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Filming the climax of the wrestling scene in Women in Love

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Filming the naked wrestling scene in Women in Love
Billy Williams Film-maker
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When we came to do the scene of course there was quite a lot of anxiety and I think more amongst the crew, but Ken didn't seem to be at all bothered about it. And the two of them stripped off you see, and Ollie made quite a big deal out of the fact that... that Alan Bates was... was better equipped... ‘He's... he’s got a bigger donger’, he said. It was the worst thing in the world that you should be faced with someone who was better endowed, and I think it was all of a ploy to sort of relax the tension. And he kept dodging off into the corner to see if he could kind of improve matters a bit, and then coming back and... I mean it was all a bit of a laugh and I think that Ollie had had a couple of Vodkas or so before he started. Alan was absolutely sober and taking it very seriously, and... and Ollie was just fooling around for a bit. Well when we got into the... the real thing it was... there were no holds barred and they'd had a certain amount of instruction from a stunt arranger. We had a... a heavy kind of Persian rug on the floor, a huge rug, and underneath that was an underlay of rubber about 2in thick, and that was the only protection they had. There were no stunt doubles; everything was done by the actors, and they were throwing themselves around all over the place, taking some really heavy falls, and all the time with this...- this fire raging with this flickering light. Well they only agreed to do it fully nude for one day. So on the second day we still had more to do, so we had to confine ourselves to kind of waist upwards.

And then when the wrestling is over they... they sit together with the fire behind them and talk about their relationship.Now Alan Bates, who plays the character Rupert Birkin, wants a closer friendship than Ollie is willing to share with him, and you perhaps get the feeling that he's bisexual, because he's in love with this women whom he will marry, but he also wants a very close relationship with a man, and this is a... a recurring theme throughout the film. And he talks about the ancient knights who became blood brothers by cutting their arms and mixing their blood together, and that... that maybe they should do something... perhaps not involving the blood but that they should have a very special close relationship. And Oliver Reed is not so sure about this, and he gets up and leaves Alan on... on his own, seated on the floor, and he goes to a light switch and switches on a light, which brings up... takes it from a low-key scene with flickering firelight to a... a sort of night interior with a colder light, and it just breaks the intimacy of the scene, and it's a wonderful end to that very close, physical contact that we've experienced with the wrestling into a kind of more remote quality emotionally.

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: 3 minutes, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008