Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC explores the existential perils of the American West inThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and No Country for Old Men.
Interview by Stephen Pizzello and Jean Oppenheimer
Edited by Stephen Pizzello and Rachael K. Bosley
Unit Photography by Kimberly French (Jesse James) and Richard Foreman, SMPSP (No Country)
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC is not one to rest on his laurels. The five-time Academy Award nominee has two films currently in theaters (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and In the Valley of Elah), one opening next month (No Country for Old Men), and another in postproduction (Revolutionary Road). When AC recently paid a visit to his Santa Monica home, he came straight from the airport, dropped his duffel bag in the foyer, and, despite having worked long hours on Revolutionary Road, proceeded to engage us in a lively and detailed discussion for two hours. After that, he drove to Hollywood with his wife, James, to attend a memorial service for his late colleague Laszlo Kovacs, ASC. The next day the couple flew to Germany, where Deakins began prepping his next feature, The Reader.
What follows are Deakinsâ€™ thoughts about his first two forays into the Western genre: Andrew Dominikâ€™s The Assassination of Jesse James, a widescreen Western that takes maximum visual advantage of its period setting, and the Coen brothersâ€™ No Country for Old Men, a more contemporary story that reconfigures familiar Western motifs to build drama and suspense. Jesse James stars Brad Pitt as the famous outlaw, an American icon who seems destined to meet with a tragic end at the hands of Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), an ardent admirer keen to make a name for himself. Based on Ron Hansenâ€™s historical novel, the film combines a stately pace with stunning cinematography, resulting in an evocative, foreboding tone. No Country, on the other hand, is a hard-hitting drama from Joel and Ethan Coen, who removed their tongues from their cheeks to adapt Cormac McCarthyâ€™s novel about an existential showdown between laconic cowpoke Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who stumbles onto a bag of drug money, and sociopathic hit man Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who tracks Moss with relentless resolve.
American Cinematographer: Are you a fan of Westerns?
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC: Oh, yeah. I felt No Country was the nearest a contemporary film might come to a Peckinpah Western. Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is one of my favorite films, along with The Wild Bunch andBring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Those movies are much more than the sum of their stories. They address many different themes, and I feelJesse James and No Country are in that same vein.
There are also a few shots in Jesse James that call to mind the films of John Ford â€” frames within the widescreen frame that highlight specific visual elements.
Deakins: Andrew Dominik and I talked about that a lot, so I was always looking for those opportunities â€” tracking through doorways and using windows and other scenic elements to break up the wide frame. There are also a number of shots where we dolly past a character. I always used a dolly for those shots, because in general I donâ€™t like to use zoom lenses unless thereâ€™s a very specific reason for it.
You shot both pictures in Super 35mm. Why did you choose that over anamorphic?
Deakins: I prefer Super 35 because it allows you to use short focal-length lenses. I also like the scale of that format â€” the intimacy â€” and the texture of the film grain. In some cases I find anamorphic to be almost too clean, too grain-free and pristine.
Jesse James is a traditional period Western and No Country is set in the contemporary West, but the films seem to address similar themes.
Deakins: Thatâ€™s interesting, actually. Andrew Dominik is a really meticulous guy, and he did a lot of research for Jesse James, which is based on a fantastic novel by Ron Hansen thatâ€™s full of detail and really sets you in that world. Andrew was always saying, â€˜Weâ€™re basically making a Victorian Western.â€™ The West of Jesse James was not like most movies you see about that era. Times were changing, and things were becoming much more modern. No Country is thematically similar in some ways because itâ€™s also about the changing of the West. Sheriff Bell [played by Tommy Lee Jones] is kind of lost because the criminal world has changed so much beyond his imagination â€” he canâ€™t understand it anymore. I think thereâ€™s a really good parallel between James and Bell, because neither can really function in the modern world. Theyâ€™re aging, theyâ€™re thinking about death, and theyâ€™re struggling to understand whatâ€™s going on around them.
Jesse James was your first project with Dominik, whereas youâ€™ve worked with the Coens many times. How different were your working relationships with the directors?
Deakins: Very different. Iâ€™ve had a very long relationship with the Coens, so after prep we donâ€™t really have to talk that much about day-to-day stuff. If we discuss anything, itâ€™s the order of the shots rather than the shots themselves. Once we set the camera up, either Joel or Ethan will offer his suggestions, but we basically already know how weâ€™re going to cover the scene. They storyboard everything, and theyâ€™re very precise. As a result, I feel their films have a sort of picture-book style of presentation.
Andrew, on the other hand, spends a lot of time considering things before, during and after we shoot them. He really ponders and agonizes. [Laughs.] It was a much more intense way of getting to the point you want, and it was more about being instinctual on the day. That said, we did do a lot of planning for certain key shots.
What were your main locations?
Deakins: On Jesse James we shot mainly in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. The scouting was pretty intensive because the movie had a lot of variety in terms of locations. We also needed snow for certain scenes, and during the shoot we were always adjusting our schedule to accommodate that. We were after a very particular look, and some of these locations were miles and miles apart. For some of our city streets, the only places that really worked in Calgary and Edmonton were these historic towns that looked a bit like Disneyland pavilions. Those suited our purpose for certain interiors and small exteriors, but Andrew really wanted to create a sense of modern Victorian streets, and we had to go to Winnipeg for that. We also built a town up in the Rockies that stood in for Creede, Colorado, at the end of the film. It was tricky trying to find all of these locations in places that werenâ€™t necessarily ideal.
No Country was difficult in another way. We shot mostly around Santa Fe, New Mexico, not because the story was set there but because of the tax breaks. We used the little town of Las Vegas, which is east of Santa Fe, for most of the night scenes in town, but it was a struggle to find locations that would match places like Eagle Pass, Texas. We shot in Marfa, Texas, for a week just to establish a sense of the landscape. We really had to scratch around to find the right locations, because Santa Fe does not look like Texas.
Jesse James opens with a train robbery that takes place in a wooded area that seems to be lit almost entirely by a light on the front of the train and lanterns held by the characters. How did you approach that sequence?
Deakins: We shot that in Edmonton in this preserved town where they had a little loop railway and a small train. Andrew actually wanted to ship in a much bigger train, but the cost was prohibitive. We kept trying to reassure him that we could do things photographically that would give the train more of a presence. Andrew kept calling it â€˜Thomas the Tank Engine,â€™ and when you saw it in broad daylight, it did look pretty puny! Now, though, he thinks it looks great.
When youâ€™re dealing with that kind of period situation, the first thing you think of is the technical challenge of lighting everything. The train robbery had to look as if it were really lit just with lanterns. Of course, if you look closely at the shots, theyâ€™re totally unrealistic because thereâ€™s much too much light! Nevertheless, our approach worked pretty well. Andrew kept pushing for darkness, and, of course, if you havenâ€™t worked with a director before, you wonder what he means by â€˜dark.â€™ In this wooded area where the James gang was waiting to ambush the train, Iâ€™d positioned some lights on Condors to rake through the trees so youâ€™d get some sense of the trees before the train came. But about an hour before we started shooting, I decided to turn them off, and instead we just pumped some atmosphere into the area. Luckily there wasnâ€™t much of a wind, so we could maintain a low level of smoke hanging in the air and just let the light on the front of the train provide the general ambience. We shot the arrival of the train without any rehearsal, but it worked out just great. The only light in the whole scene is coming from either the train or the lanterns the outlaws are holding. The lanterns were dummied with 300- or 500-watt bulbs. Sometimes Iâ€™d keep the flame and put the bulbs behind the flame, dimmed way down. We positioned little pieces of foil between the bulb and the flame so all the camera would see was the little flame. At other times during the robbery, we just had bulbs in the lanterns â€” two bulbs side by side, dimmed down and sometimes flickering very gently. To augment the lanterns for close-up shots, I occasionally used a warmed-up Tweenie bounced off a gold stippled reflector.
The light on the front of the train stretched credibility, really. They did have lights on the front of trains back then, but they wouldnâ€™t have been as strong as the 5K Par we used! We also had some gag lights underneath the train â€” little bare bulbs dimmed down â€” to light the steam and create the effect of this fiery red glow beneath the train. We had a special-effects rig on the train that would create sparks as it started braking. Thereâ€™s one shot where the train is coming toward you and seems to hit the camera and carry it down the tracks; on the tracks, we set up a camera-platform rig with a big, soft buffer, and the train actually hit the platform and started pushing it along. In that particular shot, you can really see the warm glow of the bulbs underneath the engine. We also positioned a little silver reflector that caught some of the bounce from the 5K on the train, just to create some reflected light that would reveal the front of the train â€” otherwise, there was nothing else to illuminate it. We had a steam generator on the train so that when it stopped, we got this big cloud of steam that Jesse disappears into.
The rest of the sequence, including the interior scenes, was basically lit with dummied lanterns with bare bulbs inside. Inside the train, all the oil lamps had little tin hats on top of them; inside those were pieces of silver foil and a ring of five 300-watt bulbs dimmed down with flicker generators. Those read really well onscreen, but if you looked closely at the actual lamp it wouldnâ€™t make sense, because the light was coming from the tin hat and not from the lamp itself. I chose those in collaboration with the art department because I knew Andrew wanted to do a constant move through the train with Frank James [played by Sam Shepard].
The only time we used conventional film lights in that sequence was when we were running with the outlaws down the hill toward the train. The robbers are supposed to look as if theyâ€™re being lit by the light at the front of the train, and I think we used a 10K bounced off a white card to create that sort of effect amid the steam. When we finally show the train carriage, you can see the passengers amid this golden light coming through the windows. That light was provided by 175-watt mushroom bulbs mounted on 10-foot strips positioned all the way down the interior ceiling of the train carriage. We could rely on our dummy lanterns when we were inside the train, but when we shot that exterior we had to really project the light out into the atmosphere.
That shot of the passengers was inspired by one of Andrewâ€™s photographic references, and I think itâ€™s one of the most successful shots in the film. When we were doing it, though, it filled me with dread, because I was concerned that the light would just burn out the passengers and it would end up looking silly.
The opening scenes of No Country provide an interesting contrast, because you were dealing with a large desert basin that was lit partially by the lights of modern pickup trucks.
Deakins: That was kind of frustrating, because that whole sequence â€” when Moss [Josh Brolin] goes back to a crime scene at night and is pursued by drug dealers â€” had to go from night through dawn and then into full daylight. I wracked my brain about how to do that, because the area we were filming in was a half-mile square in this big, dusty basin. I couldnâ€™t see any way around it other than to use a big wash of light on top of the escarpment above the location, so I put three Musco lights up there to create a moonlight effect. I didnâ€™t want to do it, but I didnâ€™t see any other possibility. After we set up the Muscos, I knew we needed more of them, but I was lucky to get the three.
To try to make the transition to dawn, we picked out a rise where Moss parks his truck; when the drug dealers come back, they park their truck in the same spot with their headlights on. We tried to make the transition to dawn by lighting behind the trucks, as though the sun was starting to come up beyond the rise. We got about eight 18Ks and literally just shot them up into the air to light the sky while flagging them off everything else. Those basically lit the dust in the air and created a very faint glow behind the trucks.
Where I came unstuck was that the actual spot where the sun rose each day was just to the left of the rise, and when we later did the main shot of Moss running away, it was a cloudy morning. That was so disappointing, because if it had been a clear morning I think the lighting Iâ€™d done and the actual dawn would have meshed pretty well. As it is, you see the dawn coming up for real and then my fake dawn in front of some clouds! That really upsets me, but we only had two days to shoot the whole sequence, so we couldnâ€™t just go back there and do it over the next day.
A number of shots in Jesse James have a sort of dreamlike vignetting at the edges of the frame. How did you achieve that effect?
Deakins: That was done entirely in camera with lenses that are now called â€˜Deakinizers.â€™ I used to use this gag where I put a small lens element in front of a 50mm to get a similar effect. I went to Otto Nemenz and asked how we could create that effect in a better way, with more flexibility and lens length. The lens technician suggested taking the front element off a 9.8 Kinoptic, and also mounting the glass from old wide-angle lenses to the front of a couple of Arri Macros. Otto now rents out three Deakinizers. Removing the front element makes the lens faster, and it also gives you this wonderful vignetting and slight color diffraction around the edges. We used different lenses, so some were more extreme or slightly longer than others. Sometimes we used [Kardan] Shift & Tilt lenses to get a similar effect.
Most of those shots were used for transitional moments, and the idea was to create the feeling of an old-time camera. We werenâ€™t trying to be nostalgic, but we wanted those shots to be evocative. The idea sprang from an old photograph Andrew liked, and we did a lot of tests to mimic the look of the photo. Andrew had a whole lot of photographic references for the look of the movie, mainly the work of still photographers, but also images clipped from magazines, stills from Days of Heaven, and even Polaroids taken on location that looked interesting or unusual. He hung all of them up in the long corridor of the production office. That was a wonderful idea, because every day weâ€™d all pass by [images] that immediately conveyed the tone of the movie he wanted to make.
Did you contribute some specific ideas about the palette of the movieâ€™s sets or costumes in your discussions with those departments?
Deakins: I thought quite a lot about Jesseâ€™s costumes and certain settings in terms of how everything was going to read onscreen. I did a slight bleach bypass on the negative to enhance the blacks, so those considerations were important in terms of rendering detail. Andrew had very specific ideas about the blackness of the costumes against the snow.
In the night scene where Jesse shoots Ed Miller [Garret Dillahunt], Andrew wanted them to be riding black horses, but I told him that was going to be really tough at night. In that type of situation, you donâ€™t want to see too much of the landscape, so I basically lit up these little white trees to provide some sense of the background. Andrew really just wanted to show the characters as disembodied heads floating in blackness, but I knew it would be really hard to hold those details with the characters moving over a long distance. I lit that scene with a line of 10Ks positioned about 400 feet away from where we were shooting, with a bottom cut to keep the spill off the ground. I suppose moonlight would be the justification for that source. Andrew wanted a very particular, silvery look for night scenes, so it wasnâ€™t realistic in that sense. That was one scene where the digital intermediate [DI] really came in handy, because I could use Power Windows on the horses to bring them up a bit, and on the actorsâ€™ faces to take them down some. If youâ€™re trying to track a man on a horse for 200 feet, heâ€™ll get brighter and brighter as he approaches the light unless the source is a mile away, and that just wasnâ€™t feasible. But in the DI, I could compensate.
Throughout Jesse James, the camera is moving in interesting ways. What kinds of camera-motion systems did you use on the show?
Deakins: The preamble to the train-robbery sequence, when Robert Ford first meets Jesse and his gang at a campsite in the woods, begins with a long Steadicam move that starts on Fordâ€™s feet. He sits down to introduce himself, but they all get up and leave him sitting there. The camera then tracks around Ford to show the gang behind him, and that move was done with a little Aerocrane with a remote head. Iâ€™ve been using the Aerocrane a hell of a lot for 10 years or so, because I find it to be an incredibly versatile way to move the camera; itâ€™s like a 14-foot sectional jib arm with a PowerPod remote head. Another part of that whole scene is a dialogue in the woods between Charley Ford [Sam Rockwell] and other members of the gang. That was mostly improvised as a way to introduce some of the characters. We had to get all of the shots pretty quickly before the sun went down, so I just did it all handheld.
There are some really nice time-lapse shots of the sky and clouds throughout Jesse James. Who shot that footage?
Deakins: Our Steadicam operator, a Canadian named Damon Moreau. When we didnâ€™t have any Steadicam stuff for him to do, or if we were waiting for Andrew to get the actors ready, we would send him off to shoot some time-lapse footage. It was looking really great, so we had him do more and more of it. He got some wonderful stuff, including these patterns of light on the floor of the James house after Jesse and his family move out; the flickering effect was created by the time-lapse of the sun going through trees or behind clouds.
In some of the interior scenes in Jesse James, you let the windows blow out and go white. Was that a stylistic decision or a more practical choice?
Deakins: That was both a practical problem and a creative choice. We built the houses on location so we could shoot everything on location, but that proved to be impractical in some cases, because the restricted daylight in Canada during the winter was just too ridiculous. Scenes in the house where Wood Hite [Jeremy Renner] is killed ultimately had to be done in a studio. We had big circular panels of diffusion outside every window and aimed a group of 2K Blondes at each window from about 20 feet away.
When we were downstairs in our studio house, I tried to create a feeling of the landscape and the snow outside the windows by positioning black flags slightly beyond the windows and keeping them out of focus to create the line of a hill. Thereâ€™s not a lot you can do in those kinds of situations. The blown-out windows ended up being part of the look of the film, because I did that even on some of our location sets. At the house in St. Joseph where Jesse is killed, you do see a bit of the landscape outside the windows, but theyâ€™re mostly blown out. Itâ€™s a good thing weâ€™d been doing that, because one day there was 2 feet of snow outside the windows that didnâ€™t really match the rest of the scene!
In other scenes, we made use of the old-fashioned glass in various windows to create distorted views. Old glass has a kind of wavy texture, and it just seemed very evocative in some way. [Laughs.] Thereâ€™s one nice shot where weâ€™re craning up outside a window and the glass is kind of wobbling in front of Jesseâ€™s face. We also used the glass to create patterns on the walls for a scene in which Jesse wakes Charley to have a nighttime chat with him. I lit that scene with 1Ks, and I removed the lenses from the lamps to create a really sharp, pinpoint source. When you put that kind of source through a window, youâ€™ll get the pattern of the glass on the background.
Was it tricky balancing the filmâ€™s interiors and exteriors? There are a number of shots where you can see the exteriors through the doorways of relatively low-key dwellings.
Deakins: The hardest shot was when Jesse arrives on horseback at Ed Millerâ€™s cabin, where they have this really eerie conversation. The cabin was built on location, and it was supposed to be an exterior scene, but the day we turned up there was 2 feet of snow outside. We discussed whether we could clear enough snow up to the horizon so we could shoot Jesseâ€™s arrival through the door. Well, the horizon was about a quarter-mile away, so that would have taken a week! It was absolutely freezing, -20 degrees, and we ended up shooting only part of their conversation before packing it in. Weeks later we put the cabin inside a warehouse, and I had the set painter create a 20-by canvas with a little bit of a horizon line so we could shoot the rest of the dialogue onstage, trying to match what weâ€™d done on location. We left the door of the stage open to keep the set cold, because we had to be able to see their breath! Iâ€™m amazed that scene works so well, because it was cobbled together over two different days of location shooting and an additional day onstage in the warehouse.
Thereâ€™s a major interior scene late in Jesse James when Ford attends an event hosted by the governor. How did you light the ballroom where that scene takes place?
Deakins: The ballroom was actually a restaurant in a hotel, and it was a very big space. I couldnâ€™t really rig much there, but they did let me put up a couple of lightweight ring-light rigs that I could hang from the ceiling. Those are basically concentric rings of household bulbs controlled by a dimmer. I hung the larger one over the governorâ€™s table; that rig had a 10-foot ring of about 20 40-watt bulbs; an 8-foot ring with 60-watt bulbs; a 6-foot ring of 75-watt bulbs; and an inner ring with 100-watt bulbs. I also hung a smaller version of that rig off toward where the band was playing. Itâ€™s a quick, simple technique I use to create a big soft light when I donâ€™t have any ceiling height. The rest of the lighting for that scene was provided by the little globe lights you see above the tables. For close-ups, I mightâ€™ve bounced a light off a piece of card.
Two scenes late in the film involve dramatic reflections. Just before Ford shoots James, the outlaw notices Fordâ€™s reflection in the painting heâ€™s dusting; in a subsequent scene where Jamesâ€™ corpse is on public display, the body is reflected in a photographerâ€™s lens. What did you do to make those shots so sharp?
Deakins: Both of those were just opportunities we noticed on the day. The shot of the corpse was storyboarded as a wide shot followed by a close-up of Jesseâ€™s body being lifted into the frame. But when I noticed the reflection in the lens, I realized we could just track into it. People might think that shot is a CG effect, but it isnâ€™t. We just built up the light level in the room to get the reflection. It was the same for the scene where Jesse is killed. The clear implication is that Jesse knows whatâ€™s coming, which makes his death a form of suicide.
After Ford kills Jesse, he and his brother go on tour with a theatrical show where they re-create the assassination again and again. How did you approach the lighting for those stage scenes?
Deakins: That was done in a real theater in Winnipeg. The set was built with the light fixtures included, but I never got a chance to see the set before we got there to shoot. We were in the middle of the schedule, and we flew there on a Sunday and started shooting on Monday. I basically had one evening to take a look at it and have a talk with the designer. To me, the most important aspect of that scene was the footlights. Andrew had a very specific scene in mind where we would start on stage looking right at the footlights, which are so bright you donâ€™t see the audience at first. The footlights were probably just 150-watt bare bulbs. I must mention that our Canadian gaffer, Martin Keough, was a real help in those situations. He seemed quite young, but when I interviewed him, I liked him, and I just hired him on a hunch. He was as good a gaffer as Iâ€™ve ever worked with, and the key grip, Rick Schmidt, was equally so. They were just brilliant. Lighting Jesse James was quite tricky because of all the practical work and the need to create that firelit feel without it looking fake.
Through much of No Country, Moss is holed up in motel rooms, but you managed to create a lot of suspense through your lighting.
Deakins: The lobby of the big hotel was a location in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and we shot those scenes at magic hour to get the feeling of dusk outside. The hotel room itself was a set because we had so many specific shots to do there. Inside that room, I wanted the feeling of the streetlights coming through the windows so that when Moss turned off his bedside lamp, weâ€™d get this reddish sodium light coming through the windows. Then we had white light under the door so we could show Chigurhâ€™s shadow creeping down the hallway toward the door. The shot of Moss diving out the window was done on a set, but the shot of him landing in the street was done on location.
During the big shootout that follows, Chigurh seems like an invisible force, because you never really get a clear look at him.
Deakins: In the book, Chigurh is the personification of evil, and itâ€™s implied that heâ€™s almost like a ghost. So throughout the film, we wanted to make him a very shadowy or indistinct figure. When you first see him, heâ€™s been arrested and is sitting in a police station in handcuffs while a deputy is on the phone in the foreground. Chigurh is just a soft-focus shape behind him, but you can see him starting to wriggle out of the handcuffs.
The big shootout was pretty complicated. We had small rigs of four or five 1Ks bunched up on rooftops, and we had little gag lights on streetlights to create more defined pools of light. I stuck with the orange-sodium look for that chase because I wanted it to feel pretty grim.
Thereâ€™s also some interesting lighting in the subsequent scene, where Moss crosses the border into Mexico and dumps the money off a bridge.
Deakins: That was one of the trickiest setups in the movie because it was staged at a freeway crossing. The art department put in the border posts. I wanted the American side to have blue light, so we changed out all the streetlights. We lit the border post with Cool White fluorescents. For the main action on the Mexican side, I wanted more garish colors. When Moss stops to talk to those three kids, you can see colorful light coming up from below the bridge, as if thereâ€™s a street down below. I enjoyed playing with the colors because the lighting for the preceding shootout consisted entirely of orange-sodium light.
You finished both of these pictures with DIs at EFilm. What kinds of enhancements did you make in post?
Deakins: We did a bleach bypass on the negative for Jesse James, so part of the DI work on that film, which was done at 4K, was to counteract the harshness of that process in some scenes. But mostly I was using the process to balance things out, change the contrast a bit, and help things match for day exteriors. For instance, the campsite you see just before the train robbery in Jesse James was shot in one location with low sunlight, but the scene between Bob Ford and Frank James by the train tracks was done somewhere else at a completely different time. It was a really gray day, and although Andrew liked the fact that it looked a bit different, we couldnâ€™t keep the two looks that far apart. Also, one scene was shot earlier in the schedule, so the leaves were much greener.
The most involved scene in No Country was the whole night-into-dawn exterior we discussed earlier. The DI was invaluable for that, especially for a bit involving a dog paddling down the river after Moss. One shot would be cloudy and the next would be in clean morning light, with reflections on the water. In the DI, I could use a Power Window to add a little highlight in the sky to create the impression that the sky was brighter and was reflecting in the water.
Before we started shooting Jesse James, I knew I probably wouldnâ€™t be available to do the DI, so I shot a lot of test references that my timer, Mike Hatzer, could use to balance the film before I got to do it. I have to say, EFilm was fantastic. I was shooting [Revolutionary Road] in Connecticut, and they actually set up a whole system there so I could do the DI on evenings and weekends. At the same time, I was also timing In the Valley of Elah the same way, and last weekend I came back to L.A. to do the final grading of both films at EFilm with the directors. The downside of the DI is that you really need to be present when the work is being done. There are so many variables you canâ€™t just leave it to others.
Did you screen dailies on both pictures?
Deakins: I didnâ€™t really get to see much in the way of dailies on either film, just the odd shot. I got three or four shots printed every day, one take, and Iâ€™d watch them on an Arri LocPro. On No Country, I set up the LocPro in the boardroom of our hotel, and when I got back in the evening Iâ€™d just spin through those few shots from the day before. For the first time, the Coens didnâ€™t watch [film] dailies at all; they watched the scenes in HD. I just couldnâ€™t do that; HD dailies put me off because they look so flat. It was the same with Jesse James. Andrew would sometimes catch up on a few scenes with me, but he mainly watched footage on HD tape.
We understand Emmanuel Lubezki [ASC, AMC] is shooting the Coensâ€™ next film. Are you taking a break from the collaboration, or was it just a scheduling conflict?
Deakins: I was committed to Revolutionary Road, and now Iâ€™m heading to Germany to do The Reader. I knew when the boys would be shooting, and I just wanted to work a bit earlier than they were starting. Theyâ€™re in good hands with Chivo, though. Iâ€™m sure theyâ€™ll be fine!
Jesse James Technical Specs
2.40:1 Super 35mm
Arri 535B, Arricam Lite
Cooke S4s; Arri Macros; Kinoptic 9.8mm;
Kardan Shift & Tilt lenses
500T 5218, 200T 5217, 100T 5212
Bleach Bypass by Deluxe Laboratories
Printed on Fuji Eterna-CP 3513DI
No Country Technical Specs
2.40:1 Super 35mm
Arri 535B, Arricam Lite
Arri Master Primes; Cooke S4s; Arri Macro lenses
500T 5218, 200T 5217, 100T 5212
Printed on Kodak Vision 2383