January 17, 2024

Napoleon cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, ASC

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. https://www.camnoir.com/ep118/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras www.hotrodcameras.com

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz

June 16, 2021

Jeffrey Jur, ASC on shooting Bridgerton, working with Shonda Rhimes, Dirty Dancing, The Big Picture, The Last Seduction, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and more

Cinematographer Jeffrey Jur chose the path of filmmaker not just as a job, but to put something out into the world that he finds personally wonderful and amazing. He sees filmmaking as a way to express what he says to the world visually and photographically. Jeff always tries to find projects that reflect a part of him and keep him creatively inspired.

For the Netflix series Bridgerton, executive producer Shonda Rhimes and the series directors knew the show needed to have a “female gaze” when it came to the sex scenes, emphasizing female pleasure and desire, bringing the series a refreshing, contemporary feel in spite of the historic setting. Jeff had shot several Shondaland projects over the past 20 years, beginning with the pilot for Grey’s Anatomy and the pilot for How To Get Away With Murder. As the DP of How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Dirty Dancing, Jeff also had experience with shooting movies from a more feminine perspective. He likes what Shonda Rhimes has to say to the world about relationships and race, and the colorblind alternate history of 1813 presented in Bridgerton. The scripts are written with modern language, and the show had to feel modern but keep true to the Regency-era romantic beauty. He found it very exciting to shoot in England, where the streets and historic houses needed very little alteration to fit the time period, especially around Bath. Jeff’s inspirations for the vibrant, colorful look of Bridgerton included Pride and Prejudice and Stanley Kubrick’s historic movie Barry Lyndon. In fact, one of the locations Bridgerton used, Wilton House, was also used in Barry Lyndon. Much of Bridgerton was lit by candles, natural light, and balloon lights. It was necessary to shoot in historic buildings without touching the ceiling or moving the furniture. Fortunately, the UK crew was used to shooting in many of the locations and knew how to manage the restrictions.

In the mid-1980’s, Jeff had just moved to L.A. from Chicago, getting by shooting shorts and a few dramatic films, when one of the producers for Dirty Dancing saw his work on American Playhouse and hired him as the cinematographer. Jeff had no idea that 1987’s Dirty Dancing would become his big break, and he’s honored to have been a part of something that has become so iconic. It was shot on a very low budget and no one had very high expectations for how successful Dirty Dancing would become. Dance films such as Flashdance and Footloose had done well, but everyone involved in Dirty Dancing wanted the dancing in the movie to be authentic, performed by the actors, not with professional dance doubles, as the audience follows the main character’s journey as she learns how to dance.

Soon after Dirty Dancing, Jeff shot The Big Picture, Christopher Guest’s directorial debut. The Big Picture was a huge flop, but it ended up having a following once it reached home video. The story follows Nick Chapman, a recent film school grad whose short film wins an award- but breaking into Hollywood is not that easy. Jeff loved the film because the plot really spoke to him. Growing up in Chicago, he always had a passion for filmmaking and while in high school, his film won him a scholarship to Columbia Film School. The Big Picture includes many short films, fantasy sequences and student films within the movie which were great fun to shoot.

Jeff switched gears creatively to shoot The Last Seduction, an indie film from the 1990’s that was an homage and reinvention of film noir directed by John Dahl. He went on to shoot romantic comedies How Stella Got Her Groove Back and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which is still the highest grossing romantic comedy in U.S. history.

Jeff began shooting television on the HBO series, Carnivale and he’s found working in TV to be very rewarding. The mid-budget features Jeff used to work on have disappeared, and many of the directors he’s worked with have moved into television, like John Dahl, who brought him on to shoot the Showtime series, Dexter. Jeff thinks the writing for television has gotten incredible, and the storytelling and creative risk-taking is more prevalent in television today than in features.

You can find Jeff Jur on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeffrey.jur
Instagram: @jeffjurasc

Jeff is currently shooting season 2 of Bridgerton.

You can watch Bridgerton streaming on Netflix

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com/ep128/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNQIhe3yjQJG72EjZJBRI1w
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz