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SEALE, JOHN – THE TOURIST

ANGELINA J & JOHNNY D IN VENICE
Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are the consummate pros, says Aussie cinematographer John Seale, as were all the cast; the challenge was shooting in Venice, Seale tells Andrew L. Urban on his return from working on The Tourist.


The closest Oscar winning Aussie cinematographer and keen sailor John Seale got to Johnny Depp’s gorgeous 47.5 metre megayacht, Vajoliroja – rhymes with Jolly Roger – was a colour photo spread in a magazine, lying around the set of The Tourist in Venice. Seale was working with Depp and Angelina Jolie on the film when the yacht slipped into the dark waters of the Grand Canal, but only stayed for one weekend, when Depp and family went aboard.

The boat’s name is actually a combination of tribute to Depp’s hit roles as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and the initials of his family.

“It’s a beautiful timber boat, classic design ... but it’s not that old,” says Seale with a pro’s appreciation. (He has his own yacht moored at his Northern Beaches home – but it’s not quite as big.)

"Depp and Jolie were a delight to work with"

Depp and Jolie were a delight to work with, says Seale. “You know, 99% of the stuff you read about them in the gossip mags is rubbish. The media were snooping around trying to get a story, hoping that there’d be a tete-a-tete or something they could blow up into a scandal…but these two spent their off duty time just talking about their kids and their spouses. They’re both very professional and pleasant people.”

Brad Pitt often visited the set, along with their children, “but kept very low key and quiet,” says Seale. Depp would arrive on set each morning and shake hands; a warm, likeable person, as was Jolie,” says Seale, for whom this was the first film with either star.


John Seale - on location in Venice

He himself was invited to shoot the film by the film’s director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who told him that he regarded The Talented Mr Ripley as one of the finest films ever made. (Seale was the cinematographer.) “We managed to get the whole team together from Ripley for The Tourist,” he says.

"Shot entirely in Venice"

Shot entirely in Venice – except for the first minute or so - the film is based on the plotline of French thriller, Anthony Zimmer (2005), starring Sophie Marceau and Yvan Attal. The names are changed and the characters are slightly different, but the plot is the same. Director Donnersmarck was rather upset that Seale and several others on the film had tracked down the French original; “He wanted to keep it completely new and fresh and didn’t want anyone on the set to be perhaps influenced by the French version,” Seale explains.

The story centres on a money launderer wanted by police – and the Russian Mafia – who has had plastic surgery and only his mistress Elise (Jolie) knows where and how to find him. But she seduces a stranger on a train, an American tourist, Frank (Depp) to make him a decoy.

Donnersmarck, says Seale, approached the film in the style of a Hitchcock movie; “he’d especially refer to the movie, To Catch a Thief…” It’s a different style to how movies are made these days, but it works.

"his now preferred multi-camera style"

Seale used his now preferred multi-camera style, capturing performance action from two or three different vantage points simultaneously. “The editors love it and so do the actors; it’s a bit like stage work, in that they are always on and can just let it flow.” 

If Donnersmarck wanted the crew from The Talented Mr Ripley, the cast and crew wanted to work with the man who made his feature directing debut with the highly acclaimed drama, The Lives of Others, winner of the 2007 Foreign Language Oscar. 

Seale describes the German born filmmaker as a ‘control freak’ but in the best possible sense. “The actors love his attention to detail, his analytical approach to every nuance, down to facial expressions.” Donnersmarck has a photographic memory and speaks fluent English … and French and Italian and Russian, as well as his native German. “He’s brilliant,” says Seale.

"The biggest challenge for Seale was lighting Venice at night"

The biggest challenge for Seale was lighting Venice at night. “We had a chase scene to shoot and Florian was determined to shoot it at night; the problem is Venice street lighting is very dim. It was extremely difficult, but the crew were amazing.”

Seale says Venice was difficult to shoot in at the best of time. “You rent a flotilla of work boats and these Venetians handle them superbly … they can get them into the tightest positions.”

Published first in the Sun Herald
Published December 23, 2010

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John Seale

REVIEWS

OTHER JOHN SEALE INTERVIEWS
THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY - 1999

THE PERFECT STORM - 2000

HARRY POTTER & THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE - 2001

COLD MOUNTAIN - 2003

POSEIDON - 2006


John Seale onset


Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp onset.







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