A few years ago, I got a great assignment from Metro.Pop Magazine in Los Angeles. The job was to shoot Nicky Katt in Hollywood and the art direction I received was to just “show up and do what you do.” It’s rare to get that kind of freedom shooting editorial, especially since I am a black and white, natural light shooter.
And plus I knew Nicky Katt’s work. It was only after recently talking to a friend about him that I realized Nicky is a cinemaphile’s actor. You really have to be a nerd about American cinema to know who he is. I know that he’s been on TV but I’ve always known him for his small but memorable roles in independent films. Think about it. You might know him as:
- the smart ass hit man in The Limey
- the Nazi in a 50s greaser uniform in Dazed and Confused
- the guy with the tongue boil in Planet Terror
- one of them cops in Insomnia
- the rocker dude in the van in School of Rock
- the tough in the bar inSecondhand Lions
- the cynical tough in SubUria
I showed up at the house on Fairfax and we got along instantly because we somehow started chatting about Monte Hellman films. It turns out Nicky was collaborating with Monte on a screenplay. Much to the annoyance of the writer, we wouldn’t stop talking about Two Lane Blacktop and Cockfighter.
The challenge for this shoot was the fact that Nicky was obsessed with Sam Peckinpah and recently saw this interview with him where he wore his sunglasses the entire time. So I sat Nicky in this big chair by the fireplace with the dog and his sunglasses and his glass of bourbon and I started taking meter readings. The room was so dark that I had to push my meager 400 speed film to 1600 just to shoot wide open. I couldn’t even focus as the viewfinder for the Mamiya is pretty dark. I literally had to lock in on the wall of the fireplace behind him and walk my camera backwards to put him in the focal plane.
After suffering some anxiety about pushing my film three stops and my inability to focus, I picked up my film a couple of days later from the lab and it all turned out fine. Not stellar images but I really enjoyed that afternoon.