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Capturing The Exterior And Interior Landscape
To suit the story and its historic, often majestic locales, the filmmakers sought to create a look "both austere and sumptuous,” says Pitt.

They enlisted renowned cinematographer and five-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins, who says, "This is one of the most atmospheric films I've ever worked on. It's based on a book of poetic lyricism with moments of deep melancholy, and we worked to bring this feeling to the movie. It's visually different from the Westerns one is used to seeing. The country was changing during this period and we wanted to reflect that.”

"It was more Victorian and post-Civil War than frontier,” Dominik explains, citing that the creative team avoided iconic images of Western movies that would have been inauthentic. "There were no cowboy hats. The gun Jesse gives Robert has a bakelite handle, which looks quite modern. The truth is, it's not the Old West, it's not the frontier; they live in Kansas City and St. Joseph, Missouri, both of which were hubs at the time. It's the 1880s. The telephone had just been invented.”

Deakins' camerawork on "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” occasionally offers glimpses of life seen through the flawed and rippled glass that was typical of the time. In one scene, Robert Ford, while a guest at the James household, intently and surreptitiously studies Jesse at his leisure in the yard through a back window. Says Deakins, "It's in some ways a story about the transitory nature of reality. It's a movie about surfaces. What we see and what we react to in life are surfaces only.”

In another scene, during a nighttime train robbery, Jesse suddenly and dramatically appears from a billow of white steam, as if "emerging from another world, perhaps from hell,” Deakins remarks. "It's as if Jesse is a ghost already. Things like glass and steam make things seem as if they're not quite solid and convey the feeling that everything is a reflection.” Later, the cinematographer's wide angle captures the outlaw standing alone in a field—a small figure in a vast landscape, the opposite of his larger-than-life image—indicating, "how humans are just a small part of nature, despite our feelings of importance.”

The filmmakers found the open spaces they needed in the prairies and McKinnon Flats region of Southern Alberta, as well as various other locations in Canada, where seemingly uninhabited expanses retain much of their original character and made them an excellent choice to double for territories like Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Colorado, circa 1881.

Fort Edmonton and Calgary's Heritage Park are tourist parks built from authentic period architecture collected from small towns across the country, providing a perfect location for the Jesse James story. Says producer David Valdes, "Andrew loved it. This assemblage of historic buildings were exactly what we were looking for and eliminated the need for us to construct an entire town.”

Filming at Fort Edmonton offered the bonus of a working railroad line and vintage train for the film's dramatic Blue Cut robbery sequence. Valdes, whose production credits include "Pale Rider,” "Unforgiven” and "Open Range,” admits, "Any time you have a scene with a period train, you have massive logistical problems because there are very few private lines with antique trains. You can find old steam engines and train cars from collectors or museums, but transporting them on a flatbed to a track in an appropriate setting is an ordeal. If it's a live track you're restricted on time and availability. The beauty of Fort Edmonton is that they have a vintage train p


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