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Roger Deakins Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (1)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trade Mark (3)  | Trivia (22)  | Personal Quotes (18)  | Salary (1)

Overview (1)

Born in Torquay, Devon, England, UK

Mini Bio (1)

Roger Deakins is an English cinematographer best known for his work on the films of the Coen brothers, Sam Mendes, and Denis Villeneuve.

He is a member of both the American and British Society of Cinematographers.

Deakins' first feature film in America as cinematographer was Mountains of the Moon (1990). He began his collaboration with the Coen brothers in 1991 on the film Barton Fink. He received his first major award from the American Society of Cinematographers for his outstanding achievement in cinematography for the internationally praised major motion picture The Shawshank Redemption (1994).

He is also known for his work in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), No Country for Old Men (2007), True Grit (2010), Skyfall (2012), Sicario (2015), and Blade Runner 2049 (2017).

Deakins also worked as one of the visual consultants for Pixar's animated feature WALL-E.

In 2018 he won an Oscar for best cinematographer for his work in Blade Runner 2049.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

Spouse (1)

James Ellis Deakins (11 December 1991 - present)

Trade Mark (3)

Frequently works with the Coen Brothers
Simplistic lighting design, often using only one or two lights
Only shoots films using spherical lenses

Trivia (22)

Member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Cinematographers Branch) [2004-2007].
Member of the British Society of Cinematographers (BSC) since 1986, and the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) since 1994.
Received four American Society of Cinematographers Award nominations in the space of two years: for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) and No Country for Old Men (2007) in 2008, and for The Reader (2008) (shared with Chris Menges) and Revolutionary Road (2008) in 2009.
He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2013 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to Film.
As of 2015, he finds, among his work, The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) is the most cohesive as a piece of visual interpretation.
His artistically inclined mother was an actress and amateur painter.
Filmed anthropological documentaries in India and Sudan.
Loves taking still photographs and fishing.
Intended to become a painter when he enrolled in the Bath Academy of Art.
When he attended Roger Mayne's -who was an English photographer- classes in the college, Mayne was a big influence on the way he started to see things.
Graduated from college with the idea of making documentaries.
Views 'cinematography as a collection of images, not individual images', according to Andrew Dominik.
Is affected by the films of Jean-Pierre Melville, Andrei Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi and Luchino Visconti.
According to himself, from their very first encounter, him and the Coen brothers seemed to be on the same wavelength.
Was tied with George J. Folsey for 13 Academy Award nominations for best achievement in cinematography without a win, but has since "lost" the record upon winning for Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
As of 2017, he contributed with the cinematography of seven films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Fargo (1996), A Beautiful Mind (2001), No Country for Old Men (2007), The Reader (2008), A Serious Man (2009) and True Grit (2010). Of those, A Beautiful Mind (2001) and No Country for Old Men (2007) are winners in the category.
Operates the camera himself, which is rare for British cinematographers.
Is the most Oscar-snubbed cinematographer having been nominated 13 times (1995-2016) before finally winning the statuette for his 14th nomination for Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Curiously enough, composer Thomas Newman who, with Deakins, was first Oscar-nominated for The Shawshank Redemption (1994), but Newman has never landed the award despite being nominated 13 times through 2018.
A collaborator of notable loyalty, his gaffer/lighting technician Bill O'Leary has been with him since their first joint venture on Sid and Nancy (1986).
Is a staunch advocate of digital cinematography for its consistency in yielding instant and accurate results that need little or no treatment in post. Likes to create most of his imagery in-camera without using any filters of fill light.
(March 4, 2018) During a post Oscar ceremonies interview, Deakins declared that he was especially delighted to have received his first Oscar alongside fellow Brit and first time Oscar winner Gary Oldman (for Darkest Hour (2017)). Early in their careers Roger filmed Sid and Nancy (1986) in which Gary made his breakthrough performance. This was their only collaboration.
Despite his reputation among cinematographers, he has never once shot a film with anamorphic lenses. When he shoots for 2.35:1, he either shoots with Super 35 film stock or crops it in post. This is because he prefers working with Spherical Lenses for the look of his films, and anamorphic lenses are slower with processing light, and can give unwanted blemishes such as lens flares.

Personal Quotes (18)

Things usually work out better than you plan. When you're shooting a film you're so close to it, it rarely lives up to your expectations while you're there. You always want it to be better, more perfect. When you see a cut, maybe two or three months later, you come to it fresh. It's generally much better than you thought it would be.
Someone said to me, early on in film school... if you can photograph the human face you can photograph anything, because that is the most difficult and most interesting thing to photograph. If you can light and photograph the human face to bring out what's within that human face you can do anything.
All I've ever wanted to do is take stills of people, or take documentaries about people, and try to express to an audience how somebody lives next door. You know what I mean? Just how similar we all are as individuals.
[on preferring to do post-production digitally] On a film like A Serious Man (2009) without a huge budget, you're on a tight schedule and shoot when you have to, even if the light isn't exactly what you want. If you do a digital intermediate (DI) you can change the lighting, the saturation and the contrast. You can do a lot without spending the money to go to an effects house.
The prep period is especially important. Joel and Ethan Coen and I really enjoy it. By the time we're on the set, we're discussing not what we're doing that day but rather something we're doing later that may be a problem.
I like character films. I like photographing a human face. I find that more interesting than anything else, and that's what I will continue to do.
[on inspirations for Sicario (2015)] So we talked about Jean-Pierre Melville a little bit. We talked about - there's a photographer I particularly like, Alex Webb, and I thought he was really pertinent. The way he uses color is fantastic and the way his frames are so complex. I mean you can't really do it in a movie because I think the audience would be overpowered if every frame was as complex as an Alex Webb photograph. Because a photograph you sit there and look at it for as long as you want. But I thought there was something in his photography that related to what we were doing in an interesting way. And besides he had actually done a whole piece on the border once, in the '80s, I think it was. Some very interesting photographs.[2015]
[on Frederick Wiseman] The master of observation. If there was only one documentary filmmaker for me it would be Wiseman. Hospital (1970) is one of the most penetrating studies of what it means to be human that I have seen.[2015]
[on the shots that he's particularly proud of] The biggest challenge of any cinematographer is making the imagery fit together of a piece; that the whole film has a unity to it, and actually that a shot doesn't stand out. In a way it's a false compliment when somebody says "Oh I love the shot where such and such!" Actually you shouldn't love that shot. You should love what's happening, you should be in the story. Somehow that's taken you out of it.
[on his favorite movie moment] I don't know how to pick just one shot - I guess it depends on what mood you're in that day - but there's a shot in Ivan's Childhood (1962) where the boy is crossing between the German and Russian lines that I absolutely love. It's this incredible black and white landscape, illuminated by flares like a kind of ghostly hinterland, with this downed fighter plane jutting out of the earth. I don't know what camera [cinematographer] Vadim Yusov shot with in the water, but I'm sure it was a lot heavier than the ones we use now.
[on his website] I was doing a Q&A years and years ago. I was screening Army of Shadows (1969), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, which is my favorite movie. After the film, there were literally hundreds of students who came up and asked for advice. And after that evening, my wife said, 'Well, we should start a website.' So we decided to start this website if people wanted to ask questions, and it's become a general conversational site. It's quite nice, really... I just answer questions. It's like a forum, really. Some other cinematographers get on it to answer more technical questions because I'm not very technical.[2015]
[on his "big break"] I was shooting documentaries, mostly, and a lot of rock videos, and then I got the chance to shoot a feature film with a guy I knew at film school. He was doing a fairly low-budget feature film for Channel 4 television in England [Another Time, Another Place (1983)]. The film was released theatrically, and it was very successful. It actually played at the Cannes Film Festival. I didn't really turn back after that. I made two other films [Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) and White Mischief (1987)] with the same director [Michael Radford] in rapid succession... I was very lucky. I mean, the big break was really getting into National Film School. If that hadn't happened, I don't think I would have gone into film at all. I might've become a photojournalist or something.[2015]
[Deakins' advice to young cinematographers] Make documentaries first, then shoot features.
[referring to In Cold Blood (1967)] Most English films back then were shot with very traditional, direct light. It gave everything a stagey look, since there was a key light, back light, and fill light. But Conrad L. Hall broke the mold, and Fat City (1972) really stood out. That film and others really turned me on to the idea of shooting movies instead of stills. I was excited by Hall's work because he shot more in the Italian neo-realist way more than traditional cinematographers. His work was more in the vein of Raoul Coutard, who shot many of Godard's films. [1994]
[on shooting Hail, Caesar! (2016) on 35mm film again] We did have some problems. We had some stock issues and stuff like that, which was really disconcerting. And I've heard that's happened to a lot of people lately, you know, stock and lab problems. That's unnerving. I mean I never really remember having those kind of problems before. But it makes me nervous now. I don't want to do that again, frankly. I don't think the infrastructure's there. (...) As I say, just the technical problems with film, I'm sorry, it's over. [2016]
I certainly think there is an obsession with technical abilities at the expense of creativity and substance. (...) Cinematographers such as Oswald Morris and Conrad Hall had great technique, but they were not technicians. Their knowledge was used as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. I was watching Tarkovsky's Solaris (1971) the other day. Certainly in Hollywood terms, you might not say that film was 'beautifully shot.' The cinematography garnered no nominations. But Vadim Yusov's work is actually stunning - maybe not 'beautiful' but stunning. [2016]
[on awards] Sure, it's nice of people to see your work and appreciate [it] - I don't know really. I just move on and I like shooting films. I mean, okay, it's such a weird, weird thing when a film gets ignored or a film gets talked about. It doesn't make any sense to me. Some of what I consider my best work and some of the best films that I've ever worked on, kind of disappear without a trace. There's no accounting for it. Something connects or something doesn't. [2018]
[how it felt like to win his first Academy Award for Blade Runner 2049 (2017)] It's great. I think it's great because, I've worked with a lot of the same people, my crew, for years and years, and I feel it's recognition for their work. I really do. And I know they're all kind of watching in New York and London and Budapest, and I'd like to mention every one of them, because that's just great for them, I think. [March 2018]

Salary (1)

The Village (2004) $384,750

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