The Nose on the Mantelpiece.

The very lovely Seamus McGarvey  dropped by my place of work (Edinburgh College of Art) to lecture today, during a tiny break in his schedule between fathering a child and starting shooting on THE SOLOIST in LA. And what a very warm and fascinating chap he is. Seamus has been director of photography on films ranging from BUTTERFLY KISS (he still gets residual payments of £20 or so from that one) to WORLD TRADE CENTER  (for which I imagine he was a bit better-paid).

It was fascinating to see the qualities a top cinematographer needs to have, all readily apparent in one human package: diplomacy (he never trash-talked anybody, maintaining an affectionate attitude to everybody he discussed, despite whatever creative differences may have been involved); courage (shooting a five-minute uninterrupted steadicam shot with two thousand — the Dunkirk sequence of ATONEMENT) extras in a space of three hours with no possibility of a reshoot; artistic sensitivity (helping a first-time director abandon an intrusive and inappropriate shooting plan in favour of one that was more gentle and respectful) ; and communication skills (though Oliver Stone, thrown by the Irish accent, apparently asked him “Do you come with a set of fuckin’ subtitles?”)

What’s great about a good film-maker like this is that even when the films they are discussing are NOT among your favourites (I struggle to appreciate THE HOURS or THE WAR ZONE), a discussion of the choices made is enlightening and inspirational, because somebody like Seamus clearly does not make a cinematic choice without good reasons behind it. And creativity and straight problem-solving are suspended together in such harmony that it is impossible for the eventual viewer to see where one ends and the other begins.

In the course of the morning we heard about the RedCam (, the hydraulic sinking set that allowed Julianne Moore’s bedroom to flood with water, the “worst steadicam shot in the world” (which was amazing) and a lot of other cool stuff.

It was particularly charming to learn that at the end of shooting THE HOURS, Nicole Kidman gave Seamus her nose, which now has pride of place on his mantelpiece. A touching gesture. So I guess she has to wear a false nose now.

No, wait, somebody’s just told me that WAS a false nose, she still has her original one. Right, got you.

Her face would redden with anger but the nose stayed the same.

4 Responses to “The Nose on the Mantelpiece.”

  1. I did like that nose… I would have bougth it.

  2. I think an entire post on false noses and the actors who love them is in order soon. It’s an underexplored area of film theory.

  3. […] elsewhere, one highlight of Sunday was certainly cinematographer Roger Deakins in conversation with Seamus McGarvey. I am now very VERY psyched to see THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD […]

  4. […] is something of an obsession of mine: I’ve previously documented the post-cinematic career of Nicole Kidman’s nose, waxed lyrical on the possibilities of Stefania Sandrelli’s chin, and worried as to the […]

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