Cronenweth offers assist on 'Dragon'

Even before the first ring had stopped, d.p. Jeff Cronenweth saw the name on his phone and knew immediately what the call from Europe was all about: David Fincher was having issues with the shooting of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” in Sweden and needed help.

It had happened before. Years earlier, Fincher was in a pinch at the start of production on “Panic Room.” But at the time Cronenweth was committed to Kathryn Bigelow’s “K19: The Widowmaker” and couldn’t help the helmer, with whom he’d worked on “Fight Club.”

But this time Cronenweth was available. During the interim the two men had collaborated on “The Social Network,” and when the call came again in September, Cronenweth flew from Miami, where he was shooting a commercial, to Zurich, where Fincher’s crew was scouting locations for “Girl,” and then to Stockholm, where the bulk of the pic is being shot.

The production had completed 20 days of its 145-day shoot when Fincher decided to part ways with Swedish d.p. Fredrik Backar, the first cinematographer on the project.

Switching out one d.p. for another is not unheard of; in this case it was probably a matter of mismatched levels of experience. Backar had shot shorts and commercials but only one relatively minor feature, while Fincher — not known to be the easiest director to work with — has customarily used d.p.’s with major credits such as Cronenweth, Harris Savides (“Zodiac”) and Claudio Miranda (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”).

Backar himself was “startled” to learn that Fincher wanted him to shoot “Girl” in the first place. “Differences of opinion” emerged during the production’s early days, he said. “On a huge movie like that you have to keep production smooth. Eventually it was decided it would be better to let Jeff take over. David knows what he wants and how to get it, and Jeff is probably a better person handling that situation.”

“It would be tough for anybody to walk into a Fincher movie,” Cronenweth said. “When I met David in Zurich, he looked like he had been in a 12-round fight. He was beat just trying to keep up to the aesthetic level he was accustomed to; it was a lot of work.”

Once in Stockholm, Cronenweth got right down to the job and started shooting.

“It was pretty brutal to go into it that way,” the d.p. said, and initially he was “a bit nervous” about how the digital cinematography would handle the snow, overcast skies, white fields and dark trees of Sweden’s wintry landscapes.

The concerns were unfounded. Shooting is now taking place with Red Epic cameras and “everything has been fine,” per Cronenweth. “If I had the opportunity I’d shoot film, but David hasn’t used film since ‘Panic Room’ and he’s never going back.”

Bookings & Signings

Montana Artists signed production designer Tom Hannam (“Invictus”) and vfx supervisor Jake Braver (“Win Win”). Agency has booked d.p.’s Lloyd Ahern on Walter Hill’s “Headshot,” Brandon Trost on Sean Anders and John Morris’ “I Hate You Dad,” Ben Kutchins on Philip Dorling’s “Predisposed” and Jerzy Zielinski on Pat O’Connor’s “Private Peaceful”; makeup fx designer Barney Burman on Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel”; supervising art director Ramsey Avery on Paramount Pictures’ “Star Trek 2″ (working title); creature fx/digital concept design firm Eddie Yang Studios and production designer Alec Hammond on Robert Schwentke’s “R.I.P.D.”; production designer Bernardo Trujillo on Alejandro Monteverde’s “Little Boy”; and 1st assistant director Phil Patterson on Jon Chu’s “G.I. Joe II.”

Dattner Dispoto has booked d.p.’s Michael Green on USA’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” Bobby Bukowski on CBS’ “Rookies,” Russell Lee Fine on USA’s “White Collar,” Bob Gantz on CW’s “Heart of Dixie,” Xavier Grobet on NBC pilot “I Hate That I Love You” and Jo Willems on NBC’s “REM.”

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