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Nine Inch Nails, ''Closer'' (1994)
''We made it with an old camera from 1919, and the whole thing was hand-cranked,'' recalls director Mark Romanek, who also helmed feature films Never Let Me Go and One Hour Photo in addition to iconic music videos for Madonna, En Vogue, and Lenny Kravitz. ''We made prints, and I personally spent a couple of days dragging them around the parking lot and spraying aerosol shellac and holding lighters under them. We were just making it for art's sake, and YouTube didn't exist then, so it was a pretty ballsy and extravagant thing for Trent [Reznor, NIN's frontman] to do. But MTV liked it, so that started a long negotiation of how we can get it on the air. I want to go on record about the monkey: That monkey was not in any danger even though he appears to be in distress. The monkey was just munching on bits of banana and enjoying himself. We had an ASPCA person on the set. It wasn't harmed, and actually got paid more than some of the crew.''
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Beck, ''Devil's Haircut'' (1996)
''I was watching Truffaut's 400 Blows, and I was always struck by that final image, where the image freezes and it optically zooms in on the frozen frame, and I thought you could contrive a whole music video out of that really old-school gimmick,'' Romanek says. ''So I said I saw Beck wandering the streets like Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy, and then we'll do that 400 Blows effect. There's the scene where the car hits Beck in the leg, and the car actually hits him. The brakes went out on that car, and it really hit him, and Beck really f---ed up his leg pretty badly.''
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Fiona Apple, ''Criminal'' (1997)
''She was like 19 or 20,'' remembers Romanek, ''and the record was so precociously mature and sexual. We wanted something blatantly erotic, and that snapshot style of photography was big at the time, so the challenge for my cinematographer and me was how do you capture that quality of a flash that has just gone off, but in cinema where it's moving and continuous. We ended up getting a halogen light bulb from the hardware store and jerry-rigging it on top of the camera, and it just looked fantastic. That look has been copied quite a bit since then, but we did it in a crude dumb way with a $9 light bulb.''
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Janet Jackson, ''Got 'Til It's Gone'' (1997)
''That's one of the ones I'm most proud of and I think came out the best,'' says Romanek. ''Janet played me the song, and the Joni Mitchell sample put me in the mind of some sort of '70s thing. There was a magazine in Apartheid South Africa called Drum, and I found an obscure book about it. The photography in the magazine was stunning. I was looking through it while listening to the music, and something just clicked. So we built this pre-Apartheid celebration based on that African photography. People ask me where I went to shoot that, and it was all constructed on a sound stage on Hollywood Boulevard. It's all shot in Los Angeles, but it's incredible casting and incredible wardrobe.''
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Mick Jagger, ''God Gave Me Everything'' (2001)
''If you watch a film like Seconds or Requiem for a Dream or Mean Streets, there's that body cam rig where you can attach the camera to someone's body with a harness,'' explains Romanek. ''It's always cool when it shows up in a movie, but you couldn't do a whole movie that way. We strapped this 30-lb. rig to Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz for four days, 12 hours a day. It was miserable for them, and it was kind of a bad time for Mick, and at a certain point he said, 'I'm done with this now.' But the idea of having the cinema be driven by his physicality, that's pretty cool. That's an example of why music videos are a very cool medium.''
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Johnny Cash, ''Hurt'' (2003)
''As excited as I was to meet [Johnny Cash], he was not in great shape,'' Romanek admits. ''As a filmmaker, I was presented with this challenge: Do I prettify the situation, or do I take a cue from Johnny's legacy and just be honest? The latter was the only choice. So the piece started to become about a man in the twilight of a great life, and that's not the kind of thing most music videos have to deal with. It's a very somber song, so Johnny affected a somber mood as he sang it, but between takes, he was very funny and spry and making all sorts of risqué jokes with June, and they obviously still had almost high school crushes on each other, which was really touching.''
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Jay-Z, ''99 Problems'' (2004)
Romanek recalls that ''Jay said he wanted to do something that looked like art, like great street photography and not a music video. I spent a lot of time all over Brooklyn, and in the Marcy projects where he grew up. We spent three months cutting it, trying to piece it together in a way that looks purposeful. I told Rick [Rubin, who produced the song] that he had to be in the video and I had this vision of him in a fur coat and a cowboy hat. I don't know why, but I wanted to make him into some sort of Jew Cowboy Pimp, and he was down with it. I really had that image in my head and wanted to get it out of my system and on to film.''
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Jay-Z, ''Picasso Baby'' (2013)
On the thinking behind his second collaboration with Hova, Romanek notes, ''Because the song name-checks so many fine artists and is partially about his interest in art and the art world, the idea of performance art came to mind, and the idea of Marina Abramovic's work came to mind. I said what if we did something like ''The Artist is Present'' at a gallery in Chelsea. He loved that idea, and we sought out Marina's blessing to do our own version of that kind of structure, and she couldn't have been more open and enthusiastic about it. What you see in the film is very warm, human, open, joyful side of Jay, and a lot of people are having a really emotional reaction to seeing that. It's this tsunami of unfeigned joy and excitement for six hours.''