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Immersed in Movies: Cinematographer Adriano Goldman Keeps 'Company' with Redford and Streep

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood April 4, 2013 at 3:06PM

For Adriano Goldman ("Jane Eyre," "Sin Nombre"), it's definitely about the company you keep. The Brazilian director of photography has shot Robert Redford as a former '70s Weather Underground radical on the run in "The Company You Keep," as well as Meryl Streep as the dysfunctional Midwestern matriarch in the upcoming adaptation of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "August: Osage County" (November 8).

Company You Keep Shia Labeouf
Seeing Redford on the run brings back lots of stirring memories, of course. And "The Company You Keep" is an engaging throwback to Redford's heyday: the kinds of neo-noirs we loved watching about ideology and disillusionment with great conversations about idealism and lost causes, the kinds of movies they don't make anymore -- what "Chinatown's" Robert Towne used to call movies about "the futility of good intentions."

For Goldman, it was the best possible experience: watching Redford comfortably at work as both actor and director, finding the right emotion for his performance while attending to his superb ensemble (which also includes Susan Sarandon, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Stanely Tucci, Sam Elliott, Anna Kendrick, and Nick Nolte). In fact, Redford spotted Evancho on YouTube and insisted on casting her when everyone else thought she was too inexperienced. But Goldman admits that Redford had the right instinct and brilliantly nurtured her.

As for LaBeouf, Goldman found it instructive observing Redford telling the young star to dial down his energy level in keeping with the overall vibe. No need to be frantic all the time. Again, it was a nice subtext about old school/new school differences.

At the same time, Redford was fully aware of the shoot around him. The trick was finding the right time to approach the busy filmmaker, so Goldman learned to use Redford's inner circle as go-betweens and they would then huddle at night in his trailer to discuss the next day's shoot. As far as shooting Redford, that was a challenge since the actor is 10 years older than his character. But rather than using makeup to make him look younger or fitting him with glasses or cutting his hair, they decided to once again trust his instincts and just let Redford be Redford.

"He was supposed to look more elegant when we start and tired and dirty throughout the road trip," Goldman suggests."I always tried to add contrast and density. I loved when we had cloudy days. It wasn't supposed to be a nice trip. Rain would be welcome and the grayer the better."

Now imagine going from Redford to Streep. Goldman was nervous at first, but "August: Osage County" director John Wells introduced them at a welcome party in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where they shot the movie. "She came up to me and told me how pleased she was that I was here," Goldman recalls. "She told me how much she and her daughter adored 'Jane Eyre' and how I shot Mia [Wasikowska]. The funny thing is we almost worked together on 'The Iron Lady.'"

Again, the timing worked out so much better with "August: Osage County." They spent four months shooting the ensemble piece (co-starring Julia Roberts and featuring Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, and Sam Shepard). It was like summer camp because they hung out together on weekends as well.

"It's a very strange dark comedy -- there's no redemption for anyone -- which I like a lot," adds Goldman. "It was intense but pleasant. John Wells is very organized and disciplined being a writer and producer. Again, it was a realistic approach on my part."

But how do you shoot Streep? It's all about pace and whatever price needs to be paid to get it right, according to the cinematographer. The multi-Oscar winner was respectful of her director's vision yet always coming up with character subtleties. The most demanding sequence was a dinner scene involving 11 characters at the mid-point. Wells knew he couldn't get master shots of every character so he broke the 20-page scene down into three parts, shooting characters for the whole scene.

"You could just see the other 10 actors watching Meryl Streep and being amazed by her performance," Goldman recounts. "I remember Chris Cooper saying, 'I'd love to give an interview one day about my job as an actor and would probably just talk about these three days that we shot the dinner scene and just watching Meryl at work.'"

I'm sure most of us can't wait to see Streep as Violet Weston and find out more about the bitchy "August: Osage County."

This article is related to: Interviews, The Company You Keep, August: Osage County, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Adriano Goldman, Immersed In Movies

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.