One of the world’s greatest living cinematographers, Roger Deakins, with his wife and frequent collaborator James, began recording the Team Deakins podcast during the first COVID-19 lockdown. Through dialogue with each other and interviews with many veterans in the industry (among the most recognizable are actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, and Joel Edgerton and directors Denis Villeneuve, Sam Mendes, and Joel Coen), the couple often place a spotlight on some of the less glamourous aspects of filmmaking, including camera operating, lighting, and script supervising. Handing the microphone to some less recognizable individuals also reveals the unique personalities behind movies like The Matrix (with DP Bill Pope), Interstellar (with DP Hoyte van Hoytema), and Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse (with director Peter Ramsey). While listening to the Deakinses chat with peers and colleagues, listeners can glean technical knowledge, learn about behind-the-scenes drama, or discover personal stories of people who made it big.
1. Paul Dano and Zoey Kazan compare notes with the Roger and James on working with spouses (Ep. 41)
Actors, writers, and filmmakers Dano and Kazan (who have been together since 2007) open up about their approaches to work and family, which they ordinarily try to keep private. They reveal that it is great to work together as being in the same industry means a shared understanding of the daily difficulties, but it’s sometimes difficult to remember to do things like buy groceries when both partners work the same long hours. Roger and James also discuss how starting their relationship within a work environment made it easier to be professional on other projects.
2. Hoyte van Hoytema low-key speaks tons of languages (Ep. 39)
The Swiss-born, Dutch-bred cinematographer—best known for his collaborations with director Christopher Nolan using IMAX cameras—went to film school in Poland and eventually married and settled in Sweden. Perfectly fluent in English as well as an unstated number of other languages, van Hoytema has developed a pretty strong international career yet is still quite humble. He and Roger chat about camera lenses during his interview (van Hoytema has bespoke ones made for different projects), revelling in a bit of technical speak that is sure to interest anyone curious about cinematography.
3. Josh Brolin almost lost Roger his role on No Country for Old Men (Ep. 50)
The famous actor reveals that he was working with directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino on Grindhouse when he auditioned for No Country for Old Men. Rodriguez and Tarantino helped out their friend by filming and directing Brolin’s audition tape. The Coen brothers were so impressed by the quality of the video that they asked Brolin who lit it for him (yet made no comment on his acting). Roger jokes afterward that he almost lost his job because of Brolin. Fortunately, the both of them ended up working together on the award-winning, instant-classic, modern Western No Country and later again on Sicario.
4. Bill Pope tricked the Coen brothers during Barton Fink reshoots (Ep. 26)
The surprisingly maverick Pope, who has worked on movies and TV shows alike, is very forthright with his experiences with major directors like the Wachowskis, Sam Raimi, and Jon Favreau. Not one to shy away from honesty, Pope admits that he did not enjoy working on the Matrix sequels but speaks admirably about how fearlessly innovative the first one was. He also confesses to Roger that the Coens hired him to do reshoots after Deakins had finished on Barton Fink but realized the intentionality in his predecessor’s lighting and emulated his work exactly. He presented the Coens with essentially identical work, forcing them to stick to the original shots.
5. Jake Gyllenhaal’s father won sandcastle building awards (Ep. 45)
The talented actor, having grown up with a director father and screenwriter mother, shares his perspective about filmmaking with a childhood anecdote. Jake used to watch his father Stephen building intricate sandcastles on the beach in San Diego. When the tide came in, the older Gyllenhaal piled walls to protect the structure, but at the end of the day, the work would be washed away. Jake compares the work of constructing the sandcastle plus watching it disappear to the work put into a movie plus the detachment necessary to survive a less-than-ideal audience reception. He also punctures his mature observations with a poop joke later with his characteristic good humour and cheekiness.