So Andrij Parekh, who shot Blue Valentine, was supposed to shoot this movie,” he said. “I got a call from Andrij about eight weeks before we started shooting, and he was crying. I was like, “What’s wrong?” He said that he had a dream that he died while making the movie the night before and did not think he could do our movie. I said, “It was a dream! It’s not real.” He said, “No, I have a kid, and I can’t do it.” So we were stuck eight weeks out without a D.P. [director of photography]. So I met a bunch of people, including Sean Bobbitt, and I loved his work on Hunger. Sean very quickly, very directly asked me, “What is wrong with your movie? Why did your D.P. drop out eight weeks out?” I said, “He dreamed he was going to die making it. Do you think you’re going to die making it?” He said, “Silly boy, I was a war photographer for eight years. I’m not going to die making your movie.” So great, he agreed to make my movie with me.
We started coming up with this visual style. Sean quickly decided that we needed to start the movie off with an epic opening shot, like so many of our favorite films, whether it be a Béla Tarr film or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or The Player or A Touch of Evil. A shot that will kind of teach you as an audience how to watch the movie. At the end of this shot, Ryan Gosling goes inside this circus tent and he goes inside this cage where he is going to perform the Globe of Death.
Now at the end of the shot, Sean Bobbitt insisted that he go into the globe for the end of the shot. I said, “Well, Sean, that’s crazy. There are going to be three motorcycles around you.” But he was determined that we end the shot in the center. I said, “O.K.” So he put on a helmet. He put on all of this body armor. He kind of looked like Robocop with the camera. He did this beautiful opening take. And the cage closes behind him at the end. He’s at the center of the cage, and the motorcycles start spinning around him. I was watching on my monitor, kind of hiding behind the bleachers, and it was beautiful. He had nailed the shot. All of a sudden my monitor went static and I heard a gasp from the audience.
I looked up and there was a pile of motorcycles with Sean Bobbitt on the bottom. We pulled the motorcycles off to see if Sean was O.K., and my initial thought was, “Oh my God. Andrij’s dream had come true. The D.P. of this film did die while making it.” But Sean didn’t die while making it. He was alive and angry. He was angry at himself for not getting the shot. I said, “Look at the bright side: you are still alive.” Even though I tried to convince him to get the shot from the outside, he insisted on going back in the center of the cage. He got the shot, and it was even better the second time. I don’t even know how he improved it. I was watching ,and then the screen went static at the exact same moment and heard a gasp from the audience. I looked up and I watched as a motorcycle dropped from the top of the cage onto Sean’s head and it knocked him out. We had to send him to the hospital. He had a concussion and then we had to cancel the shoot so that we could come back the next night. Sean was so grumpy and in such a bad mood, mostly because I would not let him go back into the center of the cage again.
Amazing, right? What’s next for Cianfrance? He hasn’t decided yet, but he is working on a few screenplays he decided to not reveal too many details about.
“I'm reading a ton of scripts,” he said. “And there's some stuff out there that — maybe it's too early to talk about — but you know but there'll be the next one I'm writing. I'm writing something with my wife right now and I'm writing another script with Darius Marder who was the third writer to come on board ‘Pines.’ We have kids in the same school so basically we drop our kids off every day and go dream about movies together so there's stuff brewing right now.”
“The Place Beyond The Pines” is in limited release right now and opens wide on April 12th.