Way back for my debut of Unscene Heroes I picked apart the career of the extraordinary cinematographer, Roger Deakins. The role these professionals play is probably one of the most underrated, yet essential parts of a film crew. A mutual understanding, opinion and, most of all, vision is required, as the position of director and cinematographer is such an important collaborative effort that visually and aesthetically shape a film.
Wally Pfister is a name synonymous with acclaimed director, Chris Nolan. Together they have worked on eight films together, including Nolan’s major debut, Memento, the 2010 blockbuster, Inception, as well as all three Batman reboots, including the forthcoming, The Dark Knight Rises. It’s commonplace for such a combo to remain active colleagues for years, stamping their authority on a string of projects, which can span decades. Indeed such an understanding between director and cinematographer make up the essence of a movie; collaborative efforts shape a film with a specific style that particular filmmakers become renowned for.
However, Pfister’s career began with horror flick, The Unborn, back in 1991 and suffice to say the experience was somewhat of a learning curve, considering the 3.7 rating it’s awarded on IMDb. Thankfully he honed his skills in the 21st Century, but not before accumulating numerous video credits to his name, such as a string of Playboy productions until TV movies came calling.
Pfister first met Nolan at Sundance Film Festival in ’98, with the former representing his film, The Hi-Line, and ended up becoming director of photography on Memento a year later. Since then the pair have joined forces on every Nolan film and only breaking the bond to work on 2003 heist remake, The Italian Job.
From 2005′s Batman Begins, he delved into five Nolan based projects in almost as many years, stamping his unique visual authority on such groundbreaking films as Inception, for which he won his first and only Oscar for at this year’s ceremony. The visual style of the film is mind blowing. It’s inventive and with the eclectic mix of locales, Pfister had his work cut out, but ultimately proved his worth and is the reason why Chris Nolan has exclusively worked alongside him for over ten years.
Wally’s current project, Moneyball, is set for release this November, whom he combines his talents with the likes of writer, Aaron Sorkin, Director, Bennet Miller and stars, Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman and is already receiving positive reviews as awards season approaches.
Achieving what Roger Deakins could not; Pfister picked up his first ever Oscar win this year but has been nominated for four – all Nolan films, might I add (The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and winner, Inception). Contention in four out of the last five years has seen his ability recognised within the industry and has since been awarded Cinematographer of the Year at 2010′s Hollywood Film Festival. There’s no denying his most acclaimed efforts have been for two films in particular: In total he’s received seventeen award nominations, fifteen of them for either The Dark Knight or Inception. The former smashed the $1b mark, with the latter narrowly missing out, but both encapsulate the magnificent talent Pfister possesses with such as assured and visual superiority.
The Dark Knight Rises is certain to be huge with guaranteed box office success and is again likely to top $1b. Pfister’s completion of the trilogy only affirms him as one of the best alongside the likes of Deakins, who can add their own personal touch to proceeding as they make visually stunning cinema. Expect him to be in the running for Best Cinematographer for the Oscars 2012, that’s for sure.