Cinematographer takes risks in Greengrass pic

Green Zone” and “The Hurt Locker” — critically praised Iraq War pictures whose box office take falls short of their positive reviews — have their differences. “Locker” was produced for about $15 million and is almost intimate as it zeroes in on a small group of specialists fighting in Iraq. The $100 million, CG-heavy “Green Zone” takes on the overarching political issue of why the war was launched.For more bookings and signings, visit Variety.com/Caranicas

But both capture the conflict’s chaos and violence through the dynamic camerawork of d.p. Barry Ackroyd — who has the distinction of having been first embedded with the crew of helmer Kathryn Bigelow, then with the team of Paul Greengrass, with whom he had worked on “United 93.”

Ackroyd, who delivered Greengrass’ signature kinetic look for “Green Zone,” recalls creatively risky moments during the shoot as the helmer made some late decisions. “We didn’t have a detailed script; it was more an outline,” he says. At one point during production “Paul said to me, ‘we’ve got to have a good chase scene in this film.’ “

The scene was added, “then Paul said, ‘It would be better at night rather than day, don’t you think?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, of course,’ not thinking about the consequences. Baghdad had a curfew, with no street lights, so the brief called for absolute night.”

Shooting the scene on 35mm film just outside Rabat, Morocco, the crew had to deal with severely low light levels, which yielded “an enormous amount of grain,” says Ackroyd. “We dealt with this digitally, adding grain to some material, de-graining other material to balance the whole thing out. I think we got the look of war, like those night-vision images.”

Greengrass strongly resisted any temptation to compromise that look. “I lost a lot of sleep over those night shots because we were pushing things to the limit,” says Ackroyd, “but if Paul caught you increasing the light a bit he would say, ‘Don’t do that, we’ve got to stick to this.’ With great directors, it’s not ‘I like this,’ it’s ‘I want it to be like this.’ “

“We talked about (reproducing) the color of war, the color of death,” adds Ackroyd. “It was a very risky strategy. I like to think we pulled it off.”

The d.p. is now in Serbia filming the Ralph Fiennes-helmed “Coriolanus.” The Shakespeare play, originally set in Roman times, “will be in a modern setting. It’s about a great warrior, politicians and the collapse of an empire.”

Bookings & Signings

WME d.p. bookings: Michel Abramowicz on Matthijs van Heijningen’s “The Thing,” Florian Ballhaus on Robert Schwentke’s “Red,” Jonathan Brown on Tom Bezucha’s “Monte Carlo,” Steven Fierberg on Julian Farino’s “The Oranges,” Steve Gainer on James Gunn’s “Super,” Brendan Galvin on Tarsem Singh’s “Dawn of War,” Daniel Pearl on Todd Lincoln’s “The Apparition,” Stephen Windon on Justin Lin’s “Fast 5,” Russ Alsobrook on NBC pilot “Friends With Benefits,” Michael Bonvillain on CBS pilot “Rough Justice” and NBC’s “Undercovers,” Uta Briesewitz on HBO’s “Hung,” Tim Ives on CBS pilot “Reagan’s Law,” Alik Sakharov on ABC pilot “True Blue” and Eagle Egilsson on TNT’s “Dark Blue.”

WME has also booked production designers Bill Boes on Raja Gosnell’s “The Smurfs,” Steven Jordan on Amy Heckerling’s “Vamps,” Chris Spellman on Jay and Mark Duplass’ “Jeff Who Lives at Home,” Laura Fox on Fox’s “Midland” and Derek Hill on ABC’s “Happy Endings”; editors Jim Page on D.J. Caruso’s “I Am Number Four,” Dan Schalk on Jim Field Smith’s “Butter,” Mark Manos on ABC’s “No Ordinary Family” and Jill Savitt on CW’s Wyoming project; plus costume designers Mona May on CBS’ “The Defenders,” Debra McGuire on ABC’s “Happy Endings” and Amy Westcott on Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.”

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