As far as creating content for Blu-ray special features, there are few producers out there creating as genuinely insightful and thrilling content as Charles de Laurizika. For the past decade or so, Charles has worked closely with acclaimed director Ridley Scott, not only documenting his recent work but revisiting his earlier classics such as ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’. With the release this week of Scott’s ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’, we get another example of Charles’ stunning work looking behind the scenes on one of the biggest epics of the past year. Charles was able to take some time out of his hectic schedule to chat with me about his work and, specifically, his experience on ‘Exodus’.
“We filmed much of the movie in Spain,” he says of Scott’s latest, “which I am really familiar with, as I have family there. However, filming locations were huge, with thousands of extras scattered all over the place. It was a great distance between shoots and when you’re just two or so guys, there’s a lot of huffing and puffing going on. The weather also presented the kind of logistical problems you’d expect, as did working in a desert.”
‘Exodus’ explores the story of Moses (Christian Bale) and his deliverance of the Hebrews from the slavery of Rameses II (Joel Edgerton). It’s one of the largest productions in Scott’s career, and in his documentary ‘Keeper of the Covenant’ on the 3D Blu-ray release of the film, Charles gives us a glimpse at the enormous amount of artists and craftsman it took to make the film. What makes Charles’ work so distinct from most other film documentarians though is his keen eye for capturing the human side of filmmaking.
“I always try and approach a project as a journalist. Where are the unusual angles here? What are the challenges being experienced by the department heads and what are the obstacles across the picture more generally. It’s also vital to be ‘ready to go’ at all times, so you can start filming as soon as something interesting happens!”
Scott’s productions utilise breathtaking locations and production design, making them perfect for documentation. That said, what makes them ripe for exploring also makes them more difficult.
“By far and away the most challenging aspect (on ‘Exodus’) was working in Fuerteventura – part of the Canary Islands. It’s incredibly beautiful, but a beautiful nowhere. Not the easiest place to get around. However, kudos to everyone who choose this particular location – I recall one day when the sky was the colour of pink Champagne. Incredible. Just a pain in the ass to get to every day.”
Charles’ work is some of the most acclaimed in home entertainment releases, extending past the documentary material to producing the releases as a whole. His Alien Anthology box set is still a standard by which other releases are measured against, offering days’ worth of material covering every aspect of the four films. The level of detail in his releases is staggering, and for film fans, Charles’ work is about as complete as you can get.
For Charles though, one release stands out above the rest.
“'Blade Runner' is right up there. It’s my favourite movie and we got to explore the hell out of that. It was a very honest three and half hour documentary, followed by another two hours or so of material.”
The 'Blade Runner' project was an enormous undertaking, Charles not only producing the incredibly complex documentary on the film ‘Dangerous Days’, but assisting in the creation of Ridley Scott’s Final Cut, allowing the director to bring the film closer to his original vision.
“That really is the crown jewel. Although having said that, I am really incredibly proud of the Alien Anthology. I think in terms of scope and depth, those were the finest. But then again, there are aspects to all of the projects that stand out for different reasons… it’s cliché, but it is just so hard to choose… like asking someone to pick their favourite child.”
As a massive film buff, I await Charles’ latest documentaries the same way I would a new film from David Fincher or Christopher Nolan. Not only do they offer fascinating insights into the filmmaking process, they’re genuinely engaging and emotional viewing experiences in their own right. I’ve re-watched his documentaries on ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘Prometheus’ more times than I can count. As far as I’m concerned, he deserves as much praise as the filmmakers he documents. And as the quality of DVD and Blu-ray releases continues to slip, Charles’ work becomes more exciting an important, as proven by his work on ‘Exodus’.
“Anyone that works in movies will tell you that it’s a really unusual place to be – an alternate dimension, almost. You need to keep it honest and real – not digging up dirt, or making people look bad, but capturing the crazy circus that is filmmaking.”
Exodus: Gods & Kings is out on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD this Thursday 1st April 2015. Click here to read our Blu-ray review of the film.