Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stanley Tucci

Stanley Tucci, Toronto, Sept. 1996

THE 1996 FILM FESTIVAL WAS, AS I SAID BEFORE, A BIG ONE. Looking back, I ended up shooting quite a few people and getting a few good results. The sensation of spinning my wheels career-wise had only just begun, so I suppose I could ignore that feeling for at least a week or two while I did what I did best at the time - hotel room portraits.

It was a big year for Stanley Tucci as well. He was at the festival with his first film as actor, writer, director and co-producer - a film about food and Italian-Americans that I'd end up liking quite a bit. They even put out a cookbook inspired by the film, and as someone who was spending a lot of time either in my kitchen or in restaurants, I liked what Tucci was doing.

Stanley Tucci, Toronto, Sept. 1996

I'd worked hard to simplify my working methods at the end of my first decade in the business. I didn't understand why I was the only photographer shooting with a Rolleiflex at venues like the film festival; it was the perfect camera for this sort of work - small and light and well-made; a much more practical medium format camera than a big Hasselblad. I couldn't use multiple film backs, which meant I had to have two cameras, but I could re-load a Rollei pretty quickly, and in any case I rarely had enough time to shoot more than a couple of rolls of film.

It was an eccentricity, to be sure - a vintage camera in an age of autofocus, and anyone who knew anything about cameras noticed it. Tucci certainly did, remarking on it right away and asking me questions about why I chose to use something like a Rollei. I gave my usual spiel, which he actually seemed interested in hearing; most celebrity portrait subjects take about as much interest in the photographer shooting them as they do the waiter who brings them room service.

Stanley Tucci, Toronto, Sept. 1996

Tucci actually asked if we could switch places, so he could see what I was seeing through the camera. I assumed that he was preparing a role as a photographer, as almost no one had ever shown this much curiosity about the process of taking a portrait. (No one would again for another decade, when I was assigned to photograph another actor, William Hurt, at another film festival. But that was more a philosophical interest, and a story for another time.)

In retrospect, it looks like Tucci just had an interest in the past, and perhaps in retro technology. His next film as a director would be a screwball comedy set in 1938, and the one after that was about New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell and the eccentric/fraud Joe Gould, who became his obsession. Tucci has had a very successful career as a character actor on some pretty big blockbuster films while writing and directing his own films every few years. His latest, Final Portrait, is about the artist Alberto Giacometti, and the title alone makes it sound like something I'd like to see.

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