This scene was shot in a practical location – a restaurant located on Duane St. in lower Manhattan. Working in the daytime, the windows were covered with layers of Duvetyne and we played it for a night\interior. The white walls and ceiling give an overall high-key feel to Storaro’s work here; even he wasn’t able to contain all the stray light bouncing around a place like this. Given the options available to such a high-budget production, it has always struck me as a peculiar choice of location. Find this scene at the 00:09:02 mark…
Dustin Hoffman’s character of Chuck Clarke entertains the diners with some cheesy songs, then joins his girlfriend for a heart-to-heart talk and meets up with partner Lyle Rogers, played by Warren Beatty.
We used two cameras on every set up and this scene was no exception. Storaro was always very careful to place them on the same axis – he never put them at anything approaching an oblique or opposing angle. This insured the integrity of his lighting and staved off the need for tasteless, inappropriate and time consuming compromises. I wish more directors would adhere to his philosophy.
Director Elaine May wanted to give the actors as much freedom as possible and tried capture the spontaneity of their performance at every turn. This led us to roll the two cameras at the start of a take and then let them go until the mags ran out…not dissimilar to the way many people like to work in today’s digital world. It was a lot more expensive to shoot that way on film as opposed to a memory card, however. I recall the production having brought 50,000′ of negative back from Morocco with them. We went through all of it in the first two days!
Dustin’s key light is coming from the 1K PAR can located about 45˚ off the camera left side. You can see its effect by the way the shadow falls on his face.
Unlike Gordon Willis, ASC – who was precise in his control of printer lights and lab processes – Storaro used a different approach. For example, the slate for each shot we did was marked for a certain effect – in this case, “Evening.” I always thought this was a bit vague and rife with the possibility of misinterpretation. But Technicolor lab manager Joe Violante knew exactly what to do. And as with everything Storaro shot, it looked beautiful.
This scene at the table marked one of the few instances in which we cross-shot the actors at the same time.