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Remembering Alec Mills BSC GBCT

Feb 13, 2024

1932 – 2024

We send our heartfelt condolences to Alec’s family, friends and loved ones.

Alec was born in 1932 and had a keen interest in the cinema as a boy. Leaving school at 14, he got a job as a tea boy at Carlton Hill Studios, a small outfit in Maida Vale and later, clapper loader. He worked there for two years mostly on B movies such as Eyes That Can Kill (1947 d. Richard Grey, ph. Ray Densham) and The Monkey’s Paw (1948 d. Norman Lee, ph. Bryan Langley BSC) before he was called up for National Service.

On his return, he worked on several movies with DP Harry Waxman BSC, from whom he says he learned a great deal. Waxman photographed Alec’s first film as focus puller: Contraband Spain (1953 d. Lawrence Huntingdon). Many films followed, including Robbery Under Arms (1957 d. Jack Lee, ph. Harry Waxman), Guns at Batasi (1964 d. John Guillerman, ph. Douglas Slocombe OBE BSC) and Blow-Up (1966 d. Michelangelo Antonioni, ph. Carlo di Palma AIC).

Alec worked a lot for Walt Disney; as focus puller on Kidnapped (1960 d. Robert Stevenson), Greyfriars Bobby (1961 d. Don Chaffey) and The Moon-Spinners (1964 d. James Neilson) all of which were photographed by Paul Beeson BSC. He then operated on Guns in the Heather (1969 d. Robert Butler) photographed by Mike Reed BSC, which led to him to operate on 20 episodes of the television series The Saint (1966).

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

In 1969, Alec operated his first James Bond movie; On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, photographed again by Mike Reed, followed by five more Bond features. In 1971, Alec was main unit operator on Roman Polanski’s Macbeth together with cinematographer Gil Taylor BSC. ‘It was particularly exacting both mentally and physically.’

In 1981, Alec graduated to cinematographer on The Island Adventure (d. Anthony Squire). ‘Your first job as a DP is always scary, but I was working for free for producer, Stanley O’Toole, to get a credit.’

His biggest challenge as a cinematographer came on Shaka Zulu (1986 d. William Faure), a ten-part television series shot entirely in South Africa. But it was this production that convinced Cubby Broccoli that he could shoot the two James Bond films The Living Daylights (1987) and Licence to Kill (1989), both directed by John Glen.

In 1990, Mills directed two films, Bloodmoon and Dead Sleep, both photographed by Australian cinematographer, John Stokes ACS, after which he returned to cinematography. His last feature was The Point Men (2001 d. John Glen)

Alec was made an associate member of the BSC in 1977 and a full member in 1984. He served on the board of governors from 1998 to 2009.

OTHER CREDITS: Space Riders, Hot Target, Aces: Iron Eagle III, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, Soldier, Soldier

[Biography from PRESERVING THE VISION by James Friend ASC, BSC and Phil Méheux BSC]

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