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Filipino cinematographer Matthew Libatique on ‘Don’t Worry Darling’


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Filipino cinematographer Matthew Libatique on ‘Don’t Worry Darling’

Warner Bros. Pictures

Matthew Libatique talks about 'Don’t Worry Darling,' his creative process, and the last time he was in the Philippines

Two-time Academy Award-nominated cinematographer – and proud Filipino – Matthew Libatique is back lensing another provocative film with Don’t Worry Darling, directed by Olivia Wilde and starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles.   

The thriller tells the story of Alice (Pugh), a 1950s housewife living with her husband, Jack (Styles), in the utopian experimental community of Victory. Everything seems perfect, but when cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, Alice can’t help questioning exactly what they’re doing in Victory, and why. 

Libatique shares: “Olivia already had a vision of how she wanted the film to be. And she was really good at getting me to understand the feeling, the vibe. It was very easy for me to understand what she was after. As a rule, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking how I want the movie to look — I spend it trying to understand how the movie should look.” 

Wilde and Libatique looked at films that inspired them within the genre, like Rosemary’s Baby, Vertigo, and one that netted Libatique multiple awards and an Oscar nomination, Black Swan.

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In the following Q&A, Matthew Libatique talks about Don’t Worry Darling, his creative process, and the last time he was in the Philippines.

Question: How did you get involved with ‘Don’t Worry Darling,’ and what elements of the project resonated with you?

Matthew Libatique: Olivia and I made a short film together in the fall of 2019 called Wake Up. This is where she made first mention of a psychological thriller set in the 1950s. At the time I was unavailable due to another project, but after the pandemic shutdown in 2020, I was available, and I was happy that she called. The prospect of working on a feature-length film with Olivia as well as the world-building opportunity that the script presented made the decision easy. 

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Q: How did you adjust to working with Olivia Wilde? Did she already know the look she wanted or did she give you a free hand?

ML: Olivia has a strong aesthetic and conveys her vision in expressive ways. She has a unique ability to get her collaborators on the same page. The beginning of our preparation started with a literal wall of inspiration in her office and evolved into many discussions about how to incorporate the camera and the light into a language that would articulate the themes and ideas in the screenplay.

Q: You already have two Oscar nominations and looks like more are forthcoming. What would it mean for you to win an Academy Award?  

ML: It would certainly mean I’ve reached another of many goals that I have, but I must say that it is NOT in the front of my thinking.  

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Q: You mentioned in a previous interview that one of the factors you consider in choosing a project is whether there is a night rain scene. Can you elaborate?

ML: When I say that, it is to mean that when I read the script I don’t bother with logistics, and because of this I have often found myself in difficult and challenging positions of problem-solving. 

Q: Did you always want to be a cinematographer?  

ML: Define always…NO. I used to want to be a rockstar or a baseball player. 

Q: Where is your family’s roots in the Philippines? When was the last time you visited? Where did you go and how was your stay?

ML: In 2018 I was invited by Oli Laperal to visit Manila to do a master class for the cinematography community. It was a highlight in my career and my life because I was able to bring my family and introduce my children to the Philippines and so much family in Manila and Quezon. It was a thrill to be able to share my experiences with so many in the local film community. 

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Q: What is your take on Hollywood’s recent trend of championing Asian representation, among other minorities?  

ML: It’s a beautiful thing. Diversity in American Cinema has been a long time coming and it’s important to afford the opportunity to give a voice to people who have previously been silenced. – Rappler.com

Don’t Worry Darling is set to open in cinemas across the Philippines on September 28.

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