Greengrass and editor William Goldenberg faced unusual challenges as they discovered the rhythms of their first west.
The News of the World, the post-Civil War road trip to recovery and reunion between former Confederate captain Tom Hanks and 10-year-old Helena Zengel, marked the first west for director Paul Greengrass and editor William Goldenberg (who on first collaborated on the docudrama “July 22”). But, clearly, it was also the first time that the Oscar-winning editor (“Argo”) was part of a film from the beginning, allowing him a greater contribution to the story and characterization, which helped direct of his editorial process.
“Paul sent me the book [by Paulette Jiles] and the original screenplay by Luke Davies and describes, and I went to London the summer before filming [in Santa Fe in 2019], ”Said Goldenberg. “In 10 days, we passed the script and I gave suggestions. It was a great collaboration process that allowed me to really get into his head. “
Set five years after the Texas Civil War, News of the World explores a time when the country was divided and Texas was under military occupation. Hanks captain Jefferson Kidd, still struggling with his demons, roams from city to city as a news reader, trying to inform and relieve the burden of citizens. His life is shaken, however, when he meets the orphaned Johanna, no longer the part of Kiowa who abducted and raised him. Kidd decides to hand it over to her aunt and her surviving uncle on a four-month journey through the harsh Texas plains as they slowly bond and heal each other.
“Obviously, Paul’s usual shooting style, with a very lively camera and a documentary approach, did not suit this genre,” Goldenberg added. “But more than that, he and [cinematographer] Dariusz Wolski wanted that part of Texas to be a character in the movie, so they went with a more traditional way of shooting, which was a smart move because you are able to really live on stage. ”
The editorial challenge for Goldenberg was trying to make this two-player job between Kidd and Johanna work without a B story. Most of their scenes took place in a pickup truck, so there was no possibility of overlapping or cross-cutting scenes. . This allowed the editor to create a slower, more contemplative pace, taking advantage of non-verbal communication between them. “We would make scenes and then make it much shorter and lower it,” he said.
But they soon realized that they often rushed across a stage very quickly, skating over emotion, as Greengrass described it. So they would come back and let the stage breathe even more. The opening sequence that Kidd introduces in one of his readings was the most difficult because he had to set the tone. Was he a salesman? Was he a preacher?
“The first day Paul shot with Tom for the first reading, he made about six or seven shots,” Goldenberg said. “They were really long and things had to be expected. And he asked me to come to the square to see what I thought. And we had a long discussion with Tom and finally found the sweet spot where he is one of [audience members]. He is reflecting on them again what everyone is going through, as opposed to being a salesman or a huckster. He’s a bit of a showman and seems so logical now in retrospect. ”
Bruce Talamon / Universal Painting
With Hanks, you get each quintessential of his generation. And the film explores Kidd’s deeper understanding of war, political temperature, and the power of storytelling. Plus, the allegorical implications of the story were immediately apparent. “As things progressed, we thought it was like a mirror image of what we’re going through in the world right now,” Goldenberg recalled. “It’s a beautiful love story set against the backdrop of a very difficult world.”
There are some external obstacles along the way, the most important being an exchange of fire with three former confederates who want to steal Johanna and traffic her. It’s a well-choreographed sequence with Kidd and Johanna making a great team, which Goldenberg put together from several countries in a perfect fit. “Paul shot all the first stuff with Tom and Helena, but that was probably half the material I needed,” he said. “So then the second unit started and I went to decide every day and made a lot of lists and made sure they got all the necessary shots. And then when I was cutting, the challenge was that the characters had to evolve in the end. ”
Indeed, this was the moment when Kidd falls for Johanna, followed by the next scene when she sings a song about their victory, and then he puts his jacket on her in the next scene. But the end was difficult to resolve once they split. They went through several repetitions, including a scene they shot when Johanna finds Kidd during one of his readings, before Greengrass realized Kidd had to find him. And ended with the final reading about a man rescued after being buried alive.
“Once Paul came with him, we were all inside,” Goldenberg said. “Here a man is raised from the dead and healed again. And this is Kidd with Johanna next to him. ”
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