Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins became one of the most prolific director/cinematographer pairings of the 2010s, thanks to “Prisoners,” “Sicario,” and “Blade Runner 2049,” all three of which earned Deakins Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography. (He finally won for “Blade Runner 2049.”) While the two didn’t team up for Villeneuve’s upcoming “Dune,” as the cinematography honors went to “Lion” and “Rogue One” DP Greig Fraser, they remain in touch and inspired by one another. That’s why Deakins brought Villeneuve aboard the latest episode of his “Team Deakins” podcast, where the two sat down for a sprawling discussion, including their inaugural collaboration on 2013’s “Prisoners.”
Villeneuve explained that Hollywood offerings started coming his way after his explosive, black-and-white 2009 film “Polytechnique,” but that the Canadian director was wary of working for American studios. “I didn’t have the desire to work in Hollywood because I was afraid of the Hollywood system, I was afraid of all those stories. In Canada we don’t have a lot of money but we have a lot of freedom, and for me that was something that was very precious,” he said. “Here [in Canada], you cannot make a lot of movies. It’s a system that’s based on government funds. You have to wait your turn. But when you make the movie, you are totally in control.”
Villeneuve even said that Martin Scorsese warned him to “try to stay intact.” But for his first film shot on American shores, “Prisoners,” Villeneuve said that he didn’t feel constricted at all, and even shot two endings with Roger Deakins, which is unusual for a director new to the states making a costly studio movie. The producers, collaborator James Deakins explained on the podcasts, said that whichever ending tested higher would make it into the final film.
“It’s true. They didn’t shape the edit, but there were two endings because they felt my idea, which was closer to the screenplay, was maybe too much depressing and not commercial enough,” Villeneuve said. “I remember we tested both, and they came to me saying they scored equally and that maybe mine was better so they went with mine. It was a beautiful experience.”
On the podcast, Villeneuve and Deakins also reminisced about what they believe to be their best scene, which is the final moments of 2015’s “Sicario.” “It’s interesting that we’re both talking about a scene that’s two people sitting in a kitchen on a set. It cost about 10 grand,” said Deakins of the film’s ending, a scene shared by Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro.
“There’s an intensity and an equilibrium between the actors, and the way the actors are moving into light that is so strong,” Villeneuve said.
“It’s funny when those things work. I love photographing a human face, and when you’ve got somebody like Emily and Benicio, it’s quite something,” Deakins said.
Villeneuve is still in post-production on “Dune,” which Warner Bros. is set to release nationwide December 18.