FILMING THE SPECTACLE
Phedon Papamichael, ASC Lenses Big-Budget Action Pic
This article is taken from On the Inside, the magazine produced by Fujifilm North America.
When cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, ASC and director James Mangold set to work on the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action thriller Knight and Day, it marked the duo's fourth collaboration. But they were venturing into new territory with the filmís epic nature, its plentiful assortment of wild stunts and its high volume of visual effects. Previously, Papamichael and Mangold had worked, both together and separately, on more intimate stories, teaming for the thriller Identity, the classic-style Western 3:10 to Yuma and the Oscar-winning biopic Walk the Line.
It was a very different genre for both of us, the cinematographer observes about Knight and Day. We're not really known as action people. This was designed to be a big, fun action romance and in a sense it required a very different approach from anything we're accustomed to. It's not your moody intimate character story: People fly through windows, SWAT guys rappel up the sides of a hotel. We have Tom Cruise using two machine guns at once in an enormous fight scene.
The cinematographer credits Cruise as a wonderful advisor about certain aspects of working within the genre. "If you're going to do a movie like this," Papamichael says, "it makes sense to do it with someone with so much experience in this kind of movie. [Tom] was very good at keeping us focused. He knows what works for him, he knows his audience. He would always add something to elevate a stunt. He's done so many of these films. (As an example, Papamichael recalls, "Tom told us an actor running down steps is never cool! There's no way to make it cool. He can take the steps three or four at a time but it's still not cool, not what the audience for this kind of movie wants to see.)"
For their part, Papamichael and Mangold also brought their love of classic films into their discussions, referencing the classic romantic thrillers of Hitchcock. The film is about the chemistry between the leads and the beautiful locations in addition to the action and suspense, he explains.
Much of the film is set in Boston, where a great deal of it was shot both at a variety of locations and in local soundstages. But the film expands to Salzburg, various Austrian locations, Jamaica, and Spain, including Seville and Cadiz for the famous running of the bulls.
Papamichael, a frequent Fujifilm shooter, made use primarily of Eterna 500T and 250T along with a small amount of Vivid 160T. "I like the look of Fujifilm," he explains. "I think it helps give the movie a slightly different kind of look and it's always very good with skin tones."
The cinematographer is glad to have had the experience of working on such a big-budget film but isnít looking to give up shooting intimate stories. I had a bigger crew and more rigging crews, he says, and more resources financially so we could cover ourselves for every possible contingency. And that was exciting.
But it's also not as spontaneous a way to work, he adds. You have to lay out the whole structure of the shoot in advance. If you're doing a shootout, everything has to be pre-squibbed. People are setting up hydraulic rigs and elaborate stunts. You're shooting small pieces of things and plates for special effects.
I was with James watching a cut of a sequence of a car chase going on in the middle of the running of the bulls and he turned to me and said, Wow! Can you believe you shot that? And I said, I know. Can you believe you directed that? A film like this almost becomes its own animal by the time itís finished.
STOCK USED: Eterna 500T, Eterna 250T, Vivid 160T