Oscar nominated cinematographer from Co Armagh had to isolate in US due to virus
Oscar nominated cinematographer Seamus McGarvey has revealed that he had to step back from the new Spider-Man: No Way Home blockbuster after he contracted Covid-19.
The Co Armagh man was due to work as director of photography on the upcoming super-hero movie last year but was forced to pull out when he was struck down by the virus.
Production of the film, the 27th in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was pushed back from summer to autumn as a result of the global pandemic but McGarvey was tied into another project in Italy, Cyrano, at that time and had to bow out.
Prior to jetting out to the States for principal photography of Spider-Man: No Way Home — the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home — McGarvey also worked on several episodes of HBO’s new supernatural drama The Nevers, starring Belfast actress Laura Donnelly and Dubliner Ann Skelly.
The series was created by Joss Whedon, with whom McGarvey had worked with on MCU film The Avengers. It was shot in various locations in England and premiered in the US last month. It will be premiered in the UK on May 17 on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, McGarvey, who was the cinematographer on The Greatest Showman, Atonement and Anna Karenina, said: “After completing my two episodes of The Nevers, I went off to the US to do the new Spider-Man film. But I caught Covid myself and in the end, had to pull out of the production. I was marooned in the States for a few weeks until I got better.
“It was bad enough but thankfully, I wasn’t so ill that I had to be hospitalised. I used to live in Laurel Canyon in LA, so went there to an old apartment to stay. I knew people there and was lucky enough to have them bring me food and look after me.
“I lay in bed for three weeks and got better. I just had to weather it out. But the production of the film was pushed back and I couldn’t do it. I had another film lined up in Italy, Joe Wright’s Cyrano, starring Peter Dinklage.
“It was a shame that I had to pull out of Spider-Man but I had to leave LA and move on to the next project.”
It was through his work on Whedon’s 2012 superhero flick The Avengers, that McGarvey got the call to come and act as cinematographer on The Nevers. Set in Victorian London, the drama centres on a group of people, mostly women, who are left with abnormal abilities following a supernatural event.
Some of their superpowers are disturbing, others wondrous, but all who belong to this new underclass are in grave danger. Donnelly plays the mysterious, quick-fisted widow Amalia True and Skelly plays brilliant young inventor Penance Adair, who protect and shelter these ‘gifted’ orphans.
As they do so, they face evil forces who are trying to annihilate them. The star-studded cast also includes James Norton, Tom Riley, Eleanor Tomlinson, Pip Torrens and Ben Chaplin.
McGarvey, who received two Oscar nods for Atonement and Anna Karenina, said he loved the ‘timeliness’ of the new drama and its strong, feminist message.
“Although it’s a period piece, it has absolute political prescience. It’s set in Victorian London, in the deep, distant past and yet it’s full of prescient ideas, notably its feminist bent.
“When I read the scripts, I thought it was beautifully written. There’s a playfulness to it and in terms of the cinematography and cinematic drive of the piece, it has a wonderful modernity that Joss wanted to reflect.
“He didn’t want to make a dowdy period piece but one with energy and a modern vibe.”
Having worked mainly on feature films, McGarvey said the biggest challenge in moving to television was the speed of dealing with a stunt-heavy production and overlapping units. Part of the team had experience of both, having worked on Game of Thrones and despite the intensity of the shoot, production ran smoothly.
“The big challenge for me was keeping an eye on different units which were shooting concurrently,” says McGarvey.
“I’m normally a one camera person, using a single lens, shot by shot. Television tends to be more of a factory but is no less creative. There’s just a lot more going on.”
McGarvey, whose next project is Paul King’s Willy Wonka prequel, said there was great collaboration between the creatives on set. And he praised production designer Gemma Jackson and costume designer Michele Clapton, who also worked on Game of Thrones, for helping to make his job easier.
“People often think it’s good cinematography when what they’re actually looking at is stunning design,” he said.
“All those visual elements meld together to create good cinematography. It’s like a centipede on overtime, working with a communal pursuit. We start with black and white words on a page and work together to embellish that.
“The overall look of the series is wonderful and I’m really proud to have worked on this show.”