"Hamlet" relives in 70mm!! - a visit to
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
Wouter de Voogd
Issue 44 - March 1996
In January 1996, Johan Wolthuis and I were the lucky
guys to actually visit the set of a brand new 70mm film
"Hamlet", a film from Castle Rock starring
Robin Williams, directed by Kenneth Branagh. At this date, Mr Alex Thomson (BSC) was so kind to show
us around the set at Shepperton Studios in London and
answered all our questions concerning 70mm film and the
production of films in general.
Mr Thomson has been second cameraman on "Lawrence of
Arabia" and has made "Cliffhanger" and
"Demolition Man" as director of photography to
name a few big budget productions.
Mr Thomson always wanted to make a 70mm film. This almost
occured a few years ago, when Sir David Lean had plans in
shooting "Nostromo" in 70mm [65mm].
Actually the film was only two weeks away from start of
production, when Sir David passed away.
The decision to use 70mm instead of 35mm on "Hamlet"
was partly a creative, but (surprisingly) also a
financial decision. Firstly it has always been a dream of
Mr Kenneth Branagh, the director, and Mr Thomson to once
make a film in 70mm. Castle Rock only agreed doing the
film in 70mm, if it would not cost them anything more,
concerning film stock, camera rent, etc. Panavision, Inc
Kodak were so kind to let them use the materials for the
price of a 35mm production. So the 70mm production will
cost "only" 80.000 pounds more, of a total
budget of 14 million English pounds. The dailies will be
processed by Technicolor in London. Processing of the
dailies will unfortunately take more time than ordinary
35mm film. Mr Thomson also planned to use more lights
than normally, to cope with the (lack of) depth of field
of 70mm film. Most of the filming will be indoors,
although a small part of the film will also be shot
Seeing a real film set for the first time is quite
something. I had expected something a little artificial,
when examined closely. But everything looked very
realistic, all the details were there. It is classic
looking decor, time setting in the 19th century. The set
contained walls filled with man- sized mirrors, which
could be turned if needed, when they somehow would
disturb the lighting. Most of the props used also looked
if they came from the 19th century.
After also visiting the set of "101 Dalmatians"
we had to leave the studio. We made it clear to Mr
Thomson that the future of 70mm was (partly) in his hands,
and he promised us he would do his best, to make this
film as good looking as he possibly could.
Let us hope this film will revive the interest in 70mm,
not only for the moviegoers, but also for the filmmakers!
Further in 70mm reading:
”Hamlet” in 70mm at
As you know Kenneth Branagh is due to shoot his upcomming film of
in Panavision Super 70. I have recently written a letter to him about the
By his choice of the system he is clearly well informed about the
advantages. I did stress that he should consider using directional dialogue
and I also hoped that the presentation of the film could utilize many of the
features of the road show. I suspect that at the end of the day, the
distributor will do what they consider to be the most profitable, and ignore
SHOWMANSHIP. Let us hope that "Hamlet" makes a big impression in 70mm. Mel
Gibsons "Braveheart" was crying out for 70mm filming. I think had he used
it, the process would have become a talking point in Hollywood.
I will let you know if I receive any reply from Branagh. Yours sincerely,
Simon Lewis, England.
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