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                                         AN INTERVIEW WITH MIKE ELEY
  e’s been face to face with wild animals in Africa and up a cold mountain in Touching The Void. But nothing had quite prepared cinematographer Mike Eley for the genteel domestic world of BBC costume drama. It was,
Eley admitted, distinctly nerve-wracking as he started work on Andrew Davies’ latest Anthony Trollope adaptation, He Knew He Was Right, an Othello-like Victorian tale of marital breakdown and jealousy.
“I’d never been on anything quite that scale before. They rightly have this reputa- tion for being lush and glamorous; what they look like is often what the audience tune in for on a Sunday night – that feast, that period- ness. I felt quite a responsibility to deliver that, and having never done anything quite like it before was daunting.”
“At the end of the day, I felt I’d been through the wringer. In fact, it had been a good thing: a chance for the actors to get to know you and feel comfortable. You begin to get into a frame of mind where you realise there’s another three months of this and so you’ve just got to pace your- self accordingly.”
But had Eley, who claims he was sur- prised even to be considered for the job by producer Nigel Stafford-Clark and director Tom Vaughan, delivered?
“As Tom said: if the first two days’ rushes go through and there’s no call-back from the BBC then we’re in the clear and we can just get on with it. In fact, we did get a call, but it was very positive. Apparently someone from the Beeb said that Laura looked ‘like Vivien Leigh’. As far as I was concerned that was as good an endorsement as I could have hoped for.”
According to Eley, they jumped in at the deep end. “Our very first day, which turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year [in one of the hottest summers on record], was an interior bedroom scene on location involving a crucial argument between our main couple [Laura Fraser, Oliver Dimsdale]. It’s a very emo- tional, even pivotal, moment in the story.
Eley had long worked in documentary – like the Modern Times and Cutting Edge strands – as well as, shall we say, documen- tary-like drama and comedy such as Ken Loach’s The Navigators and Mike Bassett: England Manager. Not to mention the just- completed Touching The Void, when he was called up by Stafford-Clark and Vaughan.
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Photos main: Mike Eley (right) with director Kevin Macdonald and focus puller Dan Shoring (centre) in action on Touching The Void; Above l-r: Oliver Dimsdale, Laura Fraser, Christina Cole and Stephen Campbell-Moore in He Knew He Was Right (photo © BBC)
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