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"Hamlet" relives in 70mm!! - a visit to the set

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: 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 and 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 outside.

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 Kronborg Castle

Internet link:




As you know Kenneth Branagh is due to shoot his upcomming film of "Hamlet" in Panavision Super 70. I have recently written a letter to him about the 70mm Association.

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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Updated 21-01-24