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‘Elvis’ Cinematographer on Recreating the King’s Vegas Showroom for Baz Luhrmann Biopic

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Jazz Tangcay Artisans EditorIn recreating Elvis Presley’s famous ’68 Comeback Special, “Elvis” cinematographer Mandy Walker spent hours watching and examining old footage to faithfully reproduce certain shots and lighting changes for Baz Luhrmann’s biopic.Walker’s set replicating the Vegas showroom at the International Hilton, where Presley had his residency, is her proudest accomplishment from the film. “That set was gigantic.

We had a full-on concert lighting set-up that we had to reproduce,” Walker says.At one point, Walker and the film’s gaffer had considered bringing in professional concert lighting to program and order the lights, but she decided it was a job they could pull off.

So, Walker had traditional single-lamp par can lights flown to the film’s set in Australia. “We reproduced it all right down to the follow spots and the backdrop colors,” Walker says with pride. “There was a stills photographer, Alfred Wertheimer, who traveled with Elvis during the 1950s.

I looked at his work, and had all these images in the back of my mind. When you add in all these other elements — the art department, costumes and hair and make-up — they all come together in harmony to become the visual language of the film.”To finish the lighting, Walker says she “added modern LED lighting to smooth it out and make sure you could see Austin’s face properly, or we’d use LED to complement what we had.”Luhrmann and Walker spent a long time in prep discussing not just the script, but the emotional journey of the characters and how the filmmaker wanted to present that to the audience.

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