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Three Into Two Won't Go: Shooting on location


Probably the biggest set I've ever lit
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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The one great bonus of that movie was working with Milo O'Shea and the lovely Billie Whitelaw. And there was also a strong technical challenge at the end of that movie, where there's a scene which takes place on a large beach. For various reasons the film had to be made entirely in the studio... well, almost entirely in the studio because it takes place in New York in... well, it has two locations.

The first location is New York 1923 and the second location is Heaven, or Paradise, or whatever. Because half way through the film the hero is executed, having murdered his boss. And you sort of think: well, where do we go now, you know, and then you go to heaven. So Heaven is... basically Heaven in that film is a large beach with a funfair attached. So we built all that in the studio and the large beach was built in the so-called silent stage at Shepperton, which is a bigger stage. And it was lit with something like 18 brutes. It was a huge set. By doing that in the studio... it's quite interesting. By doing that in the studio with just a few cut-ins in a few inter-cut scenes which were shot on a real beach in Cornwall, most of the scene takes place on that stage beach. And it suits the film very well because it has just a touch of artificiality. Like in the distance, you see the sea, which is actually silver paper being moved up and down, which is what they used to do in those kind of circumstances. And the degree of artificiality, which might have bothered one in other circumstances, in there it fitted perfectly. But it was quite a challenge for me because it's probably the biggest set that I've ever lit, except one documentary scene that I did in St. Paul's Cathedral, but as for studio sets, it's by far the biggest set that I've ever lit.

But I loved working with Billie and with Milo, and we did another picture... I did another picture with Milo subsequently. And, also I had another connection to Billie Whitelaw, because she's married to Robert Muller who is a writer and author, and he wrote a book called The World That Summer, which is more or less about the same situation that I was in as a refugee from Germany at that age and in that period of time. When I read that book it had a very strange effect on me. It liberated... all of a sudden I found myself in tears, and it liberated something in me that I'd kept in very tightly and very unconsciously, and when I read that book it all came out. Then in... during that period I saw them at... at infrequent intervals. I had lunch and dinner with them. They lived in Canonbury, but they were always very charming people, as was Milo.

Born in Germany, cinematographer Walter Lassally (1926-2017) was best known for his Oscar-winning work on 'Zorba the Greek'. He was greatly respected in the film industry for his ability to take the best of his work in one area and apply it to another, from mainstream to international art films to documentary. He was associated with the Free Cinema movement in the 1950s, and the British New Wave in the early 1960s. In 1987 he published his autobiography called 'Itinerant Cameraman'.

Listeners: Peter Bowen

Peter Bowen is a Canadian who came to Europe to study and never got round to heading back home. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton University (in Biology) in Ottawa, and then did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario (in Zoology). After completing his doctorate at Oxford (in the Department of Zoology), followed with a year of postdoc at the University of London, he moved to the University's newly-established Audio-Visual Centre (under the direction of Michael Clarke) where he spent four years in production (of primarily science programs) and began to teach film. In 1974 Bowden became Director of the new Audio-Visual Centre at the University of Warwick, which was then in the process of introducing film studies into the curriculum and where his interest in the academic study of film was promoted and encouraged by scholars such as Victor Perkins, Robin Wood, and Richard Dyer. In 1983, his partner and he moved to Greece, and the following year he began to teach for the University of Maryland (European Division), for which he has taught (and continues to teach) biology and film courses in Crete, Bosnia, and the Middle East.

Tags: The World That Summer, Milo O'Shea, Billie Whitelaw, Robert Muller

Duration: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008