Swedish cinematographer Linus Sandgren talks about his bonding experience on “No Time to Die”


Growing up in Sweden, Linus Sandgren remembers going to the movies as a teenager and watching the action adventures of James Bond played by Roger Moore. Already a budding filmmaker, he and his friends would make their own Super 8 shorts based on the action and romance of what they witnessed on the big screen. Thus, it was nothing less than a long-held dream for the Oscar-winning cinematographer to be chosen to serve as director of photography on No time to die, the 25the installment of the popular spy franchise.

Originally from Stockholm, Sandgren studied graphic design and illustration at the Berghs School of Communication and cinema at the Stockholm Film School, then rose through the ranks as a production assistant, electrician and camera assistant before starting his career. Director of Photography in 1999. His feature debut in 2004, the critically acclaimed Swedish fantasy drama Storm, directed by Mårlind & Stein, earned him a Guldbagge for Best Cinematography from the Swedish Film Institute. Two years later he moved to Los Angeles and launched his commercial career, working with directors John Hillcoat, Adam Berg, Rupert Sanders, Tom Hooper, Dougal Wilson, Fredrik Bond, and winning the Cannes Lions and other awards.

With his growing notoriety, Sandgren was chosen by Gus Van Sant for Promised land. The cinematographer then worked with David O. Russell on american unrest and Joy, Lasse Hallström on The hundred foot trip and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris on Battle of the sexes and Damien Chazelle on La La Land, First man and his current film in production, Babylon.

In 2017, Sandgren won the Oscar for Best Cinematography Achievement for his beautifully crafted camera work on La La Land.

No time to die, with its many locations scattered across the globe and thrilling action sequences, presented the biggest professional challenge yet for the easy-going and thoughtful cinematographer. He welcomed the challenges and took them on with director Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane eyre, Real detective), whom he considered to be a true collaborator. The cast, led by Daniel Craig in his fifth and final appearance as an iconic British spy, and his team were also top notch, Sandgren said.

No time to die follows Bond, who left active service and leads a quiet life in Jamaica with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), his sweetheart from the previous 007 movie, Spectrum. His retirement was short-lived, however, when his old CIA friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) showed up for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped Russian scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond to the trail of Safin (Rami Malek), a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology. Christoph Waltz returns as Blofeld, as does Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, Rory Kinnear as Tanner, and Naomie Harris as Moneypenny. New franchise members are Lashana Lynch, Dali Benssalah, Ana de Armas, David Dencik and Billy Magnussen.

Sandgren spoke via Zoom about the experience and long wait for the romantic, action-packed spy movie in theaters, which has been delayed almost 18 months due to the global COVID-19 pandemic . Rather than giving in and sending the big action movie, filmed in IMAX for a truly immersive audience experience, to be released, the filmmakers waited until it was (relatively) safe to open in the rooms. After watching the finished film a year ago, Sandgren expects audiences to be happy with the wait. So far, the highly anticipated film, which is released internationally by Universal Pictures, has grossed $ 119 million in its opening weekend in 54 markets. No time to die opens in North America on Friday, October 8.

Angela Dawson: How excited are you that No time to die finally comes out?

Linus Sandgren: I’m so happy that the public can see this, and that they waited for the opening of the rooms. It’s extremely important, from a filmmaker’s point of view, that people see him with an audience. Seeing him with other people is just a whole different experience. Also, the screens are bigger and the sound is better than seeing it on TV. It was certainly designed for the big screen.

Dawson: What’s the first James Bond movie you’ve seen?

Sandgren: I grew up in Sweden so I remember seeing Roger Moore (like James Bond) in the movies. It was my experience as a teenager watching Bond, but I also saw Sean Connery’s films on TV or on video, so I saw most of them. What I remember from my childhood is that they inspired me to go freediving and scuba diving.

I used to do these Super 8 movies when I was a teenager which were all inspired by the James Bond movies, so there is definitely a connection as well as a pride in having the opportunity to be a part of. making Bond films. A lot of people in the crew felt the same way.

Dawson: Did you come on board after Cary Joji Fukunaga replaced Danny Boyle when he left the project?

Sandgren: Yes. Cary interviewed different people and we got a call. We connected on topics like how we watch Bond movies, in general. He came up with the idea of ​​(continuing) the Bond spirit as well as the gadgets and the romantic action charm. Even though Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond was much deeper, more moving as well as the action more brutal and real, I think it was important for Cary that we had that feeling of classic escape and adventure, but in a modern way and time. When (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) wrote it, they made it to tie into the times we live in, but they gave it a little more enhanced visual and reinforced. It was more in the vein of how I think Bond movies should be; they should be kind of romantic.

Plus, Cary and I both love shooting on film, which gives it a lush and adds to the romantic feel, so it’s easier to work with to make it more expressive, I think. It adds natural colors to things. Cary also mentioned that he wanted to shoot it in IMAX in order to get even bigger screens. I answered all that very well. We both had a lot in common in terms of where we come from in our approach to storytelling and how we like to make movies. It was a great game, actually, and throughout the film I was very happy to collaborate with him and the team.

Dawson: Did you have a favorite to photograph? Was one streak more difficult than the others?

Sandgren: Everything was a challenge because we always tried to go further. When Cary got involved in the story – the writing – he wanted to make sure that we were going to travel to vastly different places. We also went underwater and in the air. So each scene was a challenge because we wanted to go through with it.

The challenge with this production was that we had a lot of different locations and, for example, we had to research Jamaica while we were filming in England and then in Italy to prepare for it. It was so much bigger than any movie I had worked on before, so it became difficult to keep up with the logistics of it all. But I think we tried to be inventive and make the most of the place.

I was very much in love with the design of Mark Tildesley’s production and all of these wonderful sets that were built for the movie. For example, the streets of Cuba were all built (on the ground) in Pinewood (Studios, UK). It was amazing to work with that and to light that up. The challenge, for me, was to make the lighting setups much larger than what I had done before. I should challenge myself to come up with a smart plan to make this work. We had 10 mobile cranes with lighting fixtures to provide sufficient coverage.

You want to be artistic and think about everything from an artistic point of view but also outside of the narrative and the script, it has to be relevant to the story and what is going on. So our intention for the scenes was always based on, “What is the intention of the scene and how can we improve and tell the story visually in the same way?” Sometimes it would be through the camera, how the camera moves, or if it should be more of an immersive way or a handheld sweep, large cart movements or helicopter movements.

As with any movie, you need to think about why you are filming and why. We wouldn’t usually do this for the effect, but for what Bond is going through at this particular moment and how that should feel to him. If it’s a surprise to him or if it’s really hard work for him, we would go handheld. But when it was a huge action sequence, we wanted some environments to look bigger too, so we filmed them with IMAX cameras in order to capture the view for the audience under your feet and above. your head so that you are completely engulfed. in the picture.

Normally the full screen is filled in front of your eyes for some footage, but if you are in an IMAX room you can see that the image goes both below the audience and above. It was to make it even more immersive. Here, I hope that it will pass.

Dawson: What are you working on now?

Sandgren: I am working (again) with Damien Chazelle on Babylon with Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie. We have three weeks left. We’ve been shooting in LA for 11 weeks. We had some tough hot desert scenes, but it was a lot of fun.

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