11-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins talks 'Prisoners' and the upcoming 'Unbroken'
Two weeks ago cinematographer Roger Deakins picked up his eleventh Oscar nomination to date, and as many who trade in these circles are well aware, he's still on the lookout for his first win. "Prisoners" won't likely be the film to get him there as "Gravity" is gobbling up most of the attention in that field this season, but the consistent recognition (including a twelfth American Society of Cinematographers nomination) is unique and continues to mark Deakins as one of the greats.
Indeed, Deakins is "kind of the God of contemporary cinematographers," as one of his longtime collaborators, Joel Coen, told us not long ago. So much so that Bruno Delbonnel, a huge talent in his own right, admitted he was soiling his shorts at the thought of filling his shoes on "Inside Llewyn Davis." But Deakins is also at the forefront of the form, having transitioned fully to digital work and seemingly not missed a beat. And his work in the animated realm as a visual consultant on projects at DreamWorks Animation further diversifies his reach in the industry.
As readers of this site know, Deakins is a consistent presence in this space as we frequently talk to him for our annual "top 10 shots of the year" piece. Something from Deakins may or may not be on this year's collective. You can find out for yourself on Feb. 11 as we roll out that feature, but for now, read through the back and forth below to learn more about Deakins' work on not just "Prisoners," but a film we could well be talking about at this time next year: Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken," which he's just wrapping up now in Australia.
HitFix: Hey Roger. So you're still in Australia, huh?
Roger Deakins: Yeah, we've got another week and a half to go.
How's it going out there? Are things moving along well?
It's going really well, actually, yeah. It's going to be pretty good.
I'm looking forward to that one. Well, I'm glad I could finally talk to you specifically about "Prisoners." Congratulations on the Oscar nomination. I think that's nomination number 58 or something like that?
No, you're up to number 11 from the Academy. Easy question to answer, I guess, but how does it feel to just have this consistent sort of recognition from your peers?
It's quite amazing, isn't it? It's quite amazing. I could never have imagined it, really.
Were you able to get out and see some of the other movies this year or have you been too busy?
We watched the screeners we had. Not much has been shown here. They're all a bit later up here. But we've seen the screeners. We saw "Gravity" on the big screen. That was amazing.
Thank God for that. On screener that's not nearly the same experience.
It's an interesting year for cinematography in general. There were the seven nominations from ASC. It just shows, I guess, how competitive it was this year. What do you think of some of this other work out there?
It's really diverse, isn't it? I think that's always the problem, but particularly this year: how do you judge? How do you choose? There's such a diversity of work out there. [Laughs]
And just a diversity of methods, too.
Yeah, that's why I was laughing, really. I work on animation at times and I was laughing because I think, well, you know, a lot of this is computer-generated. Why don't the people that light animation qualify as cinematographers? I mean, I'm serious. The whole way of creating images, the route you go to create images is changing and diversifying, so I have no idea how you choose. But it's nice to be amongst the group!
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
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