Roger Deakins reveals that producers originally had a bizarre note for filming Sicario. The 2015 thriller, directed by Denis Villeneuve, followed FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt), who was enlisted by a government task force to bring down the leader of a Mexican drug cartel. Sicario also dealt with conflicts at the border between Mexico and the United States, with production taking place in both countries. Upon its release, the movie earned praise from critics and audiences alike, and a sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, was made shortly after.
During a recent panel discussion (via IndieWire), Deakins explained that producers did not want to film in Mexico due to insurance-related issues. The cinematographer and his wife, James Deakins, went on to say that Fort Lauderdale was presented as a shooting location, leading to them to ask “‘Has anybody read the script?’” Read their comments regarding the filming of Sicario below:
Roger Deakins: We had to convince some producers to go to Mexico City because they didn’t want us to go there for insurance.
James Deakins: They wanted Fort Lauderdale.
Roger Deakins: I was actually in a production meeting and I said, ‘Has anybody read the script?’ So anyway, they let us go to Mexico City for a few days. I have to say, the cops in Mexico City were fantastic. We found some of the locations in the morning before we were going to shoot. There’s a scene outside the prison and Denis and I were riding around saying, ‘This prison is fantastic, can we shoot here?’ And it wasn’t until 10 o’clock in the morning when we actually got permission and managed to do two shots so that’s what we got but it was really worth it.
How Filming Locations Benefited Sicario
Much of Sicario was filmed in Albuquerque, but as Deakins revealed, production also went to Mexico City. The cinematography, along with Villeneuve’s style of direction, lent to a sense of realism, heightened by the movie’s shooting locations. Because its plot involved trips between the two countries, and conflicts at the border, filming in Mexico City over Florida would make sense. That particular moment Deakins’ touched on was one of Sicario‘s more memorable scenes as well, when the task force found themselves targeted after leaving the prison.
Deakins has collaborated with Villeneuve on a number of projects, and for his work on Sicario, he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. While it may be worth wondering what the movie could have looked like if made in Fort Lauderdale, it was a better decision to film in Mexico, and one that paid off. Neither Deakins nor Villeneuve returned for the 2018 sequel, but production still took place in Mexico City, as well as New Mexico.
Sicario would have likely had a different effect on audiences if it was made in Florida. It is interesting to hear about what went into making the film though, and how Deakins managed to shoot in Mexico despite initial concerns from producers. While there have been reports about a potential Sicario 3, nothing has come to fruition and whether Deakins would be involved is unclear.