“He had a tremendous influence on what Dances with Wolves came to be,” continues Costner. “He coaxed me through some things that were not my idea, but he did it gently, and I was smart enough to realize he was right.”
Semler reacts to such praise by stressing how lucky he feels “to be doing what I’m doing. How and why it ever happened, I don’t know.”
Semler joined the ASC in 1998 after being proposed for membership by Society fellows Jack Cooperman, Harry Wolf and John Alonzo. He won an ASC Award for Dances with Wolves and earned another nomination from the Society for Apocalypto. Of the Lifetime Achievement honor, he says he is “thrilled to bits. I’m shocked, surprised, and, well, it’s just fabulous.”
In 2002, Semler was named to the Order of Australia and received the Queen’s Medal for his service to the arts. He recalls, “Annie and I went to Government House in Sydney, the guv pinned the shiny, gold medal and ribbons on, and the event was filled with wonderful pomp and circumstance. It was fantastic.” A year later, he received another honor from the Australian government, a Centenary Medal, for his service to international cinematography.
“I love telling stories visually,” he says. “It’s all about making people feel.” Perhaps his wife, Annie, expresses it best: “Dean can shoot the feeling of what he sees.”