My Best Shot

Jan­uary 2011 London, UK Nikon D3s

NPhoto - - Contents -

Film pro Alex Bai­ley re­veals the shot that shouldn’t have hit the head­lines…

In a ca­reer span­ning more than 20 years, film stills pho­tog­ra­pher Alex Bai­ley has im­mor­talised cin­ema’s finest. His sub­jects in­clude An­gelina Jolie, Kevin Cost­ner, Keira Knightly and Judi Dench. “I’m not par­tic­u­larly fazed by any­one,” he says.

But while work­ing with Meryl Streep on the set of The Iron Lady, Alex felt some pres­sure. “The pic­ture of Streep as Thatcher was im­por­tant to them: the film-mak­ers, pro­ducer and di­rec­tor, hair and makeup,” says Alex. “Meryl Streep is de­light­ful but not a pushover. She falls into that very nice, yet for­mi­da­ble cat­e­gory.”

Be­fore film­ing com­menced, Alex spent a day pho­tograph­ing Streep in character, in dif­fer­ent out­fits, for images that were to be used as mon­tages in the film. It was a com­pli­cated task re­quir­ing around ten cos­tume changes, but Alex be­lieves it brought them closer to­gether. “It was a low-bud­get movie,” he says. “I said, ‘I don’t have the re­sources to go ridicu­lous with this so I’ve just got to be cre­ative with it,’ and she just said, ‘Oh dar­ling, we’ll do it to­gether.’ She was like that – she was in­ter­ested in what I was shoot­ing. She re­ally wanted to make it work.”

The re­ac­tion

Alex says that day of in­ten­sive work helped ce­ment their work­ing re­la­tion­ship. About half­way through film­ing, Alex’s pub­lic­ity shot of Streep as Mrs Thatcher was re­leased and any sem­blance of pres­sure was im­me­di­ately lifted by the ex­tra­or­di­nary me­dia re­ac­tion. “That pic­ture was re­leased right round the world. It was ev­ery­where be­cause it was a light news day and there was an un­canny re­sem­blance be­tween them. The cov­er­age was just eye-wa­ter­ing. It was on front pages, it was on news bul­letins. It was won­der­ful.”

The like­ness re­sulted in some news­pa­pers and broad­cast­ers run­ning Alex’s pic­ture when re­port­ing later news sto­ries about the real Mrs Thatcher. But it was a Thai TV sta­tion which made the big­gest blun­der: in re­port­ing Mar­garet Thatcher’s death in April 2013 it was Alex’s pho­to­graph of Meryl Streep that went to air.

Keith Wilson

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