Filed in: Contender Portfolios

Contender – Cinematographer, Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC

Doubt; Revolutionary Road; The Reader

November 8, 2008 01:56 | By

It’s hard to pin a signature style on prolific director of photography Roger Deakins, except to say that he captures the essence of each film he works on without ever seeming obtrusive. “I go for a simple naturalism,” says the British cinematographer who has primarily worked with U.S. directors. “It’s so much about the performances and establishing the characters, and having the audience relate to them. You don’t want the photography to overpower the story. I’m trying to help the audience see what they need to see.”

Last year Deakins was in competition with himself when he received two Oscar nominations (his sixth and seventh) for best cinematography for No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

This year he is the DP on three highly regarded films: Doubt, based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play by John Patrick Shanley, who is the film’s director; Revolutionary Road, directed by Sam Mendes, about a profoundly unhappily married couple in the early 1950s, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; and The Reader, with a Holocaust theme, which is directed by Stephen Daldry, and also stars Winslet.

The challenge in Doubt—starring Meryl Streep as a severe nun who suspects that the parish priest, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, is a pedophile—was to make what was a play cinematic without going overboard. “It is quite a visual movie, though it takes place in only a handful of locations,” says Deakins, who likes to operate the camera as well as being DP.

“John had the idea of doing overhead shots down stairwells and using a lot Dutch (off kilter) angles,” he says. “We talked a lot about a Carol Reed film, Fallen Idol, about a boy who suspects this butler of murder, and it’s all an illusion. It really used Dutch angles and reflected the boy’s perspective quite well.”

But Doubt is primarily an actors’ movie, a n d th e mastery shown by Streep, Hoffman and Amy Adams as a young nun was often stunning. “It varied but we didn’t need to do many takes,” notes Deakins. “During the big confrontation scene in the office of Sister Aloysius, the three went through the whole long scene pat, without failing a line. John and I looked at each other, and he said, ‘Well, we don’t have to do that again.’”

Previous Noms and Wins

2008: Won, BAFTA, best cinematography, No Country for Old Men; Nominated, Oscar, best cinematography, No Country for Old Men; nominated, Oscar, best cinematography, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; nominated, American Society of Cinematographers, outstanding achievement in cinematography in a theatrical release, No Country for Old Men; nominated, ASC, outstanding achievement in cinematography in a theatrical release, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; 2002: Won, BAFTA, best cinematography, The Man Who Wasn’t There; won, ASC, outstanding achievement in cinematography in a theatrical release, The Man Who Wasn’t There; 2002: Nominated, Oscar, best cinematography, The Man Who Wasn’t There; 2001: Nominated, Oscar, best cinematography, O Brother, Where Art Thou; nominated, ASC, outstanding achievement in cinematography in a theatrical release, O Brother, Where Art Thou; 1998: Nominated, Oscar, best cinematography, Kundun; nominated, ASC, outstanding achievement in cinematography in a theatrical release, Kundun; 1997: Nominated, Oscar, best cinematography, Fargo; nominated, ASC, outstanding achievement in cinematography in a theatrical release, Fargo; nominated, BAFTA, best cinematography, Fargo; 1995: Won, ASC, outstanding achievement in cinematography in a theatrical release, The Shawshank Redemption; 1995: Nominated, Oscar, best cinematography, The Shawshank Redemption