“Many people were dissuaded from participating”

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Created by Hulu, Dopesick is an 8-episode miniseries focused on one of the most important health problems in the history of the United States since the 1980s: the opioid crisis that from today you can see on Star+. At the time, the sackler family, owner of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, created oxycodone, a drug to treat pain that was said not to generate addiction. In light are the results of this great lie: about 400 thousand people lost their lives due to overdoses linked to this medicine.

The person in charge of starring in the series is Michael Keaton, who puts himself in the shoes of Samuel Finnix, a doctor that did not exist but that was formed as the amalgam of several that were real. He is presented Bill (Will Poulter), a medical visitor who arrives with the latest innovation in medicine, capable of ending the most acute pains of his patients. Samuel he works in a mining town where physical ailments are commonplace.

From that point the series of Star+ created by Danny Strong through the book of Beth Macy in the book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America (Abstinence: dealers, doctors and the pharmaceutical company that generated addiction in the United States). Rosario Dawson he will contact the DEA agent who wants to end this drug network, Peter Sarsgaard and John Hoogenakker will be in charge of the investigations, and Michael Stuhlbarg it will be Richard Sackler.

One of those responsible for working in Dopesick was the director of photography Checco Varese. Of Peruvian origin, he has experience in fictions such as Them, It and The aura. In an interview with Spoiler He talked about what it was like to carry out this project to which he dedicated seven days a week for almost a year. “It was fantastic for me emotionally and professionally. In terms of the amount of sleep I am still recovering three months later “he pointed out laughing.

What was it that called you to be a part of Dopesick?

You try to do the projects that resonate the most with you. In my career I tried to do projects that make me proud emotionally and professionally, but also socially. Let it be something that influences for good. In the case of Dopesick the writer invited me Danny Strong, was the showrunner, wrote the entire series and directed the last two chapters. I got together with Barry Levinson, who did the first two, we were very close in the vision and 20 minutes after the call they told me if I wanted to do all the episodes.

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What influences could you point to in the work of the series?

In this case it was very evident to me that there was a common thread within the cinema which was The Deer Hunter, for all the outsiders, the miners and the people with less resources who were the most affected. There was another common thread that was The Informant, the film about tobacco he photographed Dante Spinotti. And one more common thread that is a bit of the classics of the 70s: All the president’s men, The 3 days of the condor. By citing those movies to Barry He was very excited about the idea.

The universe of Dopesick it is divided into three concentric circles. The first is that of the victims. In this case it was a doctor and the whole family of miners, the environment. That was like The Deer Hunter. That very beautiful town, very dignified, at the same time very poor, surrounded by beautiful mountains, with an oppressive sky due to the fumes of the mine or of the industry. The other concentric circle is what I called “the public servants”: lawyers, prosecutors, the DEA girl so brilliantly personified by Rosario Dawson, the FDA bureaucrats. They are the ones who go against or in favor of the pharmaceutical companies. It was a more stoic, office circle. There I relied a lot on The Informant what this world of the bureaucrat has, with very strong lights through the windows, stylizing the office concept a bit because you arrive you turn on a light and there are two hundred spotlights above your head, but keeping realism, because we did not want to take you out of this reality What was happening and continues to happen unfortunately in the United States. The third circle is that of pharmaceutical companies, the sackler family. It is one of the richest families in the world and will continue to be despite the lawsuits. The one of go on Sackler It is the circle of gold, of warm colors, of exotic paintings, of museums. A look was applied to that rather … It is not Eyes wide shut, because in addition to citing that movie brings different connotations, but it is a bit that universe of the super rich

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How much research did you rely on to make this miniseries?

It was all supported by a law firm and investigators. Anything that was said had to be supported by real events I was not part of that investigation but just as in Raiders of the lost ark there’s a warehouse full of research boxes, I’m sure Danny Strong he has a cellar full of research boxes. I also know that many people were, if not threatened, at least discouraged from participating. Not from the movie but from the research process. I know the people who investigated it had, not threats over the phone but rather lawyers saying, “Make sure you get things done … They’re going to be under a microscope all the time.”

How did you treat the sequences in which the characters are high?

There is always the temptation to take it out of focus and do it in black and white, right? There was a temptation to do that, we did some tests, we discussed it with Danny and with Barry. Yes there is a feeling of a camera a little freer, more drunk or drugged. But we resist the temptation. I think one of the problems is that you make a romance out of it and make it attractive. As a filmmaker, you have a great responsibility to represent reality and not make it attractive. If you film Transformers yes, but if you shoot an anti-war movie you can’t do violence in sexy slow motion with a sunset behind, because that’s an apology for violence. There was a very conscious effort not to make a documentary, but to document a literary or cinematographic work as truly as possible.

It’s a miniseries with a lot of time jumps. How did you work the photography in that aspect?

The 8 hours happen over 15 years. There was a decision of two or three things, if they have cell phones or not, if the cars are new or old, whatever. There is a conscious decision whether it is summer or winter and the passage of time. There was also a need and an aesthetic decision: I am radically opposed to flashbacks with a different look. Because first, this was a series that ran risks of editorial changes being made: “This scene is great, it doesn’t fit in this episode, we’re going to put it in this one.” Which did not happen, because the scripts were very solid. The risk is that you end up filming something that was supposed to be followed by this and the arc of light was going to work this way and it looks hideous. Obviously all scenes have a dramatic arc, and I always try to repeat the scene arc or counteract it for emphasis or whatever.

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What was it like working with Michael Keaton as an actor and as a producer?

Producer titles are given like lottery tickets. I didn’t feel like he had an input beyond that as an exceptional actor. I guess he had a conversation with Danny It said, “I’d rather have the doctor do this than this,” which is what any actor would do. I repeat, the titles of producer are distributed with singular joy. I have a feeling that’s the case, I don’t know. I did not witness a participation beyond the years of experience and the indisputable talent that he has.

He is a very talented actor. There are actors who have a streak of good that comes out and there are actors who have a streak of madness. I’m not saying that in his personal life, because he was very kind and very nice. But when he becomes the doctor who is no longer such a nice town doctor, he is fantastic. It comes from within. It doesn’t come out with effort, it comes out naturally. I think it’s a beautiful bow and transformation.

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