Pfister, Depp Reunite for Sci-Fi ’Transcendence’
For more than a decade, cinematographer Wally Pfister brought director Christopher Nolan’s cinematic visions to life. Now, he’s the one calling the shots.
His directorial debut, the new sci-fi mystery "Transcendence," has many elements of a Nolan blockbuster - eye-popping visual effects, a mind-bending story and an A-list lead in Johnny Depp. All of those things translate into high expectations for Pfister, who jokingly likens his newly christened director’s seat to an "electric chair."
In the film releasing Friday, the mind of Depp’s terminally ill scientist, Will Caster, is uploaded into a computer after his death, spawning an eerily unruly machine. At the heart of the story is the disrupted relationship of Will and his wife, Evelyn, played by Rebecca Hall.
"Transcendence," which was executive-produced by Nolan and written by first-time screenwriter Jack Paglen, hooked Pfister because of the emotional weight put on the study of husband and wife and the increasing reliance on technology. "We start to wonder where it’s all going to go," he says.
"We are dependent on technology. It’s got us," affirmed Depp in a recent joint interview to promote the film.
Depp, 50, first met Pfister, 52, when they worked on Paul McCartney’s 2012 video for his romantic ballad "My Valentine," in which Depp and Natalie Portman starred and Pfister was the director of photography.
"I was immediately intrigued and curious from (the) initial reading," says Depp of "Transcendence."
"So many things come into my mind as far as the dangers of technology. Say I’m suddenly holding a gun," Depp illustrates, lifting his left hand as his formidable engagement ring with Amber Heard sparkles. "The gun is not inherently bad. It’s a tool. It’s what we do with it. I think it’s the same with technology."
For his first directing gig, Pfister, who’s worked on everything from "Memento" to "The Dark Knight Rises," swayed from doing a big action film.
"I’d done a lot as a cinematographer," he says. "What was important was telling some sort of character-driven story. Exploring human emotion. That is the logical reason to jump from visual storytelling to narrative."