Sunday, February 14, 2010
"Alice" Cinematographer on "The Green"
Alice in Wonderland Director of Photography Dariusz Wolski spoke with the Los Angeles times about shooting Tim Burton's newest feature film.
Wolski was the director of photography on Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and so was intrigued by the idea of working with Burton again for Alice.
"Alice was the most unusual thing I had ever done in my life," said the 53-year-old native of Warsaw. "Tim called me and said 'I am making this movie, will you do it?' I said sure because I like the guy. I had no idea what it was going to be."
"A debacle," Wolski described the experience as being with exaggerated distress. "I think Tim hated the green more than I did by the end."
The green, of course, is the vast green screen that the live-action actors performed in front of for the film. Wolski's camera would have to navigate through a non-existent world of fantastical, invisible landscape, which would be digitally sculpted later.
"It was quite absurd," says Wolski, who previous credits include the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Crow and Crimson Tide. "You look through the camera and all you see is green. 'OK so there will be a castle there, a tree here and a hill there. And a moat, yes, a moat about there. There's this entire world that will be created but but it's not there on camera. It's...difficult."
The film being a live-action/animation hybrid in a sea of green wasn't the only difficulty. Another nuisance for the filmmakers was predicting Alice's changing sizes. This meant that Wolski and Burton had to compute the angles and orientation for each scene accurately.
"Sometimes she is six inches, sometimes she is two feet, sometimes she is eight feet. The eye-lines change, everything changes. It was a very bizarre project. And lighting? You're lighting blindly. everything will be filled in later after you are done. There is a lot of use of your imagination."
Wolski's next project will be the fourth Pirates movie. But he would he want to work in such a green-screen-heavy project again? "Uh. If it's Tim?" he asked. "Maybe."