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American Cinematographer: When did Warren Beatty first speak to you about Bulworth?
Vittorio Storaro: The first time was in a telephone conversation. I was in Rome, and Warren called from Los Angeles. He said that I probably wouldn't want to shoot his new movie because it was going to be an ugly film. He told me the story and said he wanted the audience to follow the senator's journey during his final days as though they were watching it on C-Span [a cable channel whose content includes unedited and uninterrupted coverage of political events and activities].
Do you recall your first reaction to that idea?
Storaro: I had never watched C-Span, but I thought maybe Warren was planning to shoot this film using a Steadicam or a handheld camera once in a while, so the audience could see the images the way they would look if they were shot with a video camera for a TV screen. Warren sent me a copy of his script and two C-Span videotapes, one of the president and another of a governor. Then, we spoke a second time.
What did he say about working together during the second conversation?
Storaro: He said that if we made the film together, he mustn't be Warren Beatty and I mustn't be Vittorio Storaro. We must turn a new page, because it was a time in both of our lives when we were ready to do something different and discover something new.
How can you re-invent yourself and forget everything you have learned?
Storaro: Naturally, you can't forget everything you know, but I approached Bulworth as though it was my first movie as a cinematographer. One of my first decisions was that I would ask [Steadicam inventor] Garrett Brown and his son, Jonathan, to operate on the picture [see companion piece by Brown, on page 40, for further details]. Garrett wasn't working on complete movies very often anymore, but I thought I could convince him to make this film. We shot around 90 percent of this movie with the Steadicam.
Why was the Steadicam so important? Why not use dollies and cranes?
Storaro: I explained that Warren wanted the audience to see large parts of this film as spectators watching the story on C-Span. We also wanted to create a feeling of a lot of energy and movement around the main character as his journey progresses.
How much of Bulworth was filmed as planned and how much was improvised?
Storaro: I had a clear idea of the structure after I read the script and spoke with Warren. I saw it as a journey that begins with Bulworth in a very deep, dark place in his life. He is so depressed that there is no opportunity to express emotions. In the first scene, everything is black. But the moment he starts telling the truth, he begins a journey toward becoming a more balanced person. I felt we could use the colors of the spectrum to represent the different stages of this journey. You always change little things while you are shooting or after seeing dailies, but Bulworth is the film we planned to make.
Is the use of various colors symbolic, and if so, are there universal meanings?
Storaro: Color is part of the language we speak with film. We use colors to articulate different feelings and moods. It is just like using light and darkness to symbolize the conflict between life and death. I believe the meanings of different colors are universal, but people in different cultures can interpret them in different ways. In the opening scene, the camera is motionless and there is an absence of color, which is black. During Bulworth's first campaign stop in Los Angeles, he visits a church in a black community, where the main color in costumes and props is red, a symbol of birth and life. From the church, he goes to a meeting with some Hollywood film producers in a private home. It is a rich setting, where he raises money. Orange symbolizes that feeling of comfort. When he visits an after-hours club, we used yellow, cyan and magenta, the opposites of the three primary colors [red, green and blue] that symbolize daylight. In this scene, Bulworth is considering his subconscious feelings.
The next day, he goes to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where he tells people in his own party what he is thinking. It is the first time he speaks honestly about his feelings in front of the members of his party; they don't expect a politician to tell them exactly what he is thinking. The color yellow symbolizes that he consciously knows what he is doing. During a television debate, we used green to signify knowledge, because it is the first time he reveals his feeling in public. Later, one of his campaign workers brings him to her grandmother's house, where he feels safe, believing that the assassin won't find him there. We used blue to signify freedom. Next, he meets a drug dealer, who explains why he uses children to sell drugs. Indigo symbolizes material power. We don't use white in this film until he completes his journey and is a whole person.
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