Having worked on both box office blockbuster Iron Man films and more recently, Black Swan, Matthew Libatique looks like the cinematographer with the golden touch. Born in Queens, New York, the 42-year old can now also add “Academy Award nominee” to his already impressive resume, after receiving the Oscar nomination nod in the upcoming 83rd Annual Academy Awards for his cinematography work on Black Swan.
As a young child, it was Libatique’s father, an amateur photographer working at a film lab, who taught Libatique the fundamentals of photography. Despite starting him off on photography though, his parents weren’t sure what to make of his career choice. “They didn’t quite understand how I would make a living and that was a source of anxiety for them, but they never dissuaded me from it,” Libatique told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Both of Libatique’s parents immigrated from the Philippines to America before he was born. As with many second generation Asian Americans (and Canadians), Libatique can only understand his parents’ native language but not speak it, although he does still consider himself Filipino.
Other big-name films Libatique has been involved in include Requiem for a Dream, Gothika, and the upcoming Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig. But it looks like it will be Black Swan that will finally give him the recognition from the Academy, a dark psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman as an obsessive ballerina and directed by Libatique’s long-time collaborator Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky and Libatique have had worked together previously on films like Requiem for a Dream, Pi, and The Fountain. As the two of them gained more experience, their work has simultaneously progressed: “Our relationship has evolved naturally through age and experience. When we were starting out, we were extremely aggressive with what we were trying to accomplish… But now, I feel we are more focused and at ease, past the point of banging our heads against the walls trying to succeed.”
Aside from Cowboys & Aliens, Libatique has another summer blockbuster movie coming up: the Wolverine film, with Hugh Jackman taking on the role of the X-Man once again. With the Oscar nomination and two huge movies on the go, this year looks to be a big year for Matthew, with even more definite successes on the way.