Slam, Bang, Crash, Boom for the Rookie

Article excerpt

Cinematographer Jack N. Green had one question for director (and star) Clint Eastwood prior to undertaking Warner Bros, production of The Rookie. "I just said that I would really enjoy shooting the film in (the 2:35 to 1) anamorphic screen ratio," Green recalls, "rather than spherical (1:85 to 1). After reading the script I felt that because of the dimensions and power of the (live action) special effects and stunts,77ze Rookie really deserved a big screen presentation. And the next day, Clint said, Teah, lef s do it that way.' That was our entire production meeting."

Indeed, many of the special effects action and stunt sequences for The Rookie are, in design and proportion, truly unprecedented, very much lending themselves to the wider format: an auto drives at high speed through fourth story windows just before the entire building explodes; two planes (one a 727) collide on a runway at 100 mph, producing a massive explosion; a truck on the freeway tows a two-tiered car carrier with six stolen vehicles #nd then, with a policeman in pursuit, jettisons half its cargo while speeding along, so that each of the abandoned cars drops to the pavement and careens in every direction, before the policeman drives right onto the carrier, which in turn is detached from the cab, so that the 21 ton carrier flips on its side, banks off the middle retainer wall and goes hurtling some 100 yards. All this is in real time, before the camera, no miniatures, no blue screen - and mostly done at night.

Green needed no further discussion with Eastwood prior to production for the simple reason that he is well apprised of the director's production methods and stylistic penchants. Green has worked with Eastwood and his Malpaso Productions on more than 20 fUms. Starting out in 1971 as an assistant for aerial photography on the original Dirty Harry, Green went on to become camera operator for seven films before moving up to director of photography for Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Bird (1988), The Dead Pool (1988), Pink Cadillac (1989), and White Hunter, Black, Heart (1990). In these films, as well as Like Father, Like Son (1987) and American Built (1988) Green has established himself as a resilient cinematographer, adapting the look of each film to the tenets of the narrative.

Green's preference for the anamorphic format was one aspect of his overall desire to distinguish The Rookie from recent action adventure films. "I didn't want to have the slick, over-produced look that seems to have become typical of this genre," Green says. "I wanted something more realistic, somewhat more coarse and with more mood. I approached that by establishing large areas of darkness and with light that was very directional and coming in at unusual angles. The actors weren't going through a lot of front light. In most cases it would be either a cross light or a sort of back light with only the tiniest bit of fill to the face and the eyes."

Strom's hideaway, the interior of which was situated at Barker Brothers furniture warehouse on 4th and Hewitt in downtown Los Angeles, is an example. Occupying the entire 100' x 150' floor, the room was replete with 16 monitors for Strom to survey strategic points outside. Green first established outside street ambience by directing two 12Ks through the sequence of paneled windows that ran the length of the floor. In the given location fixtures, 100 and 150 watt bare bulbs were positioned overhead to form pools of light throughout the room. Finally, Green placed six 2Ks on dimmers at calculated points out of view in the rafters above. Only one 2K was lit at a time, however.

"There was always a 2K at full power on the actors for that cross angle or back light," Green says. "But to maintain that look as the actors moved through the room, one 2K would dim out and another would come up to full brightness. That way we managed to avoid any front light with select angles coming in rather obliquely to the actors. …