Torquay-born cinematographer Roger Deakins has been doing the rounds to promote his latest flick for the Coen brothers, True Grit.
The film is based on Charles Portis’ novel (and, of course, the 1969 John Wayne movie) and stars Coen stalwarts Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges alongside newbie Matt Damon.
Roger, who went to Torquay Boys Grammar School and has a home in Kingswear, is being tipped for an Oscar for his work on the film -long overdue, given he’s been nominated some eight times over the years.
Perhaps more importantly, he will receive the 2011 American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) Lifetime Achievement Award in Los Angeles in February.
ASC President Michael Goi said: “It is our way of acknowledging a true artist in his prime. Roger Deakins raises the artistic profile of our profession with every movie and he will continue to do so for many years.”
Hey, and so say all of us.
As well as True Grit, A Serious Man and No Country For Old Men for the Coens, his recent work includes The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road. He also served as a visual consultant on WALL-E and How To Train Your Dragon. Not too shabby.
Anyhoo, we’ve rifled through a bunch of his recent interviews and extracted some of the more interesting morsels. Quotes are courtesy of Ain’t It Cool, HitFix, Awards Daily, and Philadelphia Daily News.
DEAKINS ON CINEMATOGRAPHY:
“I just like shooting films. That’s what I care about. The rest of it… I’m just so lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I’m cheap and fast.”
DEAKINS ON THE COEN BROTHERS 1:
“The first film I did with them was Barton Fink and we just hit it off. I’d say we see things quite similarly and have similar tastes in a way; in terms of movies, at least.”
DEAKINS ON THE COEN BROTHERS 2:
“I’ve never worked with anyone who does such preparation, so much storyboarding. Everything is really precise, and worked out in advance. That doesn’t mean they always shoot it the way they planned it, but they have a plan going in.”
DEAKINS ON STARTING TRUE GRIT:
“At first, there was no script. They [the Coens] said they were just doing the book, and in the end, the book is very much like the script that they wrote. So I read the book, and we sat down and had that conversation, and I worked with that while they went off and wrote the script.”
DEAKINS ON WESTERNS:
“It’s lovely doing a western, particularly Jesse James, which was much different than True Grit because it was much more of a visual poem, so the approach was slightly different. But every story demands a different approach as far as I’m concerned.”
DEAKINS ON THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRUE GRIT AND JESSE JAMES:
“At first, I thought of this as my second Western, but then when you read the book and what the Coens did with it, it’s such a different animal. I don’t approach films purely in context of genre. I was pleased to be able to shoot a Western, but I don’t just think of it as just a Western. It’s about the particular story and these characters and how to convey that.”
DEAKINS ON SHOOTING O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?:
“They [the Coens] wanted the look of an old postcard. It wasn’t easy. We had to figure out how to take the greens out of the image, but it finally worked.”
DEAKINS ON HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON:
“I would say that with How To Train Your Dragon, I probably had the most involvement just because I was on that over a span of 14 months. I was very interested in bringing in live-action techniques, and not just in terms of lighting. But also in terms of shot construction and trying to capture that feel you get when you break something down to shoot it.”
DEAKINS ON CHOOSING PROJECTS:
“If something doesn’t move me in some way emotionally or interest me in some particular way I couldn’t work on it because it’d just become like you’re doing it as a formula.”
DEAKINS ON WATCHING DAILIES:
“I notice the problem on set, when I see the director and everyone else and they want to watch dailies on their laptops. Or maybe on a TV monitor. These days, you don’t have dailies sessions in a theatre. And that affects the way people even compose their films now. That’s just the reality of how films are viewed these days.”
DEAKINS ON DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY:
“I moved into that on O Brother because it was the only technique available to get the look that we wanted. I think digital photography is opening up so many new tools and you’ll always need a human to operate it. You’ll always have to have a human deciding what shots you need to tell a story and how to best communicate something.”
DEAKINS ON 3D CINEMA:
“I think it’s like many things right now, like flashy camera work and fast cutting, are really just ways of hiding that there’s no story. Instead of spending the money on 3D, they should spend the money on some decent scripts. You don’t need 3D. It’s more like an amusement park ride than a story. I like watching films like paintings. I don’t want to be inside them. I want to look at them.”
DEAKINS ON WHAT’S NEXT:
“I’m in the middle of shooting with Andrew Niccol [Gattaca, S1m0ne, Lord of War], a film called Now, which is kind of a futuristic parable. The nearest I ever came to doing science fiction was Nineteen Eighty-Four [directed by Michael Radford], which is hardly science fiction.”
DEAKINS ON DIRECTING:
“I tried to put a project together for a few months before I realized the error of my ways. I love being on set, but all the other stuff… that’s not for me.”
DEAKINS ON THE ASC LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
“I had mixed emotions. I am flattered, but I also feel like I am only just getting started. I’m enjoying what I do more than I ever have and there seems to be so much more I want to do. I feel like I’m getting this award about halfway through my career.”
True Grit opens in the UK on Friday, February 11. We can’t wait -what about you guys? Comments below, please!
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