MENZIES JNR, PETER: LARA CROFT & DOWN AND UNDER
WHEN PETER MET ANGIE AND JERRY
Andrew L. Urban meets Australian
cinematographer, Peter Menzies jnr, and asks why Lara Croft’s
nipples don’t show, why Angelina Jolie did her own stunts
and what sort of chap is producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who is
producing the film Peter is shooting in Australia, Down And Under.
On Angelina Jolie:
To get to spend over six months working with an actress
like Angelina Jolie is pretty great. She became Lara … her
hair was different, her body shape changed; even though she had
the most amazing figure, she became much more athletic and she
really worked so hard, it shows. She did 90% or more of her
stunts, because she was better at it. Better than the stunt girls.
She had a point to prove, that she was Lara and Angie wanted to
do things like Lara would do them. We weren’t allowed to use
doubles, even for little things like hand inserts; Angie insisted
on doing them all herself.
On calling her ‘Angie’:
In the beginning it was Angelina…it takes a few
weeks to work up to it. But Simon West, the director, had spent a
lot of time with her and he called her Angie so we all sort of
picked up on that.
On Lara’s non-existent nipples:
There was some discussion, I think, about that . . .and
although I’ve only played the game for about 30 seconds (I
drowned Lara!) I don’t remember seeing nipples in the game
either. Most of the wardrobe was a lift from the game – we
had to keep that pretty true. But there are a few other redeeming
features about Angie that make up for that, though!
On an Australian working with a US producer and English
The mix worked very well…I met Simon on an English
commercial in the mid 90s and we did The General’s daughter
together, which was a great experience. We did what we thought
was pretty good work on it. And Lara Croft was his next film…so
I got called for that.
On Jerry Bruckheimer (producer, Down And Under), who gets
a bit of bad press:
Jerry is an old fashioned filmmaker – he knows
every piece of wardrobe, he knows what shoes everyone’s
wearing, what glasses…he sees everything before we shoot it.
He knows every line of dialogue . . . he’s just such a hands
on producer. He’s fantastic. He’s not here every day,
but he’s on the phone every day, and peps us up and gets us
going. Not bad for a man who’s got four films going at once
– plus releasing pearl Harbor! He loves filmmaking. I don’t
know what time he gets up but it must be pretty early. And he’s
never had a flop. He just wants to make it the best you can.
On working on an Australian film:
I would love to. I got to work on this one (Down and
Under) with a lot of my old friends from the tv commercial days,
and it’s been such a joy being back in tha Australian system.
We’ve had a lot of fun. I hope I can score another job at
home. (Ed: Peter was camera operator on Crocodile Dundee and CD
How Peter made the jump from being a successful tv
commercials director to Hollywood movies – in a single leap:
I’d spent a lot of time going to Los Angeles and
foing commercials, meeting people – and got an agent, who I
still have, after 12 years, which some people in the US think is
strange, but Barbara is great. I met Roger Donaldson, the
Australian director, who was looking for a commercial-ish look
for his film White Sands (with Willem Dafoe and Mickey Rourke)
and he remembered me, and I happened to be around. It gave me a
huge break – and it was a leap of faith for him because it
was a US$25 million movie, and that was 1991, so it was a big
On Down And Under, a story of two American fish out of
water in Australia:
It’s mainly a comedy and it’s about the two
boys and the experiences they go through. It’s something
different for Jerry Bruckheimer and he’s really enjoying it.
He really wanted to make this film – it’s his first
association with Castle Rock. It’s still a big Jerry
Bruckheimer production, a US$60 million movie!
On working with his cinematographer dad for the first
time, on Down And Under:
My Dad’s never worked on a film, he’s only
done tv commercials – very successfully, too. We needed a
few extra things so I called him. He was our ‘Roo Unit’…’cause
he shot the Skippy series, so he knew all about the kangaroo
shooting. So we sent him off to shoot kangaroos with red jackets
on…he loved it, and he got some amazing footage. He’s
loved it, and it’s the first time he’s seen me work. He’s
very proud of what I’ve done, film-wise.
On wife, kids and living in Australia:
I’m always based here in Sydney. . . I met my wife
in New York, shooting some commercials there (for an Australian
director) and she was the producer. We fell in love and had a
long distance romance, which doesn’t work often, but it did.
She’s gorgeous! I was spending a lot of time in Los Angeles
then, and then she visited Sydney and loved it, so when she fell
pregnant with our first daughter, she said Sydney’s going to
Published June 28, 2001
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INTERVIEW with Angelina Jolie
Peter Menzies Jnr selected filmography:
White Sands (1992)
Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
The General’s Daughter (1999)
Disney’s The Kid (2000)
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Down And Under (2001)