PAUL Wilson chats with David A Ellis
The late Paul Wilson was a camera operator and special effects cameraman. Born On the 15th March1925 he worked on numerous films, including Where Eagles Dare, I Could Go on Singing and the black and white Miss Marple films from the early sixties, starring Margaret Rutherford. He was one of several operators working with director of photography Gilbert Taylor on the Beatles movie, A Hard Day’s Night (1964), and was the camera operator on the Beatles next outing, the 1965 movie Help! After operating on main units he went into the special effects area and worked on such films as ( Cape Fear (1991), and several Bond films, including Moonraker (1979), GoldenEye (1995) and Die Another Day (2002). He retired after this, aged 77.
DE: Would you tell me about operating with the Beatles?
PW: Several cameramen were employed on the film A Hard Day’s Night. The main operator was Derek Browne and the director of photography was Gilbert Taylor. On one occasion we used five cameras. This was in the Scala theatre in London. Though there were a number of us on the film, the only two camera people credited were Taylor and Browne.
DE: Were there any difficulties?
PW: A lot of shots were hand held using Arriflex cameras. Some shots involved television sets, so to keep in sync, these were shot at 25frames per second instead of 24. Some shooting was done handheld on trains. As real carriages were used it was sometimes difficult to get shots.
DE: You were the credited operator on Help! Would you tell me a bit about this?
PW: On that we used a mixture of Arri and Mitchell cameras. I had to leave before the end because it overran, and Freddie Cooper took over the operating. The director of photography was David Watkin. The film took around twelve weeks to shoot. We had three weeks in Austria, followed by four in the Bahamas. The rest of the time we shot at Twickenham and locations around London.
DE: What was Margaret Rutherford like?
PW: She was a lovely lady and she always remembered your name. Murder at the Gallop (1963) took around eight weeks to shoot. We started on the film just after Christmas and it was snowing. When we shot the locations we had to remove the snow, as it wasn’t supposed to be snowing.
DE: What was the great Judy Garland like in I Could Go on Singing (1962).
PW: It was quite difficult to shoot. The moment she was doing her songs she was fine, it was when she was acting it became difficult. We never knew what she was going to do; it was like shooting a newsreel. Sometimes she would move sideways when it should have been forward.
DE: I see you were on Chariots of Fire (1981) as the second unit director/ cameraman.
PW: Yes, on that I shot a lot of the running sequences, some in slow motion at 120 frames per second.
DE: You worked with Charles Chaplin on The Countess from Hong Kong (1967), what was that like?
PW: It was an experience. I suggested that we track into the cake in a wedding scene and he said, I don’t want any of that Hitchcock stuff in my picture. He was getting on in years but a flash of his early years could be seen when he demonstrated what he wanted.
DE: You worked with Hitchcock on Frenzy (1972). Would you tell me a bit about him?
PW: I worked with him when he was getting on in years, but he was an interesting man to work with. He knew what the camera was seeing all the time. He would say, Paul, what lens have you got on. I would say, for example a 35mm and he would know exactly what it covered.
DE: Finally, which was your most difficult as an operator and on special effects? Also when did you retire?
PW: As an operator it was Where Eagles Dare (1968) and on special effects Superman (1978). I retired on the film Die Another Day (2002).
Paul Wilson passed away on the 3rd June 2014.
David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk