Nick McLean and John Schlesinger shooting Marathon Man
Irish film fans and cinematography buffs should relish a rare upcoming visit to Ireland from one of Hollywood’s preeminent directors of photography. This March, legendary Hollywood cinematographer Nick McLean comes to Ireland for a series of events honouring his acclaimed work in American Cinema. McLean will be joined by Irish author Wayne Byrne at various film screenings and discussions around the country to celebrate McLean’s storied career in anticipation of their upcoming book.
Kildare-based Byrne is a film historian and music journalist; he writes for Hot Press magazine and has authored books on lauded indie auteur Tom DiCillo and screen icon Burt Reynolds. His next book, to be released later this year is one he co-authored with Nick McLean on the cinematographer’s prolific work behind the camera on some of the biggest films and television shows of the last fifty years. As Camera Operator or Cinematographer, McLean has shot the likes of McCabe & Mrs Miller, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Deer Hunter, Marathon Man, Being There, The Right Stuff, City Heat, Stick, The Goonies, Short Circuit, Spaceballs, and many more. McLean was also the special effects cinematographer for George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) throughout the 1980s, shooting effects work for the likes of Ron Howard’s Willow. He was subsequently highly acclaimed and Emmy Award nominated for his work shooting successful television sitcoms, including Evening Shade, Cybill, and later Friends.
Speaking about their collaboration, McLean recalls his working relationship with Byrne, “I had a great time working on this book with Wayne. I have rarely met anyone with his depth of knowledge and passion for cinema. I provided the foreword to his upcoming book on Burt Reynolds and I was immediately struck by his expertise, his enthusiasm and his love for film history. He knew all of my work inside out, even the most obscure ones! He suggested to me that there should be a book on my career and I told I would only do a book if it was with him. Wayne makes it easy and comfortable. He knows his stuff.”
For Byrne, McLean’s influence is far reaching and his legacy in film history an important one. “I am a huge fan of Nick’s work. His compositions are rich and inventive, his camera movements immediate and graceful, and he tempers the elegance of his framing with handheld and aerial work which is exciting, he gets right into the action with the characters. Just look at the action sequences in Stick or Cobra; the aerial shots in Sharky’s Machine or The Right Stuff; or the lighting work on The Goonies and Staying Alive. City Heat is a masterclass in high-contrast chiaroscuro lighting, Nick really gives it that great old film noir feel. I also think some of his best work can be found in Burt Reynolds’ television series, B.L. Stryker. It’s so rare to see such a stylish cinematic aesthetic in television, especially television in 1990! Just thinking about the shots from these works makes this whole thing very exciting to be part of.”
McLean’s work spans several generations of film audiences, from his crucial camerawork in the 1970s’ New Hollywood movement right through to his cinematography in the blockbusters of the 1980s; and of course, who hasn’t seen Friends? Camerawork runs in the McLean clan, his stepfather and grandfather, Fred Jackman Jr. and Fred Jackman Sr., were pioneering Hollywood cinematographers respectively, going back to the days of silent cinema and up to the Golden Age of the 1940s and 1950s. McLean’s son, Nicolas S. McLean continues the tradition, shooting shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Glee, and Private Practice.
“Charting Nick’s career with him right there with me for our book has been like my own personal tour of Hollywood of the last fifty years,” Byrne says, “and I hope that is how it will feel for people coming to our events in March where Nick and I will be going through his career and looking at some amazing scenes and discussing his work with great directors, from his earliest work with Altman and Spielberg right up to Friends.
Byrne continues, “Nick’s career kicked off in earnest when he was Vilmos Zsigmond’s camera operator, they worked together on a lot of films and from there Nick really flourished. When you see our opening montage compiled of many films Nick worked on you will be blown away when you recognise the scenes he has shot. Nick really helped develop the visual style of the New Hollywood, which is for me one of the greatest eras of American cinema.”
Nick playing Mouth’s dad in The Goonies
These events will have special meaning for Byrne, as he will get to celebrate the films that he grew up on.
“I have been a big fan of Short Circuit, City Heat, Stick, Cobra, all these films Nick shot, since I was a kid. I rented these movies in the video shops of Naas back in the late-80s/early 90s. They are part of the reason that I love cinema. And of course I remember Nick from playing Mouth’s father in The Goonies. But more importantly, Nick has become a very dear friend of mine. We send each other movies and I always look forward to our discussions.”
The first event to be announced is “An Evening with Nick McLean” which will take place in Naas Community Library in Naas, County Kildare on Friday March 15th at 7pm. McLean is particularly excited about his opportunity to visit Ireland.
“I was fortunate to work with people like Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, John Schlesinger, Richard Donner, Paul Newman, Brian De Palma, Mel Brooks, Hal Ashby, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone…many amazing artists. So it will be exciting for me to screen and discuss scenes from these films with Wayne for the movie lovers of Ireland. I can’t wait to see Dublin and Kildare and many other places I’m hoping to visit while I’m there, I have wanted to come to Ireland for a long time.”
The Naas event is free of charge though booking is essential. To reserve a seat, call Naas Library on 045 879111 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information and updates on further Nick McLean events in March, check in with Wayne on Twitter @DiCilloBook