Cinematographer Roger Deakins Talks ‘Sicario’, ‘Blade Runner 2’, New Technology, and More

     September 22, 2015


One of the best cinematographers in the world is Roger Deakins.  If you look over his amazing resume, you’ll see he’s shot so many memorable films, you’d be hard pressed to have not seen at least a few of them.  Some of the standouts include The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert FordNo Country for Old MenThe Big LebowskiThe Shawshank Redemption, Prisoners, Skyfall, Fargo, Unbroken, and True Grit. With Deakins having shot Denis Villeneuve’s fantastic new drug war thriller Sicario, which is now playing in limited release (read Adam’s review here) and stars Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin, I got to speak with him at the Toronto International Film Festival.

During the interview he talked about how much of his work is careful planning and how much is improvisation on set, the differences between working with a filmmaker like Sam Mendes and the Coen Brothers, some of the toughest shots of his career, the experience of making Sicario and how he approached the thermal imaging sequence, getting into sci-fi with Blade Runner 2, and so much more. If you’re a fan of this amazing artist I think you’ll enjoy what he had to say.


Image via Warner Bros.

But one last thing before getting to the interview. When I sat down to talk to him, I started setting up my camera and noticed the light wasn’t great in the room. I tried to adjust the lamp to his left and realized it didn’t help fix the situation. As I sat down it hit me who I was in the room with and immediately apologized for attempting to fix the lights. I then showed Deakins the frame and said, “Do you have any ideas?” He immediately shut off the light to his left, slightly adjusted the lamp to his right, and then sat down and we started recording. While I get to speak with a lot of huge stars in Hollywood, getting to watch Roger Deakins set up the shot for our interview might go down as my personal highlight of 2015. Actually, who am I kidding, it’s the highlight of this decade. I can’t believe that actually happened.

Here’s the interview followed by the time index.

Roger Deakins Time Index:

  • :02 – Talk about how Deakins just set up the light for the shot of the interview.
  • :46 – How much everyone adores his work.
  • 1:23 – How has new technology shaped the way he works? Talks about going back to film for the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! and how the monitor aids his relationship with the director.
  • 3:02 – How much of his work is careful planning and how much is improvisation on set? Talks about the vast differences in working with Sam Mendes and the Coen Brothers.
  • 4:07 – Talks about some of the biggest challenges in his career. Singles out sequences in Sicario and No Country for Old Men.
  • 6:40 – The ability of the Coen Brothers and Villeneuve to change the gameplan on the day.
  • 8:05 – Explains why and how he shot the thermal imaging sequence in Sicario.
  • 10:36 – Blade Runner 2. Talks about jumping into sci-fi and how he wanted to do science-fiction, not science-fantasy.
  • 11:50 – Developing the look of Blade Runner 2. Says visually it will stand apart from the original.


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