Could The Hurt Locker Take Sound Oscars?

Mar 1, 2010 6:50 PM, By Blair Jackson

AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL OTTOSSON

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On the morning we spoke he had just finished watching The Hurt Locker on his own TV for the first time.

So what did you think seeing it on your home system?
I liked it. I thought the mix held up pretty well on the TV, too.

I really love this movie. You know, usually when I’m done with a movie I’m really done with it. But with this one, I don’t know how many presentations and Q&As I’ve gone to, but I never get tired of it. I usually end up going two hours early and watching the movie again.

When the film came out, it got extremely good reviews, but like so many of the Iraq films, it didn’t really find an audience initially. I think what helped it, ultimately, is that it’s above all a really tense, well-told story—there are no politics in it; really no historical context. It’s a micro-view with just a couple of episodes, and I think its relative "objectivity" is appealing to people. It shows the horrors of war without pointing fingers.
That’s exactly right. This movie could have been a Western or about any other war—I think it’s broad in that way. It’s a picture of man in war and how it destroys them. Like [the lead character] James in the movie—he can evades the bombs, but inside he’s being completely destroyed. I think it’s a really strong movie without hammering you with it. It makes you think, and it stays with you.

Had you worked with [director] Katheryn Bigelow before? How did you get involved with it?
No, I hadn’t. I got a call from the post supervisor and the producer telling me that Kathryn would like to meet with me about this movie. It was still being written when I talked to them. They sent me the script and I was blown away—I said, “I’ve got to work on this—unless I don’t get along with them at all! [Laughs] So I drove up and met with her and the writer [Mark Boal, another Oscar nominee] and we talked about it, and she talked about how important sound was going to be because her original intention was to have no music at all in the movie. That was our first discussion.

Wow. Well, there are certainly long stretches where there isn’t any music, but the music that did end up in it is really cool.
The music [by Oscar nominees Marco Beltrami and Buck sanders] is simple, but it’s so strong, so powerful when it happens. I think she made really good choices by going this route. They also tried it with more music at an earlier point, but it felt like when you heard the music you were more aware that you were watching a movie. Reading the script it was so realistic—it read like you were part of the [bomb] crew, and that’s what she tried to put across. She wanted to draw you in and make you part of the movie instead of just watching—to let the experience be yours as well.

Where was it shot?
In Jordan mostly, close to the Iraqi border. Originally, Kathryn wanted to shoot in Baghdad and she wanted me to come along, and I said, “You know what, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I got married a little bit ago, I have a kid at home…I don’t think so.” [Laughs]

Anyway, we all got along really well and I ended up being the first person hired on the movie. We found a production mixer from England, Ray Beckett, that we both loved. Even though we’d never worked with him, the movies he’d worked on sounded really good and needed very little ADR in them. We had a long discussion before he went to Jordan, talking about miking and what we were going to do. And he did a fantastic job. I think we ended up with—tops—five onscreen ADR lines for the principal actor. That’s never happened for me before ever—even movies shot on sets.






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