Film Talk

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What was it like working with Andrew Dominik? (2 replies)

1 month ago
AdamEm 1 month ago

Hi Roger,

I'm a huge fan of Andrew Dominik and his work, particularly his first film 'Chopper'. I wondered what you thought of that film, and what it was like working with him on 'Jesse James'? It's a bit of a broad question, but he does seem to have a very strong voice as a director, and his films have a certain energy to them, a bit like a tightly coiled spring waiting to burst. The tension and violence in his films are quite unique. One scene I'm thinking of is when Chopper is stabbed by Jimmy, and Chopper hugs him. There's such a strange tension in that scene, a mix of danger and comedy, a really amazing edge to walk.

There's also the scene where Wood Hite is killed in a shoot out. That scene is so incredibly tense. The way the camera moves with the characters shooting at each other, and the way they miss each other. It came across as very realistic and dangerous, nothing like how a lot of action films portray violence.

Was he very prepared and followed a plan, or was he spontaneous? Do you remember any funny/illuminating moments?

Roger Deakins
3 weeks ago
Roger Deakins 3 weeks ago

I liked 'Chopper' and that is why I worked was glad to get the chance to work with Andrew.

He is a very talented man. He really pushes you for what he wants and 'JJ' was a very demanding shoot. We did a lot of prep on that film and we spent many weeks scouting locations looking for something that was 'right'. The budget wasn't so large so it was crucial we shot as much as possible on locations that existed, without a lot of additional construction etc.. There were a few large sets built. One of these, the town of Creed which was built in the Rockies above Calgary, is hardly present in the released cut of film. The town, which consisted of both four wall buildings and two wall facades as well as a substantial arched bridge, was built in a place where we were sure to get snow by late in the year as that was important to the scenes we shot there.

We did storyboard some of the film and we talked through the whole script is some detail. We also had visual references for every scene and these were pasted to the walls of a long corridor in our production office space. But not everything was pre planned and we would always block a scene with the actors before settling on our shots whether it had been previously boarded or not.

The Wood Hite gunfight was something Andrew was very specific about. He felt that was how a gunfight would be and the small attic space was key to his idea. I think it is much more realistic for that period in time, especially with the smoke and the confusion.

Generally we followed a plan but there were times we had to change tack because of the weather. One time a small bunkhouse set was totally lost in a snowfall and we were never going to wait for it to melt. As we were out of weather cover we had to rebuild the bunkhouse on stage and paint a backing for the outside view all by the next day. I was overseeing that backing painting right up until the actors came on set to shoot.

The same snowfall forced us to shoot a crucial night time scene in LA.


1 month ago
AdamEm 1 month ago

(and what did you think of Chopper?)




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