Veteran rerecording mixer Gregg Landaker, who is nominated as part of the sound mixing team on Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic Dunkirk, is heading toward retirement after the Oscars.
Landaker, 67, made this decision with 47 years in the business, 207 feature credits, nine Oscar nominations and three Oscars for The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Speed. At the upcoming Academy Awards, we’ll learn if he caps his career with Oscar number four.
Last weekend he claimed BAFTA number three, as Dunkirk won the trophy for sound (this category combines sound mixing and sound editing, which are two separate categories at the Oscars). In London, Nolan — and even Prince William — urged Landaker out of retirement, and they might succeed.
“Chris was surprised and pleased for me [when I first told him my plans] and he said ‘are you sure we can’t get you back?’ I said if you make the phone call I would consider it. Only for him,” says Landaker. “He has the keenest ear and will push you to your limits. I love working with him.”
“Then when we met Prince William and Kate, [Prince William] said, ‘can we get you to come back for one more?’ It was out of the blue! I said, ‘if I get a phone call from you, I would come back and do a film for you.’
“Our chat was from the heart—as a flyer, he had been in [combat] aircrafts,” he added of the conversation with the future King. “He said I captured the essence of what it’s like as a pilot in a dog fight.”
This meant a great deal to the sound vet, as the entire film — made with 70mm Imax cameras and immersive sound — was about creating a visceral experience of being there. (For his part, Landaker was primarily responsible for the “sonic blend” of the music and sound effects.) He says inspiration came from his father, who flew a B-17 during WWII. “He told me stories about how noisy it was, like being in a tin can. You had trust that it would get you there and back.”
The technology of course was much different when he mixed his first Oscar winner, The Empire Strikes Back. “We tried to pan the sounds of the Millennium Falcon around the room,” he remembered, “but the technology back then wasn’t like it is today. There was a clunky way to do it, since we didn’t have surrounds back then.”
Landaker’s been working with Nolan since The Dark Knight Rises, along with fellow nominee, rerecording mixer Gary Rizzo. Production sound mixer Mark Weingarten, with whom he also shares the ballot, joined the team on Nolan’s Interstellar.
At this Saturday’s Cinema Audio Society Awards, Landaker is double nominated for his final two movies, Dunkirk and The Lego Batman Movie.