Action heroes laud Fil-Am cinematographer | Inquirer Entertainment
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Action heroes laud Fil-Am cinematographer

By: - Columnist
/ 09:17 PM July 28, 2011

HARRISON Ford not exactly a big talker. photo by ruben nepales

LOS ANGELES—Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig are not known for being enthusiastic talkers in interviews. But these guys who play two of the most iconic action heroes in cinema—Indiana Jones and James Bond—gave longer answers than usual when asked about Matthew Libatique, the award-winning Filipino-American cinematographer who shot their first film together, “Cowboys & Aliens.”

Harrison and Daniel, in separate chats in New York and LA, respectively, warmed up to the topic of Matthew (whom they called by his nickname Matty), and the decision to lens “Cowboys…” in 35mm anamorphic film format. Variety critic Peter Debruge, in his review of the film—a Jon Favreau-directed mash-up of scifi and western genres, praised Matthew’s “stunning wide-screen lensing.”


Harrison Ford’s character Woodrow Dolarhyde teams up with Daniel’s Jake Lonergan to fight the alien invasion in 1875 New Mexico. Harrison told us: “There was a short period of time when it was considered that we might do the movie in 3D. I argued long and hard about it. I didn’t think it was a good idea.


“I think the anamorphic frame is really important to the Western because it puts you always in the context of where you are. Being out on the edge and being on your own, left to your own devices, is apparent in the anamorphic frame. And yet, you can get into the eyes of the characters you’re dealing with.”

The actor continued, “In 3D, you still have to sort of stage it for the camera, which I don’t like anyway. I like it when it’s possible to let the behavior dictate the frame, rather than being forced into some preordained staging. So I was happy that we landed back on the side of 2D, anamorphic. And Matty Libatique did a beautiful job shooting the movie. It’s a very difficult movie to shoot because of the amount of night work we had.”

DANIEL Craig: Cinematographer Matthew Libatique has given the movie “a beautiful look.” AP

Daniel plays an outlaw who wakes up one day with no memory of his past. He said, “We’re lucky to have Matty on the film. I think if Matty had shot the movie in 3D, it would still have been amazing and wonderful. But I think this movie was about shooting in 2D ‘anamorphic-ally’ to get the scope and scale of New Mexico where we were shooting the movie. Matty grabbed that and it was very important. It has given the movie a beautiful look. It’s a privilege to work with him.”

Jon, who marks his third collaboration with Matthew with this entertaining action-thriller, said: “I have been a fan of Matty long before I ever worked with him. I have always talked to him about working together. The first time we collaborated on ‘Iron Man,’ it was something new for both of us. As a reward for our success in the two ‘Iron Man’ films, we got to make a Western—that’s how we saw it. Matty was instrumental in the decision to shoot in anamorphic format on film. It worked for both the classic science fiction look of the film and also for the Western look.”

Added Jon: “Over a year ago, there was talk of movies of this size never being made in 2D again. It was a big risk that the studio backed us and allowed us to actually shoot on film and not convert to 3D. What you see in the movie is that Matty brought a lot of richness to it and a lot of inspiration and texture. Matty is phenomenal. You could tell because there are so many filmmakers who work with him time and time again. I’m very lucky to have that relationship with him.”

Camera loves them


For his part, Matthew (nominated for an Oscar as cinematographer of “Black Swan”) said of working with Harrison and Daniel: “Both men are great actors with phenomenal charisma. From a cinematography standpoint, they are a dream. Their physicality and performance choices make our cinematic efforts work. The camera loves them. Ultimately, both Harrison and Daniel created deeply engaging characters in ‘Cowboys & Aliens.’ Hopefully, Daniel’s Jake Lonergan and Harrison’s Woodrow Dolarhyde will be added to these actors’ already impressive lists of iconic characters.”

Matthew and his other frequent collaborator, director Darren Aronofsky (aside from “Black Swan,” they did “The Fountain” and “Requiem for a Dream,” among others) were scheduled to do the next “Wolverine” movie with Hugh Jackman. But since Darren dropped out of the project, Matthew accepted the offer of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who directed the acclaimed “Little Miss Sunshine,” to lens their new film, “He Loves Me.”

“We are in our third week of filming,” Matthew said of the movie starring Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas and Paul Dano, who, coincidentally, is also in “Cowboys…” “Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are fantastic,” added Matthew, who was born in New York to Filipino parents.

In the last awards season, he won best cinematography honors from the Independent Spirit Awards and several critics groups for his gritty lensing of “Black Swan.”

Back to Harrison, our chat with the taciturn actor at the Ritz Carlton Central Park started the usual way—awkward because he was terse—but he eventually warmed up. Of Daniel, he said: “It’s clearly the case that I’m older than he is.” Then Harrison deadpanned, “But it’s also clearly the case that I can run faster than he can.” We like the guy—no warm-and-fuzzy bull from him.

“HARRISON and Daniel are great actors with phenomenal charisma,” says Matthew Libatique

Believe it or not, Harrison claimed to be “a big old emotional sponge. Everything resonates with me.”

When talk veered toward his most memorable Golden Globe Awards moment, he said, “Well, I met my current wife when I won the Cecil B. DeMille Award. That doesn’t require any more explanation. So thank you very much.”

More restraint

In “Cowboys & Aliens,” Harrison’s Civil War colonel character, described as a tyrant, eventually helps lead the charge against the invading aliens. Asked what makes him a better man in real life, Harrison answered: “Challenge and work make you a better person. I think responsibility for other people—your relatives, children—makes you a better person. I think my wife is bent on making me a better person. Good luck to her. As you grow older, you get a little bit more wisdom. Or maybe it’s just restraint.”

Somehow, the conversation turned to moolah. “Ever since I was a $150-a-week contract player, I always thought that the trick of the business was to make sure they paid you fairly,” Harrison said. “Their respect for you is based on how much they have to pay you. So I have never been shy about asking for money. I certainly have been well paid. I also mean it when I say that I’m in it for the money. That is to say, this is my job. I don’t do it for free any more than the plumber does it for free.”

He added: “I agree that money is only important when you don’t have any. I’ve had times in my life when I didn’t have any. I’ve had times in my life when I’ve got plenty. I’m very grateful that I’ve had the economic opportunities, that I haven’t been out of work and exceeded my means in 30 or 40 years.”

Big bucks enabled him to buy the two horses that he and Daniel rode in the movie. In his typical no-nonsense fashion, Harrison recounted: “I gave them money. They gave me horses. There was no noble motive. I’m the one who has to retire. Not them.”

But Harrison is not retiring yet, especially when there are talks that he, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are planning another “Indiana Jones” movie.

“George has just finished ‘Red Tails’,” he said. “So I think he is going to turn his attention to following up on an idea that we’ve all chatted about in the past. He’s finally going to be able to spend some time on it. So it may happen. I would be happy to do another ‘Indiana Jones’ film if it was something that the three of us—George, Steven and I—agreed on. The process is, George comes up with the bones of an idea, and then Steven and I get involved. I think it’s a character worth revisiting.”

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TAGS: Celebrities, Cinemas, Daniel Craig, Entertainment, Harrison Ford

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