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Shooting Billion Dollar Brain at Pinewood with Ken Russell


Working on the ice for Billion Dollar Brain
Billy Williams Film-maker
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I remember we had one important sequence to do on the ice and we were worried because it... it had been thawing. There was a local chap called the ice doctor and it was his job to test the ice and he had like a giant gimlet, which he used to screw into the ice, down to about 3ft, and he'd pull it out like a cork from a bottle and he'd come out with this 3ft of ice and he could look at it and tell you how strong it was, whether it was safe. Fortunately it was safe, because we had to land a helicopter on the ice. Oskar Homolka had to get out of the ice and there's a scene with Michael Caine before the helicopter takes off again. So we had the helicopter and a generator, and I remember, as we drove onto the ice, there were these cracks... there were these cracks in the ice and the location manager put pieces of wood across for the genny and the trucks to drive over, and these... these were several inches wide, these cracks, but we were assured that it was okay, and of course it was; fortunately we didn't have any mishaps. But we had a wonderful old Hollywood character called André De Toth. I say he was a character because he was such an interesting man; he had one eye, a black patch over one eye, and he was an old Hollywood director and in fact, directed the first film in 3D called House Of Wax. It's rather unusual to ask a one-eyed man to do a film in 3D. But anyway, that was one of his earlier films and he was married to Veronica Lake. He was vastly experienced and he was executive producer on the film and the second unit director. So he used to go off with Ginger Gemmel and get a lot of the run-by stuff and a lot of the stunts in the snow, and they came back with some wonderful material. So we finished shooting in the snow and went back to Pinewood.

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, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008