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Working with Cher in Suspect


Shooting Suspect
Billy Williams Film-maker
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1986 I got a second opportunity to work with Peter Yates on a film called Suspect, which is set in Washington DC, in lots of the government buildings and courtrooms — it's a courtroom drama — and it's about the murder of a young woman, for which a vagrant is arrested under suspicion of having killed her – played by Liam Neeson – who turns out to be deaf and dumb. An attorney is appointed to defend him, played by Cher; a jury is formed; Dennis Quaid is one of the jurors and throughout the course of this investigation and trial, he starts to put a few things together, which he then passes on to the lawyer defending this vagrant – played by Cher– illegally, because there's not supposed to be any communication between the... the jury and... and any of the counsel... so anyway, it's a thriller, with lots of scenes in the streets of Washington where the buildings are nearly all white and there's no advertising in Washington, so it’s... it's a sort of black and white city almost, and at night... lovely opportunities to create night exteriors that... that look like a black and white movie and I'd wet down the streets to give a bit of shine and a bit more contrast to everything, so there are lots of street scenes and streets in derelict areas, in railway buildings and a lot of really unusual locations, and also, extensive court room scenes. Well, we shot in Washington in a real court house, and we did prison scenes down in the cells and then the major court room drama itself was shot in Toronto for entirely commercial reasons. The whole unit, after five weeks in Washington, was uprooted — when I say the whole unit, it was the key people — were moved, and the key artists moved to Toronto where a studio set had been constructed of... of the court room, so there’s this great upheaval in the middle of the film which... which, you know, I could never understand the economics of, but it’s all to do with the rate of exchange and things being cheaper in Canada.

Billy Williams, London-born cinematographer Billy Williams gained his first two Oscar nominations for the acclaimed “Women in Love” and “On Golden Pond”. His third nomination, which was successful, was for the epic “Gandhi”. He was President of the British Society of Cinematographers, and was awarded the Camera Image Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.

Listeners: Neil Binney

Neil Binney began working as a 'clapper boy' in 1946 on spin-off films from steam radio such as "Dick Barton". Between 1948-1950 he served as a Royal Air Force photographer. From 1950 he was a Technicolor assistant technician working on films such as John Ford's "Mogambo" (photographed by Freddie Young), Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (Bob Burke), and Visconti's "Senso" (G.R. Aldo/B. Cracker). As a camera assistant he worked on "Mind Benders", "Billy Liar" and "This Sporting Life". Niel Binney became a camera operator in 1963 and worked with, among others, Jack Cardiff, Fred Tammes and Billy Williams. He was elected associate member of the British Society of Cinematographers in 1981 and his most recent credits include "A Fish Called Wanda" and "Fierce Creatures".

Duration: 2 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008