Adrian Biddle - Writer

Cinematographer. Nationality: English. Career: Worked as assistant cameraman for Ridley Scott, 1970s. Address: British Film Institute, 127 Charing Cross Rd, London, WC2, England; Home Farm, Ripley Rd., East Clandon, Surrey, England GU4 75G.

Films as Cinematographer:


Aliens (Cameron)


The Princess Bride (Reiner)


The Dawning (Knights); Willow (Howard)


The Tall Guy (Smith)


Thelma and Louise (Scott)


1492: The Conquest of Paradise (Scott)


City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold (Weiland)


Judge Dredd (Cannon)


101 Dalmatians (Herek)


Fierce Creatures (Young and Schepisi) (co-ph); The Butcher Boy (Jordan); Event Horizon (Anderson)


Holy Man (Herek)


The Mummy (Sommers); The World is Not Enough (Apted)


102 Dalmations


The Mummy Returns ; The Weight of Water

Other Films:


The Duellists (Scott) (camera focus)


Alien (Scott) (co-camera focus)


By BIDDLE: articles—

Fisher, Bob, " 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Epic Film Recounts Legendary Epoch," interview in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), vol. 73, no. 10, October 1992.

Magid, Ron, "Unearthly Terrors/Scare Tactics," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), vol. 78, no. 8, August 1997.

On BIDDLE: articles—

Gainsborough, John, "Black-and-white All Over," in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), vol. 77, no. 11, November 1996.

* * *

Whatever the advances in computer-generated imagery, there will always be a place in films for a top grade director of photography. Working alongside such big name directors as Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Rob Reiner and Neil Jordan, cameraman Adrian Biddle specialises in high profile mainstream projects that tend to aim for the elusive "thinking person's blockbuster" category. Much of Biddle's work to date has been in big budget fantasy-adventure cinema, whether high-tech science fiction, mythical sword and sorcery, or borderline fantastique such as the James Bond franchise. To his credit, Biddle's undeniable lighting skill has never been swamped by the regular deluges of special effects in his movies, the two elements usually complementing rather than competing with each other.

Having served as a focus puller on Ridley Scott's Alien , Biddle's somewhat belated debut as lighting cameraman for the first sequel plunged him straight into the deep end of effects-heavy movie making. James Cameron's visual style is as dynamic as his storytelling, and he had Biddle working with quantities of smoke, mist, steam, strobes, flashes, flames, and gunfire. What could have been tired sci-fi cliches—blue and red washes, metallic greys, clinical whites, "spooky" backlighting—are handled with great assurance. Demonstrating an aptitude for sharply defined images, Biddle also gives liquid substances a curiously visceral quality: the condensation on Ripley's cryogenic pod, water splashing into a see-through cup, rain falling on the planet surface, sweat on Sigourney Weaver's finely chiselled face, even the gross-out drool from the aliens' mouths. Lurking in the shadows, the aliens are barely visible much of the time, light occasionally glinting off their exo-skeletonal bodies. When the shooting starts, Biddle's camera picks out every drop of acid blood spurting from the blasted creatures. He is equally assured during the quieter, more intimate moments, bathing a close-up scene between Ripley and orphan Newt in orange light, a moment of warmth in the overall darkness.

Ron Howard's violent fairytale Willow demonstrates Biddle's abilities outside the studio, the spectacular, if sombre British and New Zealand locations providing a realistic counterpoint to the fantastical plot and CGI bonanza. While the Industrial Light and Magic company provide a wealth of trolls, pixies, shapeshifters, and two-headed behemoths, Biddle's "natural" style of lighting emanates from more plausible points of origin: flickering torchlight, moonlight from a dungeon window, sunlight through trees. Forsaking the all-out sensory assault of Aliens , the film has more than its share of visual highlights: the forbidding grey stone of wicked Queen Bavmorda's realm, the island prison with a mountain range backdrop, a silhouetted procession of soldiers through a snowy wasteland, the final rainswept battle in the castle grounds.

Reunited with Ridley Scott a decade on from Alien , Biddle made his mark away from the fantasy genre. Dispensing with the tech-noir visuals of Alien and Blade Runner , Thelma and Louise offers increasingly ironic tourist brochure views of the American southwest as the protagonists travel down Route 66, taking in John Ford favourite Monument Valley along the way (Biddle's work netted him an Academy Award nomination). Few paying customers turned up to appreciate his photography for Scott's flop commemorative epic 1492 , which evokes both the dazzling spectacle and squalid brutality of the period.

The Mummy , an Indiana Jones -style reworking of the old horror favourite, is virtually a two-hour showcase for Industrial Light and Magic's CGI division. Those transfixed by the procession of scuttling scarab beetles, walking cadavers, firestorms, locust swarms, and transmigrating souls might miss out on the film's more subtle visual pleasures, such as burning torches flickering in the cavernous darkness of an Egyptian tomb. Working with largely orange-gold hues, Biddle provides some striking backdrops, notably the Sahara Desert and a ruined "lost city" built inside the crater of an inactive volcano. Sand and sky are rendered in sharp, bright tones, giving no hint of the dark, malevolent powers dormant beneath the ground. As with all of Biddle's best work, these images convey a sense of tangibility, texture, and atmosphere that even ILM's digital bag of tricks cannot equal.

—Daniel O'Brien

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