Robert Elswit Interview: ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’ cinematographer
During our recent webcam chat (watch the exclusive video above), “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” cinematographer Robert Elswit reveals that he wanted to convey “the idea that [Los Angeles] is under renewal, and that what’s old is slowly disappearing. That, I think, is the closest thing I could accept as being a metaphor for Roman Israel, for who he is and what he is in the movie.” Directed by Dan Gilroy, this Columbia Pictures release centers on a driven, idealistic defense attorney (Denzel Washington) stuck in a time warp. He suddenly finds himself in a tumultuous series of events that leads to a crisis and the necessity for extreme action.
Roman “is someone who lives in the past, somebody whose past is really irrelevant now, and is slowly being erased in every way.” To show that visually, Elswit and Gilroy decided to focus on the reconstruction of the city. “It’s all being torn down in a way that it never has before,” he explains. “There’s always been a little bit of a hopeful revival of downtown Los Angeles over the years, but it’s never succeeded in the way it succeeded in the last few years. Everything that’s old is being torn down, and Daniel wanted to show that, starting with next door to [Roman’s] apartment,” where “there’d be a high rise being built.” Additionally, “outside the windows and all the locations that we tried to pick for the movie, you’d see construction work going on.”
Elswit won an Oscar for Paul Thomas Anderson‘s “There Will Be Blood” (2007) and competed for George Clooney‘s “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005). He previously worked with Gilroy on “Nightcrawler” (2014) and with his brother Tony on “Michael Clayton” (2007), “Duplicity” (2009), and “The Bourne Legacy” (2012). This year also saw him reunite with Clooney on “Suburbicon.” He is best known for his work with Anderson, including “Boogie Nights” (1997), “Magnolia” (1999), “Punch-Drunk Love” (2002), and “Inherent Vice” (2014).