Over the weekend, Ang Lee premiered his new movie “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” at the New York Film Festival to mixed reviews. The drama, based on the 2012 novel about a troop of soldiers coming home from the Iraq War, uses groundbreaking technology that captures images at 120 frames per second. (Most movies are shot at 24 frames per second.)
The result is a screen that erupts with color and texture — but some critics weren’t sure if the process was flattering to the actors. (The cast, including Vin Diesel, Steve Martin, and Garrett Hedlund, are so hyper real, they sometimes look like they’ve landed on “Avatar.”) It turns out, the actors also needed to make adjustments to the way they carried themselves in a scene. In May, sitting down for a cover story with Variety, Kristen Stewart (who plays the title character’s sister) talked about her impressions from the shoot.
Kristen Stewart: “It was crazy. [Ang Lee] shot in a really high frame rate. It’s a revolutionary way of capturing information that’s just more information in a single frame than you’ve ever consumed. It was trippy because it wasn’t like making a normal movie. I felt like I had never made a movie before. There were two cameras rolling. No one knew how they would be seen. All the actors were in a weird unknowing spot of, ‘What is it all going to look like?’
“He [Lee] would be able to see flicks of the eye. Honestly, you would have a good take, and there was one or two seconds where you would falter and he’d be like, ‘I saw you fell out of it.’ How the f— did you see that? He was literally able to see more. It was frustrating, because we worked with a s— ton of takes and the movie is really heavy.
“It should look as though there’s a different depth of field. Right now, the way you’re seeing, you could focus your eyes on anything. In this movie, everything is in focus all the time. You can decide where to go. It’s really first-person immersive filmmaking. And it’s an action movie sometimes, a war movie, a 3D movie, and it’s a drama.
“I had four or five actual shooting days. My part’s really important. It’s a linchpin part. And they all shot for months, and I was like, ‘Hey, what’s up guys?’ After four days, I had to find my feet on this movie set — that’s so weird. Ang is gentle and soulful. He’s really Buddhist in the way that he communicates. It’s very base and human, it so lies within feeling. He’s obsessed with the process too. He appreciated that I wanted to know why — don’t just tell me where the camera is.
“In a movie that’s so technical, he’s the perfect person to bring to that life. His curiosity is what drives him. He’s never satisfied, which is why he’s doing this new medium. He wants to bring everyone closer to what it’s like to be in front of someone.”
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” opens on Nov. 11 from Sony Pictures.