Jeff Kimball shares memories about shooting ‘The Expendables’

By Bob Fisher The Expendables which topped the weekend box-office marks the first time that cinematographer Jeff Kimball, ASC has shot a film with Sylvester Stallone directing and playing a leading role. Their only previous co-venture was 16 years ago when Kimball lensed The Specialist, which featured Stallone in a leading role. Kimball says they had an open, collaborative relationship beginning with the first day of planning. They quickly agreed that the story calls for a natural look in a wide screen film format that pulls the audience deep into the action-packed story.

It?s standard procedure for cinematographers to film tests with leading members of the cast during pre-production planning to see how their skin tones and eyes handle light and shadows. Nuances in how they look at different times are like non-verbal dialog. ?Sly told me that wasn?t necessary,? Kimball says. ?He said, I trust you. You know how to shoot faces.?

It comes as no surprise to Stallone fans that there are breathtaking action scenes, including one with real explosions that literally shook the ground when a helicopter and trucks blew up. They were real explosion, not visual effects. What may surprise other filmmakers is that they typically filmed those and most other live-action scenes in one take. That happens as often as the sun rises at midnight.

Kimball stresses that there were no aesthetic compromises. He says that the cast and crew were totally engaged as though the film they were making was real life. There was also a practical consideration.
They had to make every shot count, because some of the actors were only there for a few days.

A short list of the various stars playing cameo roles, includes Jet Li, Mickey Rouke and governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was an unscripted surprise when hundreds of state employees picketed cinemas in California on the opening weekend to demonstrate their feelings about Schwarzenegger?s performance in his real life role as governor.

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