The 70-year-old Deakins had been favored for the trophy for his widely praised shooting of Sam Mendes’ World War I epic in what appeared to be a single shot. He’s been nominated 16 times for an Oscar.
He topped Rodrigo Prieto for “The Irishman,” Lawrence Sher for “Joker,” Robert Richardson for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Jarin Blaschke for “The Lighthouse.”
In his acceptance speech, Deakins gave thanks to his crew and concluded by saying, “I think they would all want me to say thanks to Sam Mendes.”
Deakins worked with Mendes on “Jarhead,” “Revolutionary Road” and “Skyfall.” He said backstage that he was inspired by the idea of a film about World War I and by Mendes.
“I’d worked with Sam on three films and they were all great experiences,” he added.
Mendes and Deakins told Variety last year that the film needed to follow the main characters in one, largely unbroken shot as a way of ratcheting up the tension as the two characters walk through booby-trapped tunnels, bombed-out cities, and abandoned farms while dodging sniper fire, witnessing aerial battles and sneaking across enemy lines.
Deakins received 14 Oscar nominations, starting with “The Shawshank Redemption” in 1994, without winning before taking the trophy for “Blade Runner 2049.” His nominations included “Fargo,” “O Brother Where Art Thou,” “True Grit,” “Skyfall” and “Sicario.”