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|Also Known As:||Tommy Signorelli||Died:|
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As a renowned cinematographer and television director, Newton Thomas Sigel worked a number of low-budget indies before joining forces with director Bryan Singer on "The Usual Suspects" (1995), thus opening the doors to major studio films. From there, Sigel moved up the ladder, shooting "Blood and Wine" (1996) starring Jack Nicholson and "Fallen" (1998) with Denzel Washington before working again with Singer on "Apt Pupil" (1998). By this time, he was Singer's go-to cinematographer and Sigel segued to blockbuster films by shooting "X-Men" (2000) and "X2" (2003) for the director. Despite his ongoing working relationship with Singer, he branched out to film David O. Russell's "Thee Kings" (1999), George Clooney's "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002) and Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm" (2005). Sigel upped the ante with Singer's highly anticipated "Superman Returns" (2006) and his well-received follow-up, "Valkyrie" (2008), before delivering some of his finest work on the critical darling "Drive" (2011). Whether in collaboration with Singer or other top Hollywood directors, Sigel remained one of the industry's most sought-after directors of photography.
Born in 1961, Sigel's training was initially in art. He began a career as a painter, culminating with an artist-in-residency at the Whitney Museum in New York City. During that time, he began experimenting with short films and focusing on cinematography. Sigel sought work in documentary films initially, beginning with a short called "Atomic Artist," in 1983. He photographed the Oscar-nominated "El Salvador, Another Vietnam" in 1981, followed by the Academy Award-winning "Witness to War: Dr. Charlie Clements," in 1985. He moved on to television movies, including "Home Fires" in 1988, for which he was nominated for a CableACE award for outstanding direction of photography, as well as the critically acclaimed "Roe vs. Wade," in 1989. He was also the director of photography for the pilots of "The Wonder Years" (ABC, 1988-1993) and the notorious police show-turned-musical failure, "Cop Rock." (ABC, 1990). Working his way into feature films, Sigel served as a second-unit director of photography for, among others, a string of Oliver Stone films, including "Platoon" (1986), "Wall Street" (1987) and "The Doors" (1991), all critical and box office hits.
In 1995, he began what would become a prolific and fruitful collaboration with Singer, on the immensely popular "The Usual Suspects," which starred Kevin Spacey as a peculiar hoodlum with a dark secret. Sigel's shadowy images and muted colors evoked classic films of the 1930s and 40s, while maintaining a contemporary edge. The film was a critical hit and did modest box office business, but over time became a cult classic on home video, striking a chord with cinephiles on the same level as "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) and "Desperado" (1995). The film jump-started both their careers. After shooting "The Trigger Effect" (1996) and "Fallen" (1998), Sigel reunited with Singer for "Apt Pupil" in 1998, before going on to shoot "Three Kings" (1999), drawing raves for his stylized, sun-bleached photography of combat in the desert, as well as the infamous bullet POV shots. Sigel was called upon by Singer again for the comic book flick, "X-Men" in 2000, followed by "X2: X-Men United" three years later, cementing their relationship and achieving blockbuster status together. Sigel made his directing debut with the 2002 HBO telefilm, "Point of Origin," starring Ray Liotta. He went on to direct the pilot episode of "House M.D." (Fox, 2004-2012) - which was, not surprisingly, executive-produced by Singer - and serve as the director of photography on the Matt Damon/Heath Ledger fantasy film, "The Brothers Grimm" (2005). Also that year, the DP co-wrote and directed the short, "The Big Empty," with writer-director Lisa Chang, which won top honors at the USA Film Festival.
On possibly his biggest film to date, Sigel worked once more with Singer on "Superman Returns" (2006), which required a longer-than-usual shoot in Australia and technical mastery of the digital process. The decision was made to forgo traditional 35 mm film to allow for a smooth transfer to the popular IMAX 3-D format. As one of the few big-budget projects to rely on the emerging technology outside of the new "Star Wars" installments, the feature was a milestone in Sigel's career and in cinematography in general. After shooting Alan Ball's "Towelhead" (2007) and Clooney's "Leatherheads" (2008), Sigel reunited with Singer on "Valkyrie" (2008), the director's gripping thriller about the 1944 plot spearheaded by a Nazi colonel (Tom Cruise) to assassinate Hitler. Sigel shot the first half with steady cranes and switched to more frenetic handheld cameras once the attempted coup was underway in order to heighten tension. From there, he shot the romantic comedy "Leap Year" (2010) and Robert Redford's historical drama 'The Conspirator" (2010), before using wide-angle lenses and eschewing handheld cameras in order to create a more grounded look for Nicolas Winding Refn's excellent crime thriller, "Drive" (2011), which starred Ryan Gosling as a nameless stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver while romancing the wife (Carey Mulligan) of an ex-convict (Oscar Issac). Teaming up with Singer once more, Sigel employed performance-capture for the fantasy adventure, "Jack the Giant Slayer" (2013), which was based on the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk.
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