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'Easy Rider' Cinematographer László Kovács

László Kovács, 74, a Hungarian-born photography director, worked on film classics such as
László Kovács, 74, a Hungarian-born photography director, worked on film classics such as "Five Easy Pieces" and "Paper Moon." (By Ron Vidor)

"Wherever we heard gunfire, that's where we went," Mr. Kovács said.

They smuggled 30,000 feet of film out of the country, at one time hiding it in a cornfield before being frisked by Soviet soldiers. Via Austria, Mr. Kovács and Zsigmond made their way to the United States.

He said U.S. television networks did not initially air the material because it was considered old news, but footage was used in a CBS documentary narrated by Walter Cronkite several years later.

Mr. Kovács held a variety of menial jobs, including tapping maple syrup in Upstate New York, before entering the U.S. television and film industry.

His break came when Hopper saw his photography work in "Psych-Out" (1968), one of many films he made for low-budget director Richard Rush. Mr. Kovács's inventiveness on such films paid off in "Easy Rider," which also had a minimal budget.

"We had the motorcycles in one small truck and all the camera and lighting gear in another one," he told the journal of the International Cinematographers Guild. "There was no room for a dolly," a wheeled platform for a camera. "My camera car was a Chevy convertible with a plywood platform. It looks spontaneous, but don't let that fool you. We rehearsed and staged every scene, and I lit to establish the mood and setting."

Mr. Kovács received the American Society of Cinematographers lifetime achievement award in 2000. He and Zsigmond are the subject of a working documentary by cinematographer James Chressanthis, and Mr. Kovács was nearing completion of a feature documentary about the Hungarian Revolution using much of his old footage.

Survivors include his wife of 23 years, Audrey Vaught Kovács of Beverly Hills; a daughter from the marriage, Julianna Kovács of Beverly Hills; a daughter from an earlier relationship, Nadia Kovács of Beverly Hills; and a granddaughter.

Actor Jean-Paul Belmondo's character in director Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" (1960) used the alias László Kovács, but that was apparently a coincidence. The similar name became a subject of speculation during Mr. Kovács's work on Bogdanovich's 1971 documentary about Hollywood director John Ford.

According to the International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, some thought film buff Bogdanovich was performing his own camera work and using a fake name.


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