Decades into his career, Dan Laustsen is still experiencing firsts. The acclaimed cinematographer -- whose work spans everything from collaborations with Guillermo del Toro on films like The Shape of Water and Nightmare Alley (Laustsen received Oscar nominations for both films) to action movies like the John Wick sequels -- is taking on his first musical with The Color Purple.
The upcoming musical, being directed by Blitz Bazawule, was written by Marcus Gardley, who adapted for the screen the 2005 stage musical of the same name. That musical was based on Alice Walker's 1982 novel -- which was adapted into a 1985 Steven Spielberg film starring Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. (That adaptation received 11 Academy Award nominations.)
I'm here to support the director and the story."
"Normally, you get a screenplay," Laustsen tells A.frame of his process taking on new projects. But this time, Bazawule gave Laustsen a call to pitch the project, impressed by his work on 2017's The Shape of Water.
"Of course, it's like, 'Wow, it's a great story,'" Laustsen says of his reaction to Bazawule's pitch -- though there was much more to consider, including his inexperience with musicals.
"I'm not coming into the movie and just saying, 'this is my idea,' because I'm here to support the director and the story," he adds. "It's a lot of discussion. 'Should that be green instead of blue?' 'Where are we going to shoot this? Inside or outside?'"
Laustsen, who consulted with frequent collaborator Guillermo del Toro for musical inspirations, thinks about a new project from all angles, considering how he can support the cast and the rest of the crew to bring a story to life. "I think that everything is about respect," he posits. "You have to respect the people around you and you have to try to support them as much as you can."
The Color Purple is set to hit theaters in 2023, after the release of another of Laustsen's projects, John Wick: Chapter 4.
Laustsen joined the franchise with John Wick 2, after director Chad Stahelski called him up, impressed by just the trailer for 2015's Crimson Peak. "Of course, when you're doing a series of movies, No. 2 has to be better than No. 1," Laustsen explains. "You have to be more powerful, more colorful. So, you always have to try to do something better. And that's what we are trying to do [with John Wick 4]."
"Chad is amazing, and Keanu Reeves is a fantastic moviemaker, fantastic actor," he continues. "Chad and him are so great together on these kinds of movies. So, it's really fun to do them. It's a lot of work, but it's really fun."
The franchise exists in a world where "you can do whatever you like to do," allowing Laustsen to push the boundaries while still supporting the story and Stahelski's vision. "On No. 4, we tried to go even further than No. 3," he teases of the film, set to release on March 24, 2023. "We shot in Berlin, Paris and Jordan... John Wick is great. It's fun to do."
Reporting by Elisa Osegueda
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