Jeff Cronenweth on His Oscar Nomination for The Social Network and Joining His Late Father as a Nominee
When The Social Network's Jeff Cronenweth was nominated on Tuesday morning for Best Cinematography, he joined a very rare network: Father-son Oscar nominees. His late father, Jordan Cronenweth, had worked on films such as Blade Runner and was among the chosen cinematographers at the 1987 ceremony for his work on Peggy Sue Got Married. Movieline spoke to Cronenweth while he had a rare free moment on the set of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo about his reaction to being nominated (hint: he would like to win, too), his competition, and what it means to be in the same company as his late father.
You're currently filming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in Los Angeles, correct?
Yeah, we're in Los Angeles until the second week of March, then we go back to Sweden.
Congratulations on the nomination.
Thank you very much.
Where you watching the announcements?
Well, I was just starting to wake up to make the call sign today and it was one of those things that I tried not to focus on it too much, so either way it wouldn't be so devastating. And my publicist called at about 5:50 a.m., and as soon as the phone started ringing I knew that it was probably a good thing, because no one wakes you up to tell you that it didn't happen. My girlfriend was screaming already because she was awake and was trying to find out on the Internet beforehand.
This movie has been such a cultural force for the last few months, but when you were first approached about a Facebook movie, did the thought ever cross your mind that this movie would be the one that would get you an Oscar nomination?
No. I couldn't honestly figure out why Fincher was doing it. Before I read the script, before I talked to him, "Really? A movie about Facebook?" I mean, that's what everybody assumes. And then you read the script and it was a no-brainer. Our first day of shooting, literally, was the breakup sequence at the beginning of the movie and it's nine pages of dialogue in four and a half minutes. And I quote Fincher when he said, "I need to educate the audience on how to watch this movie."
I know in past films your style has a darker appearance. Were you worried about that when it came to a movie where there were a lot of scenes involving people on their computers, as opposed to something like Fight Club?
It wasn't so much those scenes as it was the deposition rooms and how to go around these tables and how to make it look authentic without being overtly dramatic. I think in the end the movie has a lot of balance to it in that sense. Where there were opportunities to get things contrast and rich, within the context of the story of course, we did. And there were times for it to breath emotionally and visually and I used the depositions to kind of have that space.
What does it mean for you to join the very rare club of father-son Oscar nominees?
[Laughs] It's absolutely fantastic. Ironically, it was 25 years ago that my dad was nominated for Peggy Sue Got Married. And it's the 25th anniversary of the ASC [American Society of Cinematographers] and he won the first one. So, yeah, it's certainly... serendipitous. Is that a word?
Yes, it is. Is this something that he really wanted for you, to follow in his footsteps?
No, he was really open about it. When I showed interest to see if it was something that was interesting and exciting and gave me the opportunity. He never pushed it, but once I got into it, it was this wonderful bonding and we shared so much time together. It's amazing how many people do not get to work with a parent. I guess a lot of people wouldn't want to [laughs].
Well, my dad worked for the phone company. Now, things might have been different if he had worked on Blade Runner...
There you go! It's not a fair comparison.
What films did you work on together?
We started on Buckaroo Banzai but the studio replaced him. We did Stop Making Sense, the Talking Heads movie. And then we went and did a movie called Just Between Friends and then we went on to Peggy Sue Got Married, Gardens of Stone and U2's Rattle and Hum. Then State of Grace and Final Analysis.
I know you're busy working on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but have you had the chance to see any of the other films nominated?
Yeah, I've seen all of them except, to be perfectly honest, Black Swan. Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to go see that one. But it's on my list this weekend so I can't wait to go see it. I've seen all of them and I've been a fan of all of their work for a long, long time. It's a great group of talented guys.
When watching any of those films, do you find yourself sizing up the competition?
Yeah, of course! Of course. You can't help but just wonder for nothing else but just curiosity. I mean, honestly, I now understand what it means that the nomination is really the thing that's so wanted. But everybody wants to win, too.