Like many of his colleagues in the cinematography world, Dariusz Wolski’s career only begins to make sense when you realise it sort of doesn’t. Not a DP-for-hire by any means but certainly not a particularly concise artist either, Wolski has shot music videos for David Bowie and Eminem in between some of the biggest-scale movie shoots ever put together, for the likes of Tony Scott, Joel Schumacher and Gore Verbinski. From 2001 to 2005, he shot four studio films with an average budget of just under $75 million. Since then, he has become Ridley Scott’s collaborator-in-chief: Wolski has shot all of Scott’s films since Prometheus. In 2020 he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography for his work on Paul Greengrass’ News of the World.
Neither House of Gucci nor The Last Duel are particularly bold endeavours by Ridley Scott’s standards, but that doesn’t mean Wolski’s job is any easier. Having shot both during the pandemic, he is now in preparation for principal photography on Kitbag, Scott’s next. It stars Jodie Comer and Joaquin Phoenix, who play Josephine and a little-known French politician called Napoleon.
We talked mostly about Wolski’s other French movie with Scott, The Last Duel, over the phone.
Adam Solomons: You shot two films with Ridley Scott in 2020 and 2021, which for him is no big deal. But when he calls you up and says “Okay, we’re going straight on to the next”, is there any part of you that thinks: “Oh God, Ridley, slow down.”
Dariusz Wolski: Luckily, it wasn’t that dramatic. In March 2020, we got shut down on The Last Duel because of COVID. So we had four months to think about Gucci. In a way Gucci is a result of the lockdown.
AS: The Last Duel specifically feels like a movie about perspective as much as a movie that has one. It’s kind of three in one, right?
DW: Yes, it’s three movies.
AS: What kind of thinking went into shooting those three different stances? Were there any lighting or photography decisions you wanted to differentiate them with?
DW: It was tricky. We didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. We wanted to make it feel natural and not dictate the way the stories evolved. And we were trying to make it seamless.
AS: The obvious movie to compare The Last Duel to is Rashomon. Was that in your head when you were shooting this one?
DW: Of course. It was hard to escape from that one. We were trying to make our own Rashomon.
DW: Had you seen Rashomon recently?
AS: Yes, not long ago.
DW: What do you think?
AS: I love it. I think one interesting difference is that The Last Duel takes a side, and I’m not sure Rashomon does.
DW: True. Rashomon tells you how confusing interpretation of anything is, but we were trying to be relevant to what’s going on right now, and has been going on for thousands of years.
AS: The film was a big box-office disappointment, which some people blamed on its contentious politics. Did you think you were making a controversial film at the time?
DW: Well firstly, Blade Runner was a financial disappointment. There has never been a good relationship between movies and financial success. But yes, when we read the script that’s what actually attracted us. I think it’s one of my favourite movies that I’ve ever worked on.
AS: You’ve worked with some of the most recognisable men in recent film history, whether that’s Robert De Niro or Gene Hackman or Matt Damon. Who’s your favourite?
DW: I mean, they’re all fantastic. But you forgot about Johnny Depp.
AS: Well, yes, sure. Ed Wood is one of my favourite movies. But he’s had a fall from grace.
DW: I’ve been very fortunate to work with lots of people. Matt Damon is one of them, Adam Driver is phenomenal, Jodie Comer is incredible.
AS: Do you think Polish cinema has been a big influence on your work?
DW: I guess so. I’ve never really thought about it. But I am very glad to work in such an international industry, for sure.
20th Century Studios’ The Last Duel is now available to rent, buy or stream; House of Gucci is currently playing only in theaters from MGM/UAR.