Baz Luhrmann & DP Mandy Walker On “Perfectly” Recreating Iconic ‘Elvis’ Footage And Getting Camera In Step With Austin Butler – The Process
Matt Grobar, DEADLINE
February 20, 2023
In taking on the story of Elvis via the Warner Bros drama of the same name, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and DP Mandy Walker looked to “perfectly reproduce already existing imagery” of the King of Rock and Roll, for what Walker terms “trainspotting” sequences.
Their uncannily precise recreations of Elvis’ most iconic performances — from his ’68 Comeback Special, for example, and a string of sold-out shows in Sin City — helped the duo to more deeply steep the audience in the reality of Presley’s experience. But as seamlessly executed as they appear in retrospect, these moments were, to Luhrmann, their “biggest new leap” creatively on a project that has landed eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Cinematography.
If Elvis‘ trainspotting sequences were among the most novel to the Australian DP, who’d never before tackled such a music-heavy project, they were of course just one of many challenges she ended up facing. Also in the back of Walker’s mind “all the time” was the notion of getting the camera to “dance with Elvis” — perfectly anticipating Butler’s every move, by immersing herself and her team in the nuances of his choreography, as well as the music he’d be performing.
Walker says that a third principal challenge on the project was navigating an epic of such tonal range — finding the proper transitions between moments of punk “aggression” and more composed elegance, as she bridged scenes from differing eras of Elvis’ life.
Elvis recently brought Walker her first Academy Award nomination, making her just the third woman in history to be recognized in the Cinematography category. Luhrmann’s Best Picture nom as producer, meanwhile, is his second, following the Best Picture contention of his modern classic musical, Moulin Rouge!.