My Best Shot
January 2011 London, UK Nikon D3s
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.”
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.