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

January 11, 2023

Director Antoine Fuqua and cinematographer Robert Richardson on the Apple TV+ film, Emancipation

To tell the story of Emancipation, director Antoine Fuqua and cinematographer Robert Richardson were influenced by the colors in the famous photo “Whipped Peter,” whose story and the photograph of his scarred back is still one of the most famous photos documenting the brutality of slavery today. They chose to desaturate the images to a sepia-tone with just hints of color. Antoine also felt the lack of color reflected the world of a slave- it’s bleak and hopeless, and he wanted the film to look beautiful but brutal. The Louisiana swamps Peter must navigate through as he escapes also looked more eerie and otherworldly with a lack of color.

Antoine says he and Bob spent a lot of time discussing the film, designing shots, laying out storyboards, and going over the story more than with any other cinematographer he worked with. Antoine wanted Emancipation to show that a movie about slavery could also be a taut, entertaining thriller. They both wanted to create an action movie with sustained intensity throughout, but at its heart, Bob saw the film as a love story about a man fighting against insurmountable obstacles, on the run to get back to his family. They decided to show the caring Peter has for his family in the opening scene of the film, as Peter gently washes his wife’s feet.

Bob chose to use long, sweeping one shots to build the tension throughout the film, rather than relying on quick cutting. This allowed the tension to build as the slaves run away into the swamps. He and Antoine didn’t do multiple takes or alternate shots if they didn’t think they needed it. Antoine created tension within the railroad camp scenes with many layers of action- it wasn’t necessarily what was going on right in front of Will Smith’s character, but also what was happening to the men and overseers behind him.

As a director, Antoine always wanted to work with Bob Richardson, but at first Bob said no to shooting Emancipation. Bob says that as a white man, he didn’t really feel comfortable making a story about race. Antoine points out that most human beings could feel compassion for someone else’s story, and slavery exists across races. Though it wasn’t Bob’s personal history, Emancipation was telling the story of our history in America.

Antoine Fuqua and Robert Richardson are currently shooting a second project together.

Find Antoine Fuqua: Instagram @antoinefuqua
Find Robert Richardson: Instagram @robertbrichardson

Emancipation can be streamed on Apple TV+.

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz