a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Freedom while working on The Wind and the Lion


I forgot to fire the gun!
Billy Williams Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

So that was the scene which had been scripted. Well prior to shooting it, I... we'd got a little bit of time before we were going to shoot. I said, ’Well John, do you think I could rehearse my lines a bit first’ and he said, ’No, no, no’. He said, ’Don't worry about the lines’. He said, ’Let's go and do some shooting’, because, you know, guns were his passion. So we went off set and I was shown in great detail how to draw a pistol and take aim and fire, you see. He said, ’No, no, no, no’. He said, ’That's no good’, he said. ‘With real bullets’, he said, ’You get a bigger recoil’. So I had to do it again and take aim and then... when... when the blank goes off, to take the recoil. He was very kind of particular about everything being correct as far as the way weapons were handled and everything.

So we practiced this for quite a while... ’Okay, okay, let's... let’s go and do it’. So we go back and get everything ready, you see, so I'm sitting there, made up and everything, all dressed up to the nines, and I... George Cole is my gaffer, you see, and there's a lot of leg-pulling going on about me being in front of the camera, and I've got this line that I must say as I'm getting up: ’Brigands!’ and George made... George made up an idiot board with ’Brigands!’ on it. He's holding this... this above his head so that I won't forget the line, and... and we're all ready and I said, ’Well George how's the light, what's happening with the light’, and he said, ’Don't worry about the light’. He said, ’The light's okay’. He says, ’Just don't forget the line’. So we start rolling the cameras and there are five cameras on this, including a Slave, which as you know, is... is a camera without any crew around it because it's in a dangerous position, and this Slave camera was right where the horseman is going to fall, so it captures the fall. So we've got five cameras ready, you see, so okay... all the cameras start rolling, you see, and I'm... I’m talking to Candy and we're talking about the wine and all that and... the horse.... the horses burst through the trellis, you see, and I turn, draw the pis... get up, draw the pistol, shout ’Brigands!’ go to the mark, take aim and the horseman does the most spectacular fall and the director says: ’Cut’, and it was terrific except I hadn't fired the gun. I got everything else right... there's so much... what I didn't realise when you're in front of camera, there is so much to think about, so many things going on and the timing of everything is so precise... I'd forgotten to do the thing that was the most important thing in the... for the director... it was that I fired the gun properly. So, of course, we had to fake it but it was a great scene, a great action scene. And then... I then, you know, I fire the gun, kill about three or four Berbers and then I go to fire and shoot another one and I run out of bullets, and so I take aim with the pistol and it's ’Click’ and I say: ’Oh damn’... very British: ’Damn’, you see. And then the next cut is a Berber charging at me with his sword raised to cut me down and that's my exit from the picture.

When we came to this... this scene, this stunt scene, the director said, ‘Oh’, he said, ‘I don't know’. He said, ’This is a bit risky; we better put Phil in’. Well Phil was the second unit director-cum-stuntman, you see, so Phil had to get into my suit, which was too small... he was bigger than me, the suit was a bit too small, and so Phil doubled for me, you see. Well, my daughter Jo was in tears. She said: ’Daddy, daddy, that's the best part of the film and you're not doing it’. And would you believe it, there has been a programme, which has been on television several times, about stunts in movies, and they show that clip and they show the clip of the stuntman doing my bit. So that was my debut in front of the camera and it made me realise what a lot... what a lot there is to acting. It's not just a question of getting the lines right. Do you remember one of the lines? Well yes, we were talking about the wine, you see, and that... well, you... you wouldn't drink a red Marg... a Margaux... you... it wouldn't be... you're late... she... Candy says... you... you know, you're... no, I say... she... let me get this right. She says, ’How about a... a Margaux’, and I say, ’Your late husband would never have approved a red Margaux before lunch’, kind of thing... it's the wrong... wrong wine to be drinking at lunchtime; it was too heavy. And... there were various other lines that were... that were cut; they didn't appear, you know.

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: 5 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008