James J. Murakami Dies: Emmy-Winning ‘Deadwood’ Art Director Was 91

Ray Liotta and James J. Murakami
ohn Shearer/Getty Images for Hollywood Film Awards

James J. Murakami, an art director who received an Emmy award for his work on the HBO western drama Deadwood, has died. He was 91.

As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Murakami passed away on Thursday, December 15, at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, as confirmed by his wife, Ginger.

Born on June 4, 1931, in Sacramento, California, Murakami began his career at ZIV Studios, where he worked in various art departments on several film and television projects. One of his first movie jobs came in 1974 as Assistant Art Director for Dean Tavoularis on The Godfather: Part II; he would assist Tavoularis again in 1979 for Apocalypse Now.

He served as art director for multiple episodes of Battlestar Galactica in 1978 while also working on popular feature films, such as Beverly Hills Cop, True Romance, Midnight Run, and Enemy of the State. He also developed a close working relationship with Clint Eastwood, starting with the 1992 western favorite Unforgiven; he also worked on Eastwood’s 1997 film Midnight in the Garden of Good and his 2008 feature Changeling, for which Murakami earned an Oscar nomination.

Murakami went on to serve as art director for The WB’s fantasy series Charmed in 2000 before joining HBO’s Deadwood in 2004. He received two nominations for his work on Deadwood, winning in 2005. His final film was the Tom Hanks starring 2016 biographical drama Sully, again directed by Eastwood.

The long-time art director and production designer retired in 2016 and, in 2018, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Art Directors Guild.

He is survived by his wife, Ginger, his daughter, Patricia, and stepchildren, John and Sandee.