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While movies are often shown as great examples of artistic expression, most people focus on the contributions of the actors or the director. So often the hard work of cinematographers gets overlooked. It's their job to get the shot that makes those actors look so good. Sometimes it can take several tries to get everything just right. Sometimes, like when you're filming a train crashing into a bus in The Fugitive, you only have one chance to get it perfect.
The train crash was shot in a gully in the mountains of North Carolina. We just bought a train, and we crashed it. So we could only do it once. That's why it looks so convincing. We shot it on a small set of railroad tracks. We set up a lot of cameras, and we let the train go. It was hard work. We had to walk up and down about 130 steps every time you had to go to the john or get something to eat.
This week, Michael Chapman the cinematographer behind Jaws, Raging Bull and The Fugitive will receive a lifetime achievement award at the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography. On the eve of the award he spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his best, and often toughest, jobs filming some of the greatest movies ever made. One of those tough jobs was filming Harrison Ford in The Fugitive.
Early in the film, Harrison Ford is being transported with a number of other prisoners on board a bus when the bus crashes and ends up laying across a set of train tracks. As one would expect, because it is a movie, after all, a train approaches forcing Ford's character to quickly extricate himself in order to avoid being on the bus when the train hits.
Considering how many moving parts a scene like that has it's more than a little amazing that they were able to get everything they needed in one shot. Part of the reason that it's more than a little obvious that Harrison Ford isn't actually in the same shot with the actual impact is that putting him in it would have simply added one more variable that could have gone wrong. There was already enough stacked against the crew considering the location the shot was filmed in.
While today a shot like that could likely be done entirely digitally, and thus multiple takes would be possible, that wasn't always the case. Do you have any favorite movie scenes that were great because of the way the cinematographer handled the shot? Let us know down below.