The Road Cast
: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Guy Pearce Director
: John Hillcoat Genre
: Adventure, Drama, ThrillerRated
: MARunning Time
: 113 minutes Synopsis
: From Cormac McCarthy, author of No Country For Old Men, comes the highly anticipated big screen adaptation of the beloved, best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Road. Academy Award-nominee Viggo Mortensen leads an all-star cast featuring Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and young newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee in this epic post-apocalyptic tale of the survival of a father (Mortsensen) and his young son (Smit-McPhee) as they journey across a barren America that was destroyed by a mysterious cataclysm. A masterpiece adventure, The Road boldly imagines a future in which men are pushed to the worst and the best that they are capable of-a future in which a father and his son are sustained by love.
It is more than ten years since the world was destroyed-by what, nobody can say. It could have been a nuclear event, or the collision of the Earth with another cosmic entity. Or the sun may have imploded and taken out the planet as collateral damage to its own flameout. One day there was a big flash of light, and then nothing. The result of this cataclysmic event, whatever it was, is that there is no energy, no power, no vegetation, no food. Millions of people have been eradicated, destroyed by fires and floods or scorched and incinerated in their cars where they sat when the event hit or suffocated by starvation and despair in civilisation's slow death after the power went out.
The Man (Viggo Mortensen) and The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) - "each the other's world entire," as McCarthy describes them in his novel - are on the move with all their precious possessions-whatever food and clothing they can scrounge, utensils and tools, plastic bags, tarps, blankets and anything else to keep warm in the frigid, sunless, ash-filled outdoors-on their backs and in a shopping cart outfitted with a bicycle mirror so they can see who's coming up behind them. Their desperate, improvised traveling gear and their scruffy unwashed bodies give them the look of the homeless. And that is what they are. That's what everybody is in this lifeless frontier.
As they trudge along on foot, following the once-magnificent American highway system west toward the ocean, they hide in the woods and in old abandoned structures, any shelter they can improvise that keeps them safe from the elements and the wandering bands who would think nothing of taking everything from them. They come across all sorts of desperate people. There is a road gang, a bunch of tough hombres who have somehow managed to fuel their big semi. There are scavengers and hunters of anything that moves, some well-fed cannibals who keep a cellar-full of barely human cuisine in a big house on a hill. And there are all manner of thieves.
And then there is an Old Man (Robert Duvall), who they come across bent and shuffling down the road in front of them, walking with a makeshift cane in shoes made of rags and cardboard. The Boy takes a liking to him and persuades his dad to share some of their food and camp with him. The old man, who admits his name is Ely, is equally impressed by the boy-impressed at his very existence as they are by his. He tells them that he's been on the road forever. He tells them that when he saw the boy he thought he'd died and gone to heaven, seen an angel.
Even in this bleak universe, there are moments of happiness. Occasionally, the pair comes across some food long forgotten in a cupboard or stashed in a fallout shelter. While rummaging in an abandoned mall, the father finds a forgotten can of Coke stuck in the bowels of an upturned vending machine. When he gives the treat to his son, who has never indulged in anything like it, the father is amused by his son's astonishment of the drink's fizzy sweetness. And when they come across a waterfall with relatively clean water; both jump right in for a session of skinny-dipping.
And then there are the numerous flashbacks to the man's life with his wife (Charlize Theron) before the great disaster, before she took her own life rather than see it taken by what or who she knew was coming. The man clings to these memories that nourish him spiritually and help him to push his increasingly frail body ever further in the quest to get his son to some kind of safety. The sweet memory of his life before the fall, and of his halcyon childhood days are some of the bright spots that enliven the terrain for him and the boy.
The child's innate goodness, his compassion and his sense of wonder and curiosity are also bright spots in this story, reminding the man of why he must keep on going no matter what even when he has forgotten why he must do it.
The Road is an adventure story, a horror story, a road movie and ultimately a love story between a father and his son, between a man and his wife, as it is a celebration of the inextinguishable will to live. It is a thrilling evocation of human endurance and an unflinching examination of people at their worst-and at their best.
For every mother, every father who's ever had a child, for every son of a father, The Road will be a journey into the human spirit. It is a survivor's story in which the heroes carry the fire that is the life force that keeps hope alive no matter what. Release Date
: January 28th, 2009
Viggo Mortensen The Road Part 1www.femail.com.au/viggo-mortensen-the-road.htm
Viggo Mortensen The Road Part 2
Another pivotal casting choice was the use of Robert Duvall for The Old Man, a character the man and the boy meet on the road and spend some time with who provides another more philosophical perspective to their journey. Coincidentally, says John Hillcoat-and this is one of a number of serendipitous coincidences about the production-"He knows Cormac McCarthy, he's so familiar with that world-that was really helpful."
Robert Duvall's presence on the set was not only a link to the novelist's world view; it provided an opportunity for deepening the story, and inspiring the crew in the telling of it. And the actor brought some of his own magic to the piece under truly daunting circumstances.
"He did something that was quite extraordinary under extreme pressure," John Hillcoat observes. While for most film crews, a sunny day is a good thing, for the makers of The Road, a story about a world without light or warmth, the values were topsy-turvy. "We were plagued by weather problems. It was a day when the sun was out and the sun was our enemy. And that's been a running joke throughout the whole film that when it's actually beautiful weather that most people love we all get depressed, and when it's miserable we all get excited and run out into it.
"And that happened with Robert Duvall that we had just this bright, sunny day that was just a disaster for the landscape we were in where there's a huge coal ash pile of remnants of mining debris and a scarred landscape. We ended up being really pressurised for time. We talked about trying something where he would bring an extra bit of history to the character. In terms of that pain and damage, because his character's an old coot-everyone's wondering how the hell did he survive and where did he come from, and he's a very enigmatic sort of a Samuel Beckett-type character. And so within a couple of takes, he just he came up with the most extraordinary bit of improvisation in the middle of the scene that was just heartbreaking and kind of helped shape the scene in a very quick time. That was great. It was hard to work under those conditions, and when you have actors with that kind of wealth of experience, you kind of wish you had more time to do stuff. But he rose to challenge and beyond."
The producers draw their own parallels between the casting of Duvall, Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, and job of their respective characters with regard to the theme of the story, about "carrying the fire," through a world of adversity into a future of hope. The scene around the campfire with the old man, the boy and his father, says Paula Schwartz, "has three generations of actors in it. There's Kodi Smit-McPhee - the budding star, the boy - there's the father - Viggo Mortensen, an established star - and then there's the legendary star - Robert Duvall. So it's very symbolic to me-there is a message in this. It is not a tutorial, but there's the continuity, there's the evolution, and there's this continuation: carrying the fire. And the fire is the symbol of life, the symbol of survival, which is what the movie's all about. The boy is carrying the fire. The father is protecting the boy. And that was very touching."
On the day they filmed the scene, the set was hushed, and everyone knew that something magical was transpiring. "It was an incredible, very touching scene," Paula Schwartz continues, describing the setup where Robert Duvall's character "has accepted an invitation to sit by the campfire with the man and the boy. And it's very poignant because you can see the admiration for this old man, who has withstood the catastrophe, the apocalypse, and both the father and the boy listening to his wisdom about why this happened and will people ever survive. It was memorable because Robert Duvall is 77 years old now and he has tremendous wisdom and energy in his voice that is catching. It was a magical scene."
Rounding out the cast of supporting characters who were only ciphers in the book were The Veteran, a rugged survivalist, one of "The Good Guys" who becomes the ultimate protector of the boy once he nears the end of his journey, and The Thief, a crafty man who steals everything from the boy and his father.
"I'm really thrilled with the cast that we managed to get and the variety of different characters," says JohnHillcoat. "I couldn't think of anyone but Guy Pearce as the veteran and we were just very fortunate that we were able to get him. We wanted to convey that there are all these people wandering around this new world fighting for survival and Guy Pearce certainly, like Viggo Mortensen, has some similar qualities-you can imagine him surviving. Adding to the mixture of personalities, Michael K. Williams brought a great kind of more urban, street thing to the thief, whereas Garret Dillahunt, who plays one of the road gang truckers, added a kind of more country, hick, backwater-type thing to it. And Molly Parker (Motherly Woman) was just great for the ending I think-a very difficult role to pull off, because she ends the film with Kodi. And really for them the challenge which was to get across their damage in a fairly short time, screen time, to give you a sense of where they've come from and the kind of emotional damage - that they've all endured."
Viggo Mortensen says the production was fortunate indeed to get some strong acting talent so that the entire film is not just about him and Kodi. "John Hillcoat has cast the movie well it's not just the two of us," he says. "Obviously Guy Pearce, who played the main role in The Proposition for John Hillcoat, plays a pivotal role towards the end. Very interesting character he did that really well. He and Kodi interacted well. Molly Parker, Michael Williams is great. Everybody that's come in to do these sequences where the father and son actually run into people have been great, have been perfectly cast. We've been lucky … lucky in a lot of ways."
For John Hillcoat and his team, the mission was to convey the horrific aspect of a ravaged world without resorting to well-worn clichÃ©s from the end-of-the earth genre. His main go-to people in this respect were the editor John Gregory, the production designer Chris Kennedy and the costume designer Margot Wilson-all of whom he'd worked with before and had the comfort level and filmmaker's shorthand to get the job done.
"After my experience with The Proposition, I'd be very happy to work with them for the rest of my days," he says. "What I love about both Chris Kennedy and Margot Wilson is their eye for detail. The richness of their understanding of the material goes so beyond what their official positions designate. Margot Wilson really, like Chris Kennedy, really gets into the characters and why they're doing things, what the themes are and how they show up in their surroundings. What that says about them."
The director notes how the team's sensibility showed up in the interpretation of the material. "We wanted to avoid the Mad Max kind of thing that has defined the post-apocalyptic genre because it was such a landmark in that genre. So we thought about the imagery in the book and what sprung to mind is the shopping trolley and the ski jackets and the grime and all that and plastic bags and taping up runners and stuff. What that immediately brought to mind was the homeless in every major city in the world. This underclass is living that apocalyptic world of day-to-day survival on the streets with no money and no food.
"So that was our reference really. Margot Wilson collected loads of pictures and she was keeping an eye out on that whole world of being homeless and surviving on the streets. And hence she took that further where it was plastic lining in the jackets because the world was so cold to keep warm and the way people would recycle bits of clothing. It's just fantastically detailed."
When Margot Wilson read the script, she says, she had been sent photographs of some of the locations, and she began to piece together the types of characters that lived in them. "I read it about five times so I could get beyond the sort of sadness and the feeling and from all the emotions that that script evokes," she says. "One minute there's hope and then there's sadness-it takes you through the whole gamut. That's where I started feeling this love story between these two people, Viggo and Kodi.
"John Hillcoat sent me a whole lot of photographs along with his style notes," she continues. "But a lot of my research came from the homeless, unfortunately, because they're people that reflect what that world would be. They've got no clothing, they've got hardly any food and they just make do with what they've got and really that's what our characters are. The location photos gave me a sense of the bareness, of the nothingness really that we were dealing with and beautiful, stark landscapes. No color and dreary, but poetic at the same time."
Her method was then to think about the characters and make sketches of what they would look like in their improvised outfits. "When I read the script I knew who the characters were and that always helps because you're thinking about who the actors are and bringing them together with the characters, listening to the words that their saying, developing what type of people they are," she says. "I wanted the audience to look at a garment and see something familiar about it and recognise it as clothing that we wear today."
Once she settled on a look for the character, there were hours of painstaking work, "aging" the garments, many of which were picked up at second-hand stores. Care was taken to use clothing that didn't match-everything in this world would have been scavenged and adapted for utility-warmth, shelter from the elements, ruggedness-not style.
She also came up with a philosophy of life on the road that extended to all the characters. It amounted to portability, layers and a substance that will probably outlast us all-plastic.
"We had to think about a lot of clothing, obviously, the layers. If you haven't got anything in the world and you are traveling across America to try and find safety you're carrying your home on your back. So, the layers were incredibly important. For Viggo, we started off with he's brought his tee-shirt from home, he's brought a couple of shirts, a hoodie to keep his head warm, gloves, endless pairs of socks, shoes. But it's not like you think, 'Yes, you can put a lot in a bag and we'll just carry the lot.' He had to think, 'What feasibly can I carry around on my back?' They can't be carrying endless luggage around."
That's where the philosophy of costume design interfaces with the mise-en-scene, she says. "You've got to sort of think of it from a minimalistic view, that it's almost like your going camping and I can only take a certain amount with me and what's going to keep me warm and dry? For keeping them dry we used shower curtains. He's found that somewhere along the road and turned them into a raincoat. So he's had to utilise certain things that he's found along the road.
"With Kodi, when he was born all the shops had gone, there was no electricity, that sort of stuff so I brought in the idea that the father and mother have put together. It was Viggo's pants that they've made shorter; they got one of his jumpers and stapled it together with staples. He's got a bigger shirt on and the coat is a coat that they had, his parka, in the house, the shoes are too big for him, his gloves are far too big for him because they can't just go and buy it. With Viggo's shoes, he's walking across America so we need to get comfortable shoes for him. He just has that one pair of shoes and over the years they eventually start to fall apart so we aged them heavily and then put duct tape around them. He carries a roll of duct tape and mends bits of his clothing with it. He tapes up his wound from the arrow with it.
"All these little elements go together. He carries plastic bags with him and wraps his feet in plastic bags because plastic doesn't break down and it's one thing that keeps you warm so that came in very handy but I also wanted to show that, I used plastic bags on Robert Duvall's character and also the thief because I wanted to show that plastic, whatever happens to the world it will be one thing that will survive beyond everything else".
The story of The Road is bleak indeed, but it is about survival, and underneath that is a story of hope for the world where the possibility of annihilation has come so close to all of us that it's nice to know that we could go on even if there was a catastrophe.
For the Schwartz's, as Steve Schwartz says, "There was never a question for us about whether we wanted to make this movie after we read the manuscript. Since the mid-20th century-since the invention of the H-Bomb-people have been wondering if mankind has been facing its last hurrah. But it seems since the start of this century, there's even more peril at every turn. People are more and more engaged with the thought of the end of the world. And The Road paints a picture that is-in its devastation and in its realism that you just can't turn away from. But if that's all it did, we wouldn't be interested. In a sense the world is redeemed by the father and the son and their love, and at the end there is a glimmer of hope."
But make no mistake, he adds, The Road is a horror story, an eco-disaster, post-nuclear apocalypse horror story, but a horror story nonetheless. Since 9-11, people have had good reason to be scared, and "people are going to be scared as they watch this. I hope people will think it's a smart scary movie, and of course if you're smart today, there's a lot to be scared about. But because it is so realistic, it's very scary. And John Hillcoat is a genius at creating the kind of tension both on-screen and off that makes you squirm in your seat."
But it is about hope in the end-carrying the fire. To the boy, that is a process of staying the course. "The boy divides people up into two categories. What he's learned from his father is the good guys are the ones that don't eat people and the bad guys are the ones who do," says Paula Mae Schwartz, "and that's why he says to the veteran-who he meets after his father does die, 'Are you one of the good guys?' Do you eat people or not?"
"For me, the scary part is these aren't zombies eating people - these are people eating people-people like us," says Steve Schwartz.
"The earth itself is a cast member," he continues. "We don't signal the cause of the apocalypse, but it's apparent that there have been profound alterations to the planet, and they're not good. That's a simple statement, but how do you execute that? And once we got into the nitty-gritty details of that, you realise that you have to come up with a set of rules for how you're going to alter the planet, and those rules have to be consistent. I was very impressed early on with John Hillcoat's willingness to get his arms around this and to make sure that the new world we created was internally consistent. John Hillcoat's vision was always very clear. He had a profound vision and it never varied. He saw this very clearly from the get go, and has stuck to this vision, and I think the resulting film reveals this very coherent visually interesting new world."
"Cormac McCarthy's book starts after the apocalypse. That's intentional, of course," Paula Schwartz adds. "I think one of the real thought-provoking results of that is that people are going to be much more aware of the multitude of causes that could have really caused the end of the earth so that they'd be aware of the environmental cause, the possibility of a nuclear war, the possibility of a planetary event, like a comet, but I think the awareness of the fragility of the earth is very important to the story-that we all have to be careful."
When he visited the set, Cormac McCarthy was very happy with the choices of locations-in particular New Orleans, where there has been an actual natural disaster. Nature and the environment are so important to this film.
"What I really loved about the book," says John Hillcoat, "and what I love about Cormac McCarthy is he's so kind of unflinching in exploring the depths of humanity and not shying away from just how scary we really are and how we're our own and the entire planet's worst enemy and always have been and always will be. And yet what is extraordinary about the book that isn't in his other books is that incredible emotional richness and tenderness between the father and the son at the core of the story.
"And the world. What I loved about the book as well was there was no discussion or buildup of actually what happened. You don't even know what happened. There was so much stuff that was left unsaid in the way it should be left unsaid because, you know, if a disaster of that scale, whether it's nuclear or a comet or whichever way it goes, any disaster on that scale would immediately from that day on it would be irrelevant about exactly what happened and what caused it. From that day on people are fighting to cope with the radical change, and the way he kind of kept that on a knife I thought was original and quite haunting and disturbing. It felt particularly real and particularly relevant for these times."
"It is a biblical story," says Paula Schwartz. "The story of the triumph of love over evil, and we feel that it will give people a good feeling when they leave the theater-that there is hope." About the Physical Production
In a movie in which the planet is a central character, it became crucial for the filmmakers to find a great deal of varied terrain that reflected the changing scenery as the boy and his father made their way from a mountainous region across the country through rolling hills and finally to the ocean. And since the planet is one big disaster area, they had to find many ruined, abandoned or devastated locations as possible.
Over a long pre-production period, more than 50 locations were scouted which suited the production's needs. The majority of these were found in Pennsylvania, with notable detours to the shores of Lake Erie, the Katrina-hit areas of Louisiana and some areas in Oregon.
"Since Cormac McCarthy never tells us what the apocalyptic event is, we've decided to look around the United States contemporary events that would look like they were apocalyptic events," says Nick Wechsler. "So New Orleans gives us a great opportunity to show what can happen with a natural disaster. There are other areas in the United States that were caused by fire, by volcano, by human decay and the tragedy of society moving from one part of civilisation to another part of civilisation in terms of the application of money and resources. So we're taking advantage of man-made and natural events around the United States."
"The film crew decided that there were a lot of locations in and around Pittsburgh that could be very useful," Nick Wechsler adds, "especially an abandoned turnpike, which is not far away, as well as abandoned coalmines, surface coalmines, coal dumping areas that would give a quality of blackened earth that we could use. Pennsylvania had some beautiful winter landscapes that were useful and the film commission and the people there were incredibly friendly and incredibly receptive, so it made it a great place to base our film."
For the production designer, Chris Kennedy, the script by Joe Penhall fairly well laid out the course he would take in setting up the long and arduous shoot. "When I read the screenplay, I was pretty impressed by how they had managed to translate it from the book," he says. "Joe managed to pull out all of the key dialogue because really most of the book is the man thinking. It's kind of the ambient sense of the world through his eyes, which was the key to how to think about visualising it. Plus, we intended to use real locations, so it was pretty much straight away a matter of finding out where they may be. So there was a long search for places across the country that we could use."
When the decision was made to base the production in Pennsylvania, Kennedy was excited by the possibilities. "It's clearly set in America; it's about things American. I did a huge search on the web while I was in Australia before I came out and I pretty rapidly realized that there's a heap of abandoned and destroyed towns, cities, landscapes here, much more so than in Australia. There was a whole collection of things that got me really excited once I realized that the Pennsylvania coal mining areas-the abandoned turnpike down in Breezewood, eight miles of abandoned freeway -all those things that are just quite spectacular. It's The Road, so it seemed like this road actually became like a keystone to why to come here in the first place and then searched out from there and found all sorts of things. And here we have deciduous trees, which is a key to the whole theme-a dead landscape. I kind of covered the whole of America in my research, and the northern areas with deciduous forests in a winter landscape were obviously the place to start.
"Pennsylvania has coal landscapes, devastated mining areas, coal piles, fly ash piles, like blackened landscape. So it's a combination of elements - a depressed socio-economic situation in suburbs like Braddock and Keysport, winter landscape; deciduous trees; devastated landscape."
Chris Kennedy's modus operandi would be to do his research, find likely areas and send photos and notes to his location manager, Andrew Ullman, who by coincidence went to school in one of the Pennsylvania areas where they shot. "They found the area or per se, and we sort of found the places," Andrew Ullman says. "Chris Kennedy was interesting. He kind of fed me some material and said, 'This would be an interesting area to do something like this,' and that's how we came upon a few of the locations."
One of his prize finds was an old theme park in Conneaut, Pa., which served as the setting for some fires and a razed building. The place was a lucky find, according to Ullman. "There aren't a lot of theme parks that show wear-and-tear," he explains, "and this one obviously is a lake park over 100 years old that has gone through some unprofitable restructuring and hence met with decay and abandonment. We were able to make these fires here and they were kind enough to hold off tearing the building down for us."
The lake park, he says, "is a dinosaur. Nobody comes to lake parks anymore. This was for the people that couldn't afford to go anywhere else. They would hop on a train, and they'd come up here, and they'd summer here or spend a week or two weeks. This was for the coal miners the working class."
The parameters of his job on The Road were quite different from what he's used to. "Normally I look for bucolic, beautiful, you know, or something interesting and it was interesting of Chris Kennedy-and John Hillcoat-to find these iconic images, these graphic images in these ruins."
Another topsy-turvy aspect of the filmmaking was the quality of light the crew needed to simulate a planet devoid of bright sunlight. "We need overcast weather for subdued lighting," says Chris Kennedy. "We're talking about a post-apocalyptic world under a nuclear winter or an equivalent. So, direct sunlight is a problem. In fact, Javier Aguirresarobe, the cinematographer, says, 'The sun is our enemy.' Both here and in Oregon another aspect of why it's good to shoot there is the amount of overcast days in the period that we're there."
While other film crews would rejoice at a bright sunny day, that is when The Road crew got depressed and went inside to shoot interiors. "Working out in the snow in extremely cold weather and in mud and in awfully difficult conditions-if it's snowing or raining, then it's great. We rush out into it," Kennedy says. "I think it took people a while to get that into their head that actually this is an environmental film that's set out in a real environment, and what we want is the drama of that, not a nice, clear day."
Viggo Mortensen, who is such an intense incorporator of the environment into his method, describes the day-for night quality of the shoot as a test of the subconscious. On the set in Oregon, after most of the grueling weather scenes are behind him and he's preparing for some flashback scenes with Charlize Theron, he muses about the effect of the weather on filming. "We started out the whole shoot almost all the exteriors; we've had snow, mud, rain," he says. "We are inside now shooting interiors so we don't have to worry about it. It's this beautiful late spring day here in Oregon. And this morning was the first time in the shoot where I actually sat down for a second in the grass and I just looked at the green, watched a bird. I am someone who enjoys being outdoors; I like the change of seasons. I like to learn about trees and flowers. I am interested in places and natural places, but because of this movie I've ended up thinking always about no green, no sun, no anything.
"Mostly we've been lucky with the weather in that way," he continues. "So in a way, for the first time in my life, I've denied the coming of spring and I have denied life in a way. That's what talk in the story about carrying the fire really means to me. You can read that many ways, that idea, being someone who is a leader in a way is someone who carries the fire also. But carrying the fire means carrying some life force, and because everything is dead around us it's on us to keep that hope of life, of spring, whatever you want to call it, alive. It's been interesting that today I just realised I've been going to some quiet beautiful places, but looking but not seeing the natural environment, and I have never done that. Today, I am starting to let go a little, and look, it's very nice!"
The task of translating a world totally devoid of sunlight into the grey-toned brush strokes that were nonetheless photographed in color, the desolate yet exciting world that's up there on the screen fell to the director of photography, Javier Aguirresarobe, a veteran of 35 productions, including The Others and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
"A dull land is very difficult visually to bring to a film. So my life became more enriched with this film but also more difficult," Javier says. But to hear him tell it, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I think the most important thing for me as a director of photography is finding new aspirations, new places, new spaces that are absolutely different for me. I encountered this with The Road. Its really is the film of my dreams, because part of the book Cormac McCarthy portrayed an apocalyptic land, a land naked of sun."
An early decision by John Hillcoat was to keep the use of CGI-computer generated imagery- to a minimum. If anything, the processing of the film stock to take out some of the colors that might have made their way into it was the primary use of digital manipulation on The Road.
"On the technical side, I have to say that I've experimented a lot with different techniques," Javier Aguirresarobe says. "The film will be treated in different ways in the lab to get the film visually to the point where it's looking where we want it. I found a fantastic team that I have worked extremely well with and to whom I am very close and frankly I'm ecstatic to have been a part of The Road. I think it's an incredible project and it was worth the effort even with the many challenges. This is day number 59 and that's a lot of days. I'm not so much tired as much as I am particularly satisfied with a job that I believe in visually, and I feel confident in saying that. The Road is definitely the high point of my professional life and I think it's also the biggest of all my films"
The biggest challenge for a cinematographer, he says, was working with the weather, and maintaining visual continuity over more than 50 locations and 60 days of exterior shooting. And maintaining the "confidence to do the job correctly. Because this is an exterior film, we're always outside and dealing with the different climates and the changing weather. I came up with two sayings on the film that became popular with the crew. One is, 'The sun is the enemy' and the other is, 'Anything is possible on The Road.' We were actually very lucky with the weather in the end and the sun stayed away most of the time.
"In this movie, the sun doesn't exist and the earth is apocalyptic. The color green doesn't exist; in fact colors don't exist cinematically either. At night the only light and color is from the red fire. We ended up using a lot of fireballs to create the light. They illuminate the sky and give the film an authenticity, realness.
"In this film, there isn't a manipulation of lights or a manipulation of things that are real," he adds. "For me I need the people when they leave the theater to have an impression of what can happen to this earth and that this can happen to them. I want them to feel while they watch the film that it's real and sincere. I think the biggest victory will be if the audience can believe in the reality of the story while watching it in the artificial world of the theater-that they see there is a truth to this story.
"In reality it's a recreation but it also morphs with reality and the photography is there to serve that. To create true light and the truth of the apocalyptic world; that is my role."
After a long and difficult shoot, Javier says he is blessed to have worked on The Road. He tips his hat to the two people who carried the burden of filming-and the fire.
"Another reason I feel very satisfied on this film is because of a lot of people, but in particular two people," he says. "One of them is Viggo Mortensen and the other is Kodi, the principal protagonists. In creating this sort of reality I think I have also benefited from their performance because their acting form is truly natural. It's an extremely lucky coincidence having two extraordinary actors for this film. I think this is another of the many circumstances on this film that lead me on a path to great satisfaction, making a film that a lot of people are going to remember. I am truly convinced of that."