Caleb was able to understand that and provide those different shades. I’ve never worked with an actor before who dove into something so wholly. A lot of actors talk about living and breathing something but, really, there’s a turn-off button at the end of the take, at night, in the morning. I can understand that. You can’t always do it. But he was pretty much on, always. He was living it, always. And I found that to be very inspiring. He loves acting. And I know that sounds simple to say, but that is rare, when you see that an actor’s in it because they absolutely love acting. They don’t give a f**k about fame or give a shit what their next role is. They’re completely and utterly present in the moment of what they’re doing, there and then. He’s one of those.
Two Australian cinematographers were Oscar-nominated this year: Greig Fraser, who won for his work on “Dune,” and Ari Wegner, who was nominated for “The Power of the Dog.” You’ve worked especially closely with Wegner, who shot “True History of the Kelly Gang.” What can you tell me about your collaboration with her?
I mean, she’s fantastic. I’ve really known Ari since film school, so to see her nominated along with Greig Fraser, whom I worked with in my younger days, it’s an amazing thing. Probably out of all the practitioners, the number of successful cinematographers coming out of Australia is quite extraordinary. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it has to do with the landscape and the light there, a particular kind of connection that those cinematographers have with their craft. Ari has had to wait a long time for people to really see her. And she’s been working really, really hard for a long time. So to see the respect that she’s getting at the moment is really heartening, because I really know how hard it has been for her. The timing of her work is just perfect, for people to understand and see how brilliant she’s been for a very long time.
Last question. Your next project, “Morning,” has Laura Dern, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Noah Jupe set to star. It’s science-fiction, and given that “Assassin’s Creed” played in that genre space, I was curious what led you back there, and whether you think in terms of genre when considering projects.
Usually, with genre, there’s a bent to it. There’s always something about it that is going against or exploiting the genre. “Morning” is a film set in a time where there’s no sleep, and it’s definitely got these sci-fi and futuristic elements to it but, essentially, at its core, is this beautiful little family drama between a mother and son. The best sci-fi films that I’ve ever loved have been about something really simple, something much smaller than the grandness and largeness of the concept around it. That’s probably what I’ve been most attracted to. I haven’t set out to make anything in a genre. It’s really just been the scripts that have come my way.
“Nitram” is now playing in theaters, and available on AMC+ and for digital rental.