Rodrigo Prieto had a lot of mixed emotions running through him on Oscar nomination day. As the cinematographer of “Barbie” and “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the latter of which earned him his fourth nomination, he was thrilled to see so many of his colleagues get nominated, especially four of the actors whose performances he captured with his camera.
But like so many others, he was “startled” to see Greta Gerwig miss out on a Best Director nomination for “Barbie.”
“Greta made a groundbreaking piece of cinema, one that is going to be remembered for years and years to come,” Prieto told TheWrap. “Of course, art is always subjective and these awards races bring competitiveness, but all the other nominations that ‘Barbie’ earned were because of her vision. This was her film.”
On the brighter side, Prieto said he was thrilled to see “Killers of the Flower Moon” stars Lily Gladstone and Robert De Niro get nominated in the acting categories, as well as “Barbie” supporting stars Ryan Gosling and America Ferrara.
When asked about his memories working with Gladstone, Prieto recalled how the actor heavily influenced one of her most heartrending scenes as Mollie Kyle when she discovers that the last member of her family has been murdered.
“In the script, we had the scene taking place in the living room, but Marty asked Lily, ‘Where do you think Mollie would be in this situation?’ She said, ‘I think she’d be hiding in the basement.'”
Scorsese took Gladstone’s suggestion, requiring Prieto and the crew to move the camera and lighting equipment to the stairway leading to the basement. The result was one of the most harrowing moments of the film, as Mollie lets out a mournful wail as she realizes her entire family is now gone.
“It’s such a gut punch of a scene, and it came entirely from Lily’s idea,” Prieto said. “We shot it from the top of the stairwell, with her at the bottom of the frame to show just how much of an emotional low she was at now.”
Prieto had plenty of other praise for the other nominees from “Killers” and “Barbie.” He said he was floored by how inventive Ryan Gosling was in his performance as Ken, which left the crew often laughing during shooting.
“I just couldn’t believe how Ryan could get all these ideas out of the script that I could never imagine when I read it,” he said. “The way he delivered lines like how his job is ‘just beach’ floored me every time. He is such an imaginative actor and a joy to work with.”
And while Ferrara and De Niro couldn’t be any further apart in their performances, as the fatigued Mattel employee Gloria and the evil cattle magnate William Hale, Prieto said both actors captivated him as he sat on the other side of the camera.
“Bob just disappeared when I shot him, speaking in fluent Osage and finding all this nuance in this evil, murderous man William Hale,” Prieto said. “I’ve seen so many people talk about how they were moved by America’s monologue as Gloria, on how difficult it is to be a woman, and I can tell you that it was even more amazing to actually be in front of her as she was giving it.”
The run to Oscar Sunday for Prieto, who has previously been nominated for his DP work on “Brokeback Mountain,” and Scorsese’s “Silence” and “The Irishman,” marks a break in what has been a relentless pace of shooting. He shot “Killers” and “Barbie” back-to-back and is currently overseeing VFX work on his directorial debut, an adaptation of the classic Mexican novel “Pedro Paramo.”
“It’s been an incredibly busy year and it can be difficult maintaining a work/life balance,” he said. “But it helps that I love this job so much, especially getting to work with such incredible artists like Greta, Margot, Marty, Lily and so many others.”
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is now streaming on Apple TV+ and will return to theaters this weekend. “Barbie” is streaming now on Max. The 96th Academy Awards will be broadcast on ABC on March 10.