The Artists - Steve Chorney and the Stunning Poster for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
Over recent weeks, one movie poster has attracted more attention than any other. The question everyone has been asking us? “Who illustrated that?”. The answer? "Mr Steven Chorney".
We reached out to him and were blown away when he agreed to have a chat.
We've packed the post with his amazing artwork. Enjoy!
Art of the Movies: Steve, it really is an honour to be talking with you. Thank you so much for taking time out of a busy schedule. First off, congratulations on the poster illustration for ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’. It is stunning and it’s introducing many new fans to the world of illustrated movie posters. Did you anticipate the amount of interest it would generate?
Steve: Honestly, we never know what will become of the work we do. There was a lot that went into this one from the first stages to the final choice - a lot of ideas from a lot of talented people. It just so happened that this design was the one chosen in the end.
Art of the Movies: It’s hard to think of anything that could have worked better! We’ll return to that film, but rewinding, your movie poster career really took off in the 1980s and 1990s. You’ve painted many of our idols, such as David Bowie (Labyrinth), Chevy Chase (Funny Farm), Eddie Murphy (The Distinguished Gentleman) and Tom ‘Magnum P.I.’ Selleck. You've actually painted him twice (Lassiter and Quigley Down Under)! From that era, I’ve read that Quigley is a particular favourite of yours. Why is that?
Steve: I was happy to work on a Western film for a change! I had also worked on poster concepts for quite a few of Tom Selleck’s movies such as ‘Three Men and a Baby’ and its sequel, but I liked this one a lot. In addition, I was able to attend the premiere held at the Director’s Guild Auditorium and meet Tom for the first time. Oddly, the film is not listed as a Western in most references due to it being set in Australia!
Art of the Movies: The posters by the greats of that era (Amsel, Chorney, McGinnis, Peak, Solie, Struzan etc.) all have a magic about them. They are as iconic as the films themselves – sometimes more so! What is it that you guys have been able to add? How do you do it?
Steve: That question is very subjective! Every artist would likely contribute a different perspective. My observation is that art can often accomplish something photography cannot. By that I mean there are things an illustration can convey as almost believable whereas the same concept as a photographic treatment might be totally unconvincing. Conversely, in other instances the Photographic / Photoshop treatment may be the better choice. But illustration seems to allow for a bit more of that thing called ‘Artistic Licence’ - what you may be referring to as “the magic”.
Art of the Movies: Over the last few years we have seen a resurgence in illustrated movie posters, with many new faces now adding their own magic – either in ‘fan work’ or increasingly on official poster releases. You recently sat on the “Masters of the Illustrated Movie Poster” panel at Comic-Con with seven other movie poster magicians. What was that like?
Steve: It went by so fast I barely recall what happened! Overall each artist seemed to be happy to see a growing interest in the Illustrated Movie Poster. After all, being an artist is what each of us loves doing! It would be great to see this trend continue.
Art of the Movies: The panel provided an opportunity for experienced and newer artists to share their views. Do you think the industry has changed much over the years?
Steve: Many changes, yes. But in some ways the process remains the same. For example, when we ask what the deadline is on any given project the answer is almost always “ASAP, it was due yesterday!” Nothing new there.
On the other hand, the legal and contractual aspects of intellectual film property, such as Disclosure Agreements, Concepts and Art Ownership etc have become a veritable nightmare. We used to sign our work, we used to retain ownership of our work, and we used to show it to obtain more work. There has come to be a corporate goal to take all the creative rights away from the artist. Artists are bullied into signing away any and all creative rights through cleverly crafted legal contracts. It is a sad development.
Art of the Movies: Over the last few years you’ve produced amazing artwork for Inherent Vice (2014), Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) and Deadpool 2 (2017). How did your involvement with ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ come about? We understand that usually the Distributor works with an Agency who then work with the Illustrator, and that can all take place very late in the day, but posters of your work are actually featured in the film!
Steve: I was invited to work on the poster concepts very early on with an Agency here in Hollywood, BLT Communications. In many cases, poster concepts are being explored and developed during filming of the movie, sometimes even before production begins.
In this case there were quite a few ideas that were taken to final stage for possible use in the film as “prop posters” including works by veteran Italian Poster artist Renato Casaro.
Some were unexpectedly used as ‘Advance Posters’, some were seen in the film as props and some were never used at all. The direction for much of the work came from Quentin Tarantino himself. It is said that he is a serious collector of Movie Posters giving him a clear focus as to what he wanted to see in this film.
Art of the Movies: How many posters did you end up producing?
Steve: Approximately seven.
[AotM - Within the movie, Steve's poster for the fictional film 'Comanche Uprising' can be seen in Rick Dalton's apartment. His poster for another fictional film 'Operazione Dyn-O-Mite!' also features extensively.]
Art of the Movies: And what about process? Were they physical media illustrations or digital?
Well…as you noted earlier it is a bit like “magic” and you know the old adage: ‘A magician never tells’!!!! :-)
Art of the Movies: Well, you certainly added your magic to this movie. The portraits are amazing and you have captured the era in illustration as well as Tarantino did in film. As you mention, he is known to be a big movie poster fan. There are other great directors who feel the same way (Del Toro being a good example). Do you now see a brighter future for the illustrated movie poster?
Steve: Honestly, I can only hope we see more opportunities for Illustrated movie posters and Illustration in general.
Art of the Movies: Over the course of such a career, there must have been a few that got away… If you could illustrate a poster for any movie, from any period, which would it be?
Steve: It is funny that you ask this because lately I have done just that for an “Alternate Film Poster” concern in the UK. First time for me anyway, to create a tribute poster. I chose to illustrate Steve McQueen as BULLITT. I thought it fitting as it is 50 years since it came out and it remains one of the most famous car chases in film history. It should be released soon. And oh yes …I drive a Mustang!
Art of the Movies: That's a really iconic film. We look forward to seeing your take on it! Thank you Steve. It’s been a real privilege to chat and we look forward to seeing more of your fantastic work in the future.
Steve Chorney can be found at:
Adam and the Art of the Movies team.
P.S. There was a piece of Star Wars related trivia that Steve shared with us, that we have to pass on... "Thought you might find it interesting that around that time I was working with Drew [Struzan] in a small studio for a bit. I learned quite a lot from the experience. As it turned out he used my wife and I in costume for a reference of Leia and Luke." And here they are...
The 'Style D' Poster for Star Wars by Drew Struzan and Charles White (modelled by the Chorney's!)