TECH SUPPORT INTERVIEW: ‘True Grit’ cinematographer Roger Deakins

Posted by · 9:13 am · December 22nd, 2010

The Coen brothers’ “True Grit” opens nationwide today.  And we’re continuing right along with our daily look at the below-the-line talent of the film with director of photography Roger Deakins.

Deakins has been with the Coens for nearly 20 years, going all the way back to “Barton Fink” in 1991.  It’s fair to say his style and tendencies as an artist have become married to the Coens’, forging an identifiable texture to their work together.

But a lot of that general stylish flourish took a backseat on “True Grit,” allowing for a much more simplified rendering of the film’s imagery.  I’ve talked to Deakins a couple of times over the years and he’s rarely one to pour sound bytes onto an interview, but it’s always a great and enlightening discussion regardless.  I keep linking to last year’s interview with these guys regarding “A Serious Man” to hopefully shed more light on their process working with the Coens.

Have a listen to my chat with Deakins below.  Toward the end I spill a bit concerning one of the shots from the film, which will show up on my season’s-end “top 10 shots of the year” column.  (NOTE: These interviews were recorded two weeks ago so when Deakins talks about the film being finished “10 days ago,” keep that in mind.) And again, remember to check back throughout the week as we continue our discussion with the other principals on the crew.


[Photo: Paramount Pictures]

→ 27 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Interviews · Tech Support

27 responses so far

  • 1 12-22-2010 at 9:36 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    You pretty much would have failed at life if you didn’t include a Roger Deakins shot in your famous column.

  • 2 12-22-2010 at 10:52 am

    James said...

    Simply the best working today.

  • 3 12-22-2010 at 10:54 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    I mentioned this in cinejabber perhaps but I went to a True Grit PGA screening and the Coens mentioned that they saw some of Deakins work on his latest film and that the results are amazing, to the point that Deakins told them True Grit is probably his last movie shot on film.

    I had no idea though that he was working on Niccol’s Now. I was already eagerly awaiting that one but now its high high on my list for 2011. I am imagining a Deakins lensed Gattaca. Should be astonishing.

  • 4 12-22-2010 at 11:03 am

    Maxim said...

    I remember reading something to the effect that Deakins might shoot only one more film for Coens on film and that was before True Grit came out. If this switch happens, and I, for one, hope it doesn’t happen, it would probably be due to the economic, rather then artistic and convenience related reasons (though I do begin to wonder if the latter might be a factor, after all).

    It’s kind of sad to think that a decade or two from now we’ll have virtually no Film film.

  • 5 12-22-2010 at 11:09 am

    Matthew Starr said...

    If Deakins chooses to continue shooting digitally it would be because he thinks it produces better results and not because his hand is being forced. At this point I can’t imagine Deakins not being allowed to shoot however he pleases.

    I remember during the directors round table last year Tarantino said when the time comes when all theaters are digital he will stop making films. So he better get a move on!

  • 6 12-22-2010 at 11:16 am

    Maxim said...

    Matt, I think you misunderstood. I wasn’t implying that someone was forcing his hand, though as a DP, I’m sure he would be likely to follow the director’s choice if we are talking about someone like Coens. I think the reality is a lot more simple, really, and that the decision to shoot digitally will have more to do with the fact that it’s cheaprt. Plain and simple.

    And this, by the way, is what I remember Deaking say. If I find the link againm I’ll post it here.

    And I stopped caring about what Tarantino says or promises a long time ago.

  • 7 12-22-2010 at 2:03 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Kris, may we have a ‘Tell Us What You Thought of True Grit’ thread? :)

  • 8 12-22-2010 at 6:55 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I’m guessing that’ll show up on Friday.

  • 9 12-22-2010 at 7:44 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Could be. Thanks, Robert.

  • 10 12-22-2010 at 10:06 pm

    A.J said...

    I don’t know where else to talk about this but Hailee Steinfeld is quite good in this movie and all of this Supporting Actress business she’s winning is complete and total bull shit. She is clearly lead and I would not be surprised if she popped up in the lead category at the Oscars.

  • 11 12-23-2010 at 6:02 am

    JJ1 said...

    A.J., agreed. The story is Mattie’s. And Hailee is in the film the most. Haha, HOW is that Supporting?

    It’s actually got me a tad irked because the studio may get her nommed in Supporting; robbing someone. And I don’t think she was amazing enough to get into the Top 5 in Leading.

    That’s not to take away from Hailee Steinfeld. I thought she was quite good, though, a tad overrated? But it’d be a shame, in my eyes, if she’s nommed and in Supporting.

  • 12 12-23-2010 at 7:35 am

    Keil Shults said...


    I don’t know where else to ask this, so I’ll ask it here. How can Steinfeld be in the running for Supporting Actress when she’s obviously the star of the film? I can understand Paramount wanting to submit her for Supporting because she would have a better shot at victory, but it seems like the Academy wouldn’t allow it. She’s in practically every scene, likely has the most lines of all the characters, and there are no other real female roles worth noting. Can you please shed some light on this, wha the Academy rules are regarding acting submissions, etc.?

  • 13 12-23-2010 at 8:08 am

    JJ1 said...

    Yes ^

    I actually think it’s one of the worst cases of category fraud that I have seen.

    And again, that is NO slam on Steinfeld’s performance.

    I can’t imagine a hefty portion of AMPAS falling for that (supporting). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • 14 12-23-2010 at 8:43 am

    Keil Shults said...

    Either way, I loved her performance. Hopefully she won’t disappoint me in the future the way Kristen Bell has done with her post-Veronica Mars career choices.

    Honestly, I’m not sure Hollywood is in a position to offer worthy roles to a girl like Steinfeld. Therein lies some of Grit’s true excellence.

  • 15 12-23-2010 at 8:48 am

    Maxim said...

    But Keil, just think, had this movie come out earlier, Hailee might have had a shot at being among offered a role in Sucker Punch! Can’t get much better than that, right ;) ?

  • 16 12-23-2010 at 12:31 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Sure, the Academy chooses where to place someone, but for the most part, they’re sheep. The campaign is in supporting, a number of critics awards have gone supporting, so in all likelihood (unless it’s a case like Whale Rider), they’ll just file in.

    This has been addressed here over and over again, by the way. Not sure how better to say it at this point…

  • 17 12-23-2010 at 12:59 pm

    DylanS said...

    And I doubt the Academy will pull a “Whale Rider” here, considering Bridges fills the lead role just enough to make the warped supporting argument.

  • 18 12-23-2010 at 1:57 pm

    Keil Shults said...


    I must not have seen where it’s been addressed. I wasn’t complaining that you hadn’t covered the issue. I was just asking a question that was on my mind the minute I walked out of the theater last night, and one which I’m sure a lot of people will be asking once they see the film for themselves. Touchy, touchy.

  • 19 12-23-2010 at 2:09 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Query addressed.

  • 20 12-23-2010 at 2:27 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Well, I’m gonna have to defend Keil a little bit, here.

    He was just questioning and making a comment about Hailee Steinfeld’s campaign positioning, was he not? I don’t think that’s all too reprehensible. I commented on it, too. I know it has been ‘addressed’ on this site on other threads. But seeing as most of the people who view here are only seeing the movie in the past day or so, I don’t see why we can’t discuss the Lead/Supporting issue. It’s brand new to us.

    We’re just commenting on ‘where’ we believe her to be. Are we not allowed to address an actor and their significance in a movie?

  • 21 12-23-2010 at 3:38 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Didn’t say it was reprehensible. Maybe I got short with him due to the “address my Steinfeld query” demand in another post. Tough to answer every little (however overly covered) nugget in the midst of holiday travel madness.

    Anyway, obviously I agree she’s the lead.

  • 22 12-23-2010 at 3:59 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Reprehensible was too strong of a word, I am sorry.

    I guess I just didn’t think Keil made such a probing/redundant comment (or question).

    Very fair response, Kris. And Happy Holidays.

  • 23 12-23-2010 at 6:28 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    Thanks for the fair response. I only asked you to address the query in that other thread because I didn’t know which thread you’d be most likely to visit during this hectic time. Plus, the “Tell us what you thought of True Grit” thread hadn’t been started yet. Anyway, thanks again. Onward and upward…

  • 24 12-25-2010 at 1:27 pm

    ter said...

    hey this was a great interview. I hope your top 10 best shots of the year list is better than last year’s which was severely disappointing.

  • 25 12-25-2010 at 3:51 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “Severely,” eh? Well, my apologies.