The Cinematography Podcast Episode 249: Dariusz Wolski

Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, ASC has worked with director Ridley Scott on nine different films. He loves working with Scott because he’s extremely self-assured, not afraid to take chances, and always pushes the envelope. On the last day of their shoot for House of Gucci in Italy, Scott said to Dariusz, “You know, we’re in Rome, we’re so close to Malta, we should just hop on a plane and look at some locations. Why don’t we just go there to scout locations?” Confused, Daruisz said, “For what?” “For Napoleon.” Dariusz says, “That’s how that happened, it wasn’t ‘let’s make a big epic.’ And it was quite nice because Malta, which is a big part of the film, it was very special for him because that’s where he shot the original Gladiator, so we actually revisited all the sets that were very familiar to him.”

Scott did use a lot of the same locations he’d used for Gladiator for the late 1700’s era of Napoleon. After they’d settled on their shooting locations, Daruisz began looking at an abundance of references available from the Napoleonic era. “There’s just as many versions of Napoleon as you can imagine. So, we’re not trying to make a historical film. But cinematically, you just load yourself with as many references as possible,” says Dariusz. They also relied on historical consultants, and experts on warfare from the period. Napoleon was known as a brilliant strategist, so it was important to understand some of the famous battle campaigns he had led. Coordinating the battle scenes was like shooting a rock concert- with 500 extras and 250 horses. They used 11 cameras for the battle scenes, plus a drone, and a small digital camera (the DJI Osmo Pocket) that a stunt person carried on horseback. Dariusz credits pulling off the battle sequences with Scott’s extensive experience. “He has tremendous experience and he’s done so many battles. He really understands what matters, what doesn’t,” he says.

Lighting for the non-battle scenes was trickier when shooting in historic locations. The sun and cloud cover for natural light would be intermittent in England, requiring some extra coverage, though it didn’t trouble Scott very much. Indoors, Daruisz used a combination of a big window light, fire light and real candlelight. He wanted the lighting to reflect the most flattering portraits of Napoleon. As a film reference, Daruisz was also influenced by the Stanley Kubrick film Barry Lyndon which was primarily lit with candles. “That was a revolutionary movie, that was a masterpiece. We were trying to do that too, and keep the shots very simple- a big wide shot, couple of close-ups, just nothing fancy.”

Napoleon is available on Apple TV+ and on VOD.

Find Dariusz Wolski: Instagram @dariusz_wolski_official

Listen to our previous interview with Dariusz Wolski from 2021 about News of the World, The Crow, Dark City, and more.

Close Focus: Illya gives a wrap up of this year’s CES show in Las Vegas.

Ben’s short end: Though not a sponsor of The Cinematography Podcast, Ben was very happy to receive some swag and give a shoutout to Scriptation. Scriptation is a paperless shared production app for script sharing, annotation, notes, and overall organization.

The Day the Clown Cried, the Jerry Lewis movie from the 1970’s that was never released and is very controversial. It should be available to the public this year.

Illya’s short end: You Are What You Eat, a documentary about an 8-week study conducted by Stanford University that put 22 sets of genetically identical twins on opposing diets: omnivore and vegan. You can watch it on Netflix.

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Podcast Credits:

Producer: Alana Kode

All web and social media content written by Alana Kode

Host and editor in Chief:  Illya Friedman

Instagram: @illyafriedman @hotrodcameras

Host: Ben Rock

Twitter: @neptunesalad

Instagram: @bejamin_rock

Editor: Ben Katz

Composer: Kays Al-Atrakchi

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