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Thomas Joshua Cooper

Thomas Joshua Cooper: “Preparation is all you can do”

January 22, 2020
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Mr. Cooper, you’ve risked your life to photograph the natural world in some of its most foreboding and dangerous locations. How do you reckon with this possibility of death?

I'm usually not scared almost ever, even though I'm not a trained explorer — I'm an artist. When I decided to circumnavigate the Atlantic Basin, from both poles and both polar circles, and all five continents, that required me to enter into very difficult terrain that even experienced explorers would have have had difficulties in doing so. I was engaging in situations that were as likely to kill me as anything that I could think of: falling in sinkholes, drowning, quicksand, being crushed by ice, being bitten by snakes… And in all kinds of weather! There were times where I would fall in the ice covered sea or into quicksand and I was on my own and it was improbable that I would get out, and I did.

How is it that you came to survive?

You know, after a while, I started asking myself the same question, "Well, God damn, how did I manage to do that? No one else so far has ever done this… How come I survived?" I got lucky! You come back from these things and you realize how lucky you are, and at a certain point, you realize that luck runs out, no matter how well you prepare, so you learn not to be scared of that. Everybody's scared of something at some point, you can cross the street and almost get hit by a bus. That'll scare you — but that's not what I'm talking about. It's about deep-seated fearfulness, when things go so wrong that there's no way, necessarily, that you can imagine that they can go right.

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Last week’s Interview
Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes: “No one is owed anything”

January 15, 2020
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Mr. Mendes, how do you know when you’re ready to start working on a new film?

It’s like a kind of boiling kettle, you know: you don’t want to make your tea until the kettle’s boiled and it’s the same thing, you don’t want to make your movie until you’re boiling with something you need to say. And theater, for instance, has always given me the opportunity to wait for that moment. It’s the same with film actually — film has given me an opportunity to wait until I’m ready to do a play. One fuels the other. Even the decision to write and make 1917, weirdly, came out of doing the Bond movies.

How so?

Because two things happened, one is that I got used to being in the writers’ room and working on a script from nothing. I’d never done that before, I’d always inherited a script or been sent a script. By nature, I’m not a writer, I’m not a solo flyer — if you put me in a room on my own, I get bored, I look out the window, I like being with other people, that’s what gives me the inspiration to work. But suddenly I was creating something from the beginning and that was exciting! I began to think, “Maybe I could write my own.” And then, the other thing that happened was on Spectre where I did an eight-minute continuous shot, which was fantastic.