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Film

Roger Deakins names the three favourite movies that he’s shot

@Russellisation

It is rare, if not almost unprecedented, that a cinematographer earns as much fame as a director, with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese being some of the only well-known filmmakers by the general public. Though, when it comes to cinematographers, Roger Deakins is perhaps the most well-known of them all, having worked on some of Hollywood’s greatest movies. 

With several prestigious accolades to his name including five BAFTA wins in the Best Cinematography category and two Academy Awards, Deakins has made a name for himself for his unforgettable constructions of brilliant visual narratives. Such classic film titles include the likes of Blade Runner 2049, Fargo, True Grit, Skyfall and The Big Lebowski. 

In a discussion with Interview Magazine, Deakins once reflected: “I suppose everyone gets into it in a different way. I loved film when I was kid because I was in a film society in Torquay, which is near where I am now, down in Devon…I fell in love with movies. My dad was a builder, so I didn’t have any connection to the arts at all. I never really considered film as a career, but I knew I didn’t want to be a builder”. 

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This fateful decision led Deakins to later collaborate with such names as the Coen brothers, Denis Villeneuve and Sam Mendes, with his contemporary contributions as a cinematographer helping him to become one of the greatest in the industry. 

Understandably proud of his achievements, Deakins sat down with Business Insider to discuss his three favourite projects that he has worked on, with his first choice going to the 1997 film Kundun by Martin Scorsese. 

Often forgotten in the lineup of Scorsese movies, Kundun was a biopic about Tibet’s 14th Dalai Lama starring Tenzin Thuthob Tsarong, that failed to strike a significant chord with audiences. Despite this, Deakins told the publication, “I love the film,” adding that his collaboration with Scorsese was “very special…it’s not strictly literal. There are shots that are so evocative and hit you”.

Coming in at number two on his list is the 2001 Coen brothers’ movie The Man Who Wasn’t There starring Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson and James Gandolfini. “I think of all the films I’ve worked on, that film, to me, everything fits like a little complex jigsaw puzzle,” Deakins stated, praising the movie that follows a barber who blackmails his wife’s boss for money. Giving a huge amount of admiration to the directorial duo, he adds: “The way the [Coens] did it, and how it’s structured with a variety of mood. It was the hardest film to do that, and they really succeeded”. 

Roger Deakins’ favourite movies that he’s shot:

  • Kundun (Martin Scorsese, 1997)
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, 2001)
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)

The final film on his list of three favourites goes to the undervalued 2007 western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, directed by Andrew Dominik. “I love that movie so much because it really captured the lyricism of the book,” Deakins said of the film that stars Brad Pitt as the leader of a gang who becomes idolised by a young plucky Robert Ford, played by Casey Affleck.

Further clarifying his adoration for the film, the cinematographer adds: “I think films these days have become too literal and too dialogue, plot-driven. Jesse James has shots in it that have nothing to do with the plot, but you can get away with it, and that’s what I love about film”.

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