Chris Rock Opens Up to Joe Pugliese
All eyes will be on the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles as Chris Rock walks on stage to host the 88th Academy Awards. This year has not been without some quarrel, and Rock has remained uncharacteristically quiet on the topic, so expectations are heavy for when he has the undivided attention of millions from around the world. A few days before the nominees were even announced, the event that inspired the controversy of an under representative group of nominees, Joe Pugliese caught up with the comedian for a cover feature in The Hollywood Reporter. Every shoot offers its own challenges, but Joe’s ability to adapt to Rock’s needs is what created their success. “I immediately got that directing specifically and posing him very specifically just wasn’t going to work,” Joe explains. “He just sort of didn’t take to that style. So, I tried to have a hands off approach to the portraiture on this one.” Joe stepped back and engaged Rock in conversation rather than trying to create perfect compositions. This looser style allowed Rock to find his own comfort within that frame work and the space to open up.
The sheer number of people on a photoshoot can sometimes be overwhelming no matter how seasoned a professional the subject is. Joe realized that the volume of their audience was maybe getting in the way of capturing some really great work, so Joe found a way around it. “Comedians don’t love to perform for the camera and I don’t blame them. I don’t want them to,” explains Joe. “I said, ‘Let’s go walk around this property’ and left everyone behind so it was just me and him. I got him to be a little more playful and run up to the camera. I think he let his guard down a little bit more because there wasn’t an audience.” Walking through the property and around the pool gave Rock just the amount of breathing room he needed to connect with Joe and his camera. “He actually cracked a natural smile, caught himself having a little bit of fun, and then went right back into cool mode.” It was a quick moment, but Joe caught it.
Part of being the host of the Oscars is taking on the mantle of one of the oldest Hollywood traditions, and the team wanted to pay deference to that history. “We wanted it to be old Hollywood, we wanted it to be debonaire Hollywood,” says Joe. “We just wanted to elevate it into classic Hollywood and that’s why we shot at this Frank Lloyd Wright house, the Sowden House in Los Feliz, that was pretty epic. It’s a really interesting house.” The building, though beautiful, presented its own challenges on the cold and windy day, with hard surfaces reflecting the breezes, but they made it work thanks to the entire team and Rock's willingness to adapt with Joe. “Chris was extremely gracious, he put up with a lot considering how cold it was, and I’m a huge fan so I’m excited.”