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Roger Deakins: Sticking to the Script

Posted January 07, 2010 to photo album "Roger Deakins: Sticking to the Script"

The Coen brothers' favored cinematographer talks about the films he’s brought to screen.

Slide 1: Roger Deakins, Director of Photography
Slide 2: A Serious Man - A Skewed Focus
Slide 3: Sid and Nancy - First Shots
Slide 4: The Man Who Wasn’t There - Modern B&W
Slide 5: The Hudsucker Proxy - Just Bold Enough
Slide 6: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - An Old West Mood
Slide 7: Barton Fink - New Approaches
Slide 8: Barton Fink - Lighting the Hallway
Slide 9: Fargo - Fighting the Elements
Slide 10: WALL-E - Bring Animation to Light
Slide 1: Roger Deakins, Director of Photography

Slide 1: Roger Deakins, Director of Photography

Think of a film shot by Roger Deakins and a few things will come to mind—beautifully framed shots, sensitive lens work, and, most of all, a visual language that’s in perfect harmony with not only the film’s narrative but also its deepest themes. From his earliest work in the mid-1970s, Deakins has become one of today’s top directors of photography not by creating a signature style but by evocatively shooting in sync with story and character. “It’s always about the script,” Deakins says when asked how he chooses his projects. “I think, ‘Is this something I want to go and see in the cinema myself? Is it something that moves me? Are the characters interesting, do they have something to say to me? Do they change? Do they develop during the film?’ I read a script and I’ll say, ‘Yeah, that affects me in some way.’ But I will never read a script and think, ‘Oh, that will be visually interesting.’”

Born in England and with an early career that included the study of photography and documentary work in Africa, Deakins early on shot Michael Radford’s Orwell adaptation, 1984; Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy; and Mike Figgis’ Stormy Monday. In 1991 he shot the Coen brothers’ Barton Fink, beginning a relationship that has lasted through all their subsequent films, including the Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and No Country for Old Men, all of which he received Oscar nominations for. Among his many other credits are The Shawshank Redemption, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Reader, and Kundun. We caught up with Deakins by phone and he gave us his thoughts on eight of his films, including A Serious Man and four others by the Coens.