20.7.1952 – 7.12.2005
ADRIAN BIDDLE BSC
The son of a grocer from Woolwich, south London, Adrian broke into the film industry at the age of 15 thanks to his record as a champion swimmer on the Kent county team. At the time the film world was a closed shop: you could not get a job without being a member of the union, or get union membership without a job. There was, however, no waiting list for underwater camera crew, and when Adrian met Gil Woxholt BSC, the legendary underwater cinematographer promptly enrolled him as his trainee.
Thus in 1969, at the age of 16, Adrian worked underwater on On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969 Directed by Peter Hunt) and followed that with When Eight Bells Toll (1971 Directed by Etienne Périer, photographed by Arthur Ibbetson) and Murphy's War (1971 directed by Peter Yates, photographed by Douglas Slocombe OBE BSC)). 20 years later he was the cinematographer on another Bond film, The World Is Not Enough (1999 Directed by Michael Apted).
With tenacity and a natural affinity for cameras, he quickly proved his worth, earning promotion as a clapper boy, he started to work for Ridley Scott at the director's company, RSA Films, putting in time on numerous commercials, and went with him to France as loader on Scott's first feature film, The Duellists (1977 photographed by Frank Tidy). He was promoted again on Alien (1979 Photographed by Derek Vanlint), where he became Scott's focus puller, a role that required him to almost never leave the camera and made him a silent witness to everything that happened around it. Adrian used to say that he learned about lighting from being stuck on a crane with Scott for hours while the director set up the shot.
Ridley Scott was an ex-BBC art director who had successfully been making adverts since the late 1960s, creating a distinctive photographic style of diffused, smoky backlight, and he transferred this style to The Duellists and Alien. Advertising, however, was changing, producing sharper images with more contrast.
I joined RSA in 1980, and offered Adrian the chance to light a commercial himself; at the (very young) age of 28 he thus became a lighting cameraman. It was still photographers who achieved the best images at the time, so he developed several new lights to give adverts the same impact as stills. The next four years saw him produce an impressive body of work, resuming his relationship with Scott on the acclaimed commercial that launched Apple Computers in 1984.
The following year Scott introduced Adrian to James Cameron, who hired him to photograph the sequel to Alien, Aliens (1986). [Another DP started ALIENS but left the show early on and Adrian was able to take his place.] In this, his first feature film as director of photography, Adrian combined all his technical skills to produce images not seen before. The flashes from the machine guns had an almost fetish-like sensuality that has been copied in every film since, but on Aliens they had the shock of the new.
In general, films up to this point used lots of light and lots of depth of field. Adrian had the rare ability to work at a very wide aperture, allowing highlights, such as the gun flashes, to burn right through the film emulsion, while maintaining essential detail elsewhere. In the days before digital finishing, where cameramen now have great latitude in their exposure, he produced a perfect negative every time.
A stream of Hollywood pictures followed: Princess Bride (1987) for Rob Reiner, Ron Howard's Willow (1988) and two more films for Ridley Scott, Thelma and Louise (1991), for which he received BAFTA, Oscar and BSC Best Cinematography nominations and 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992) for which he got a BSC Best cinematography nomination.
In all, Adrian lit 26 films in 19 years, including Neil Jordan's Butcher Boy (1997), for which he received the European Cinematographer of the Year award. His last films were Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and V For Vendetta (2005 Directed by James McTeigue) for which he received the Manaki Brothers Film Festival Special award “for his impressive career as a cinematographer.”
The Guardian – Howard Guard/P.M.