Festival for his work lensing Paul Schrader’s “Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters.” In 2015, he was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the American Society of Cinematographers. Other notable credits include “The Big Chill,” “Silverado” and “The Accidental Tourist.”

Born Aug. 10, 1942, Bailey first began working in show business in 1971 as an assistant cameraman on Monte Hellman’s “Two Lane Blacktop.” His first credit as cinematographer came in 1972 on Alan Rudolph’s “Premonition.”

Bailey was first was elected to the Academy Board of Governors in 1996 and then was re-elected in 1999, serving until 2002. He would return to the board in 2010, again in 2013 and once more in 2016.

He was elected the 36th president of AMPAS in 2017 in a surprising victory over other early frontrunning candidates Laura Dern and future president, and Bailey’s successor David Rubin. His first term had the veteran artisan steering the organization through Hollywood’s #MeToo movement, which brought about the expulsions of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski.

He won his re-election bid in 2018 that would see the addition, and almost immediate subtraction of the controversial best popular film category. At the time of winning his leadership seat, Bailey stated: “I love the Academy. I’ve been a member since 1981 and I just found myself slowly over the years becoming more engaged with a lot of the Academy’s programs and initiatives. It seemed like a natural development.”

Bailey is survived by his wife, Oscar-nominated editor and former Academy governor Carol Littleton.

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