Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight had a lot going on within its six installments, from Steven dealing with Marc to Spector struggling with Khonshu on top of having to convince the entire Egyptian God hierarchy that he was the good guy. Despite all of those things going on at once, there was another wrinkle in the titular character’s situation, which likely intermingled with all of those: Jake Lockley. The mystery third personality hidden in Marc’s psyche was only revealed in the post-credits scene of the season finale, but he had been felt much earlier.
The first clear nod towards his existence was at the beginning of Episode 3, where both Marc and Steven are taken aback by the violent deaths of several criminals; incidents they don’t remember being behind themselves. This kind of confusion even seemed to be new for Marc, who had once always been in control.
Then there was also the shaking third sarcophagus in the asylum within the final moments of the show’s fourth episode, in addition to all of the other Jake Lockley teases in the series.
Now, one of Moon Knight’s cinematographers has commented on how the team tried to hint at the third persona’s presence throughout the show—including how many of them were happy accidents.
Paving the Way for Jake Lockley
In an exclusive interview with The Direct's Russ Milheim, the director of photography (DP) for Moon Knight’s third and fourth episodes, Andrew Droz Palermo, talked about filming multiple Oscar Isaacs and sneaking in references to the titular character’s third persona.
Palermo admitted that “sometimes [the Jake Lockley hints] weren’t always intentional,” but he did often attempt to try and “catch two [Oscar Isaac’s] in a reflection:"
“Sometimes they weren’t always intentional, but they would be little happy accidents. Often if you look very closely in a mirror, you can see that there is a double image. If you put your hand to it, you can see that it's both you but also an additional you. So anytime... where I could catch two Oscars in a reflection, even if it was just a subtle thing, It always felt like a win to me because I know that people who know the comic book would be looking for that.”
How often did these situations pop up? Well, according to the filmmaker, “they’re kind of all over,” and audiences can often “see a little double image instead of just a single image:”
“They’re kind of all over, actually. Often it’s not just a single reflection. Particularly ones that are more off the cuff. You can kind of see a little double image instead of just a single image.”
A common fan theory is that Jake Lockley is actually the persona who asked Steven’s co-worker out on the date in the series’ first episode. It’s an idea Palermo “actually never thought about:”
“That’s good. I actually never thought about that. I always assumed it was Marc that had asked, but that does track. I believe you there. Marc’s married… I never considered who had asked either.”
One of the biggest challenges for the cinematographer was “anytime [there was] twinning,” with those situations “each [presenting] their own unique challenge:”
“I think for me, anytime there’s twinning. Anytime there’s either two Oscars in one room or Oscar talking to himself in a reflection. Those each present their own unique challenge, and when the camera moves, that challenge is amplified. I didn’t have so many of the complex situations that [Gregory Middleton] had in Episode 5, where it's an entire episode of twinning. But [Greg] knew that from the beginning, that number five was the twinning episode and that every bell and whistle known to man was going to be utilized.”
He went on to detail the scene at the end of the second episode “where [Oscar Isaac is] talking to himself in that pyramid structure” and how they had to shoot him multiple times while utilizing multiple techniques to pull off the many personality shifts:
“We had a scene at the end of episode 2, where he’s talking to himself in that pyramid structure, and so for every reflective surface, we need to shoot Oscar again, and also he was walking around the thing. We used a lot of traditional methods of hiding cuts, or Oscar just changing character in the middle of a pan so that when it was off of him before it went to the mirror, he could change character. Or we used other thing, tools which allow us to repeat a camera move, and he could be in a different position.”
Palermo joked that even now, when he sees reflective surfaces, he thinks of all those situations:
“Those mirrors and things—we finished the show almost in October [of 2021], and I still kind of see reflective surfaces everywhere and think about them. And I’m glad not to be shooting those right now.”
One of the biggest sequences within those mirrors was the moment Steven Grant had his fateful conversation with Marc Spector in the storage unit. So how did they pull it off? Well they “first… tested [all of] those surfaces,” and when the time came to film the scene, “there was no other crew in that room besides the camera operator:”
“So we first of all tested those surfaces. You know we had a number of different surfaces and coatings applied in pre-production, and on-camera test, I brought each of them for the camera to determine what amount of reflectivity we wanted. Because if it were a perfect mirror, it maybe wouldn’t have had an air of mystery to it, so we kind of found a nice in-between… and then it’s a simple enough thing to just try to avoid yourself in the reflection. There was no other crew in that room besides the camera operator. It would be Oscar [Isaac] and a camera operator. So the camera operator largely could avoid himself. But there is one shot where we’re rather flat onto the wall, and he’s in the frame, and he can see himself, but as long as his body isn’t overlapping Oscar’s body in reflection, VFX can come in and just erase him, because we got clean plates of everything.”
The VFX department played a big part in making the whole scene possible, as they “photographed the entire room… [which helped them] recreate it in 3D:”
“They of course photographed the entire room. They can recreate it in 3D after they do all of their LiDAR scanning. There’s a ton of post-production tricks, but for the most part it was just keeping my lights off the floor—I never had a light on the floor, it was always from above in sort of softboxes, and then just trying to avoid the camera operators… it definitely was [a pain every now and again]. Because your mind thinks of a shot, and then you get there and frame it up, and then you realize, ‘Ah man, I’m in the shot.’ Or, ‘All of my lights are in that shot!’ So maybe the light isn’t as beautiful as you might like, but you make these little concessions to make the whole work.”
Oscar Isaac's performance throughout Moon Knight had to accommodate for varying degrees of sanity. So how did Palermo help portray that? According to him, he simply “[left] Oscar [Isaac] the room to run:”
“I think just leaving Oscar [Isaac] the room to run, to move, and to be fidgety. You light often while Oscar is getting ready, so I’ll light to the stand-in; maybe the stand-in is just sitting in a chair. So when you’re starting to light, you start building, you start adding things. You add a stand here; you add a stand there. Suddenly, you have no freedom as an actor to move.”
In order to help make sure he gives the actors the room they need, Palermo specifically asks himself if “[he] is boxing the actor in” and if he “need[s] to allow them [more] room to move:”
“So, I like to look at the objects around and ask myself, 'Am I boxing the actor in? Is it okay in this instance? Do I think that they’re not going to do anything beyond what we have rehearsed? Or do I need to allow them room to move?’ And so that’s just something I look at often when I’m lighting. I try to accommodate that for actors. It can be difficult. It can be difficult to provide good lighting and space for them to move. So, you know, it’s a push or pull.”
The Subtle Jake Lockley Introduction
With the way MCU fans tear every little detail apart, one might think every single Easter Egg or nod to something was all intricately planned out. Yet, based on what Palermo had to say, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
For example, those third reflections may not have been planned at first, but when everything happened to line up that way, the creatives on the other side of the camera were more than ready to take advantage of it.
It’s great to hear how familiar Palermo seems to be with some of the source material. Even if he isn’t intimately versed in all the details, the filmmaker is knowledgeable enough to be on the lookout for what fans might be looking for.
With Jake Lockley now formally introduced to audiences, hopefully, those hints to his existence become even more clear—to the point that they’re more aimed towards both Marc and Steven. At some point, the two are going to have to come to realize how something strange is happening with them.
Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+.