Deakins On “Jesse James” & Mid-Budget Films

Deakins On Jesse James Mid Budget Films

More and more, cinema has lost the ‘middle ground’ as mid-budget adult-oriented features either don’t get made, are done as TV series, or go directly to streaming services – leaving the multiplexes filled with either blockbusters or low-budget genre fare.

Everyone is feeling it, including every cinephile’s favorite boyfriend – Oscar-winning “Skyfall” and “Blade Runner 2049” cinematographer Roger Deakins. The Deak recently spoke to IndieWire about the loss of the mid-budget fare and says it’s not only disappointing audiences but makes it more and more difficult to work on projects that excite those in his profession:

“I’m so thankful for both these two films, because they are such a rarity these days. I haven’t got anything, if anybody has any work out there that’d be good. It’s a different world. There’s much fewer of that middle budget range. There’s a bunch of lower-budget films, thank God, so people get to experiment, and then there’s these huge tentpole, big-budget action movies and superhero movies and there’s less and less like ‘The Goldfinch. It’s really sad.”

Deakins has been promoting “The Goldfinch” which premiered in Toronto to tepid reviews. One of his most famous works remains Andrew Dominik’s stunning 2007 western “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”. The film clocked in at 160 minutes theatrically, but Deakins confirms an extended cut with at least a half-hour more of footage is out there. Asked by Collider about a possible Criterion release of the film, he says:

“It should be [on Criterion]. I would really like to see the long version, the first cut that I saw, released on Criterion. That’s what I’d hope for… It was over three hours. I don’t think it ever will, because last time I talked to Andrew about it he was quite happy with the version that got released. But I still remember that first early cut that I saw that was like three and a quarter I think, and it was pretty stunning. There was a four-hour version. The first cut was like four hours, I seem to remember… I think what he [Dominik] got was the book. If you ever read Hansen’s book, it has that sort of mythical, poetic feeling about it. The kind of Peckinpah feeling of something passing. The world-changing and these characters kind of being left behind by the world, which I’m feeling myself right now (laughs).”

Back to the original Indiewire article, and “Black Panther” and “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison also weighed in on the mid-budget film exodus:

“There’s so few big dramas being made that if you miss the two phone calls, either because you aren’t available or ’cause you know Greig Fraser get them, or Deakins get them, then it’s a choice between big movies that aren’t as good as ‘Black Panther’ or small movies that aren’t as make-able as ‘Mudbound.’… Right now, so often we have a choice between huge movies, with all the toys you want, that are absolutely meaningless or these small movies that have such great intentions, but don’t have the time or money to do them justice. So it’s a hard place to be.'”

The Deakins-lensed “The Goldfinch” and the Morrison-lensed “Seberg” both open this Fall.