Larry Fong is one of the most well-known cinematographers working today. His impressive resume includes the television series Lost, Super 8, Watchmen, 300, Kong: Skull Island, The Predator, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Now You See Me, and Sucker Punch.
HN Entertainment’s Nicholas Whitcomb was luckily enough to ask Larry a couple of questions. We ended up learning about how he got into the business of filmmaking thanks in part to how Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired him, his thoughts on the debate of shooting on digital versus film, and working with J.J. Abrams/Bad Robot.
Larry also talked about a few of his recent projects such as The Predator and Kong: Skull Island.
HN: Can you tell us what inspired you to get into the industry and how did you get your start?
FONG: “At a young age, my parents took me to see 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. Even then I realized it was more than just a movie—it was an event; it was art. I convinced my father to let me experiment with his still camera and Super 8 movie camera.”
“As an adult, I graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and started in music videos. From there commercials came, then TV and features. But it was a long time coming, for sure.”
HN: What movies or filmmakers would you consider your all-time favorites?
FONG: “Obviously, Stanley Kubrick is one of my favorite filmmakers. It’s hard to rate movies or anything else though. I try to avoid comparisons. There’s just so many good directors/films.”
HN: You also got to work on a couple of Bad Robot productions with the series Lost and J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, what was that like?
FONG: “Working with J.J. is an unforgettable experience. Coming from a writing background, and being so quick on his feet, it’s hard to keep up!”
HN: Do you find it more of a challenge working in television where there are multiple episodes or with film production?
FONG: “With TV shows, the shooting is so much speedier than big-budget features, but the momentum can be very rewarding and exciting as well.”
HN: What was it like shooting Kong: Skull Island and were the locations of that shoot a challenge? What was your experience like working on that film that spent time shooting in Vietnam? Was Apocalypse Now a big influence on the look of that film and did you homage any other movies?
FONG: “Daylight exteriors are sometimes considered ‘easy’ by some but the time of day and sun direction are important to work with when trying to make actors look good. Beautiful environments like Australia, Hawaii, and Vietnam keep audiences eyes entertained though. The Apocalypse Now influence is quite evident. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts was adamant about that from the start and it was a fun challenge.”
HN: There are some strong opinions on working on film versus digital, what are your thoughts on that?
FONG: “At first, there was a lot of push back. Eventually, the technology, or should I say, the aesthetics, have excelled to an amazing degree. Is it ‘better’ than film, or cheaper? That’s debatable. The biggest difference is the process, with its lesser degrees of discipline and decisiveness.”
HN: It must’ve been cool working on Shane Black’s The Predator because that is just such an iconic franchise. What was the collaboration with Shane like?
FONG “I’ve always been a big fan of Shane, so I jumped at the chance. I know that raw story and character is his priority, so I dialed back the visual fancy footwork for the most part. He told me his likes and dislikes in prep and I did my best to give him room for his process on set.”
HN: What are some dream projects or franchises you’d want to work on in the future?
FONG: “I love shooting big VFX movies but to be honest, on my own time I am most moved by human drama and films from the heart. I’m open to these simple kinds of films and hope the opportunity comes up to shoot one.”
HN: Lastly, is there anything you’re currently working on you can talk about?
FONG: “I’m currently between films, I’m lucky to be able to shoot TV commercials. But I’m constantly reading scripts and taking meetings, so when the right fit happens you’ll be the first to know!”
We’d like to thank Larry Fong for giving his time to HN Entertainment to answer our questions.