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Heat and Dust: The crew


Heat and Dust: The London section
Walter Lassally Film-maker
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There was a section in London which was filmed subsequently. Actually, that house that appears in the London section, in the English section of the movie, is actually the home of John Murray, the publisher, who was Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's publisher, and the film is organised from a desk and a telephone in Murray's office. At that time Merchant Ivory didn't even have an office in England, or anywhere. Yes, they had an office in Bombay but that wasn't a great deal of use... great deal of help. So, John Murray, who also became a good friend and who later published my book, for which many thanks, became a friend. And the English section, which was filmed subsequently, also included some shots in Richmond Park, and they were done much later. They were done when the film was almost completely edited. I got a phone call one day where James noted that Ismail had hired a camera and me, in order to film Mahmud Sipra, the shipping tycoon, who had ambitions to become an actor. And I later had new contact with him when he was the producer, or the co-producer, of the film... the ill-fated film, The Bengal Lancers which was started but never finished.

Well, prior to that I had filmed his test, where he just invited us to come to his somewhat palatial office in Mayfair, and filmed him at his daily task, with two telephones and sort of saying: yes, right, well if you can't get through this so and so, divert that bulk loader from Hong Kong to Singapore, yes, well, if the price drops below 300 a ton, then buy. You know, that kind of thing. And we were just there, with a full crew. We had a camera, an assistant and a sound man and assistant, and at the end of the shoot, we were all handed a little brown envelope with 500 or some pounds in it, anyway, quite a lot of money, and that's how I got to know Mahmud Sipra. But James got word of it, you see, that we were doing this shooting, and he said: I desperately need a few calm scenes of a river flowing or some trees waving in the breeze, or something like that, to represent England, which, at the point when they're sitting there in India during a sand storm, and she plays Schubert... Schumann, and I want to inter-cut these scenes. So I said, 'Well, yes, God, we've only got the camera for one day, and there was never anymore money to hire another... for more time'. So I said, 'Well, the only place I can think of we can possibly do it, within easy reach of London, is Richmond Park'. Where... I'd grown up in Richmond, so I knew about Richmond Park. But it had changed considerably in that period.

So we went off to Richmond Park. I went off to Richmond Park with one assistant, and dodging the police, because you're not... let alone shooting, you're not even allowed to stop. All the roads to Richmond Park are lined with yellow lines, you're not even supposed to stop except in the designated parking areas. So, with the police, sort of, on our tail, we found four angles which look beautifully peaceful. But I laugh every time I see that. I have to smile every time I see that stuff because I know that just out of frame to the left is a busy motorway, and just over the skyline to the right are some skyscrapers poking up above the trees. It was all just so, and we got it by the skin of our teeth, because before we were finally told we really have to leave. But it's in the movie. Those four shots are in the movie.

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: London, Merchant Ivory, The Bengal Lancers, John Murray, Ismail Merchant, Mahmud Sipra

Duration: 3 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008