Peter Sova, Cinematographer on 'Diner,' 'Donnie Brasco' and 'Lucky Number Slevin,' Dies at 75

Diner - Photofest - H 2020
MGM/Photofest

Peter Sova shot ‘Diner,’ directed by Barry Levinson.

He also worked on 'Donnie Brasco' and 'Sgt. Bilko' and photographed Errol Morris documentaries.

Peter Sova, the Czechoslovakian-born cinematographer who shot Diner and three other films for Barry Levinson and Lucky Number Slevin and four other movies for Paul McGuigan, has died. He was 75.

Sova died Aug. 27 at his home in South Kortight, New York, his family announced.

Sova's DP credits also included Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco (1997) and Jonathan Lynn's Sgt. Bilko (1996), starring Steve Martin, and he served as a photographer for famed documentarian Errol Morris on The Thin Blue Line (1988), Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997) and Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr. (1999).

As a youngster, Sova hoped to attend film school in Prague but instead trained to be a machinist. He arrived in New York City in his twenties, landed a job with General Camera and repaired cameras for ABC.

His first feature was Short Eyes (1977), which starred Bruce Davison as a child molester sent to prison. Directed by Robert M. Young, it was filmed in "The Tombs," a notorious detention center in Lower Manhattan, and featured real inmates in the cast.

"There was sometimes, I would say, a little tension in there," he recalled in a 2015 interview for American Cinematographer magazine. "Somehow they were getting guns and heroin inside. But they were always nice to me — they liked that I was a refugee."

He served as Levinson's director of photography on Diner (1982), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Tin Men (1987) and Jimmy Hollywood (1994).

He first worked with McGuigan on Gangster No. 1 (2000), and the pair went on to collaborate on The Reckoning (2002), Wicker Park (2004), Lucky Number Slevin (2006) and Push (2009) as well as on an episode of the 2006 FX miniseries Thief, starring Andre Braugher.

"I lost my best friend and hero today," the Scottish filmmaker wrote Aug. 27 on Twitter. "Peter Sova was a master of Cinematography with the heart of a true artist and friend. Every day on set, even today, there's always a moment when I think … what would Peter do? Forever thru' your lens."

He most recently shot the documentary Driven to Abstraction, released in August.

Survivors include his son, Milan Joseph Sova. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 2018.

Rhett Bartlett contributed to this report.