Entertainment & Arts

Ken Russell: Tributes paid to film director

Ken Russell

Friends and colleagues pay tribute to film-maker Ken Russell, who has died aged 84.

Glenda Jackson - won an Oscar for Russell's Women In Love

He was absolutely wonderful to work with. He welcomed ideas from other people, from the clapper boy all the way up. But the final choice was always his. He created the kind of climate in which actors could do their job and I loved him dearly.

Visually he was just extraordinary. It was as if he had a third eye. And he managed to transmit that third eye, which was always rooted in his own passionate sense of justice, onto the screen.

Whenever I think of him I tend to smile and the sense of excitement of working for him and the camera is still palpable.

It was a great privilege to work with him and it was an even greater privilege to regard him and be regarded by him as a friend.

Melvyn Bragg - friend of Russell and his assistant in 1963

He was an exceptional man. He was almost, but not quite, an eccentric. He was on his own - he hadn't been to university, he'd been a sailor, he'd been a photographer, he didn't come out of the usual pockets.

He was difficult when I was his assistant for a year and when I wrote with him that wasn't so bad because I could hold my own with him there. But he was difficult because he was a perfectionist.

Having said that, he was a glorious director at his best, his best films will be remembered, he was a tremendous ornament to the rather supine British film industry and he was the glory of the television arts industry.

In later years, he was mainly making television documentaries or doing films in his shed at the bottom of his garden for the university students he worked with. I think some of those are stunning films.

But no, people thought he'd had it and he was past it and they were making the mistake of thinking that because he was a certain age he couldn't do it any more. He kept doing good films. He kept experimenting. He kept doing his own sort of films.

Vanessa Redgrave - played the lead role in Russell's The Devils

He was and his films remain the work of a genius. As a genius he was extraordinary and like all geniuses, at times his films were much less than genius.

The BBC should right now put on a whole series of his films in tribute to him. He is one of our great, great, great film-makers and internationally prized.

He had imagination, he had brilliance, he got terrific people around him in various departments including camera and design.

I'll never forget Derek Jarman's design for The Devils - it was a brilliant decision that he and Ken made not to set it in some actually existing 16th Century French town but to build sets that looked as if they were in the white tunnels of underground public toilets. It looked extraordinary. Every concept behind that film is owed primarily to Ken Russell and the people he chose to work with, that is always the mark of a great film-maker.

I don't think he is underestimated in Britain - I think the majority of people who love film-making totally prize his work.

Amanda Donohoe - starred in Russell's Lair of the White Worm

He pushed the boundaries of British cinema to its limits in both comedy and serious drama.

His work was unique, vibrant and provocative and his influence on contemporary film-makers should never be underestimated.

A maverick one of a kind, I will always remember him and smile.

Paul McGann - starred in Russell's 1989 adaptation of The Rainbow

Ken, in his own spirit, encouraged an irreverent joyousness on set and usually got it.

It's perhaps why you might do things for him you'd never do for some po-faced purist.

I remember him sat on a camera crane in kaftan and sandals shouting to us through a megaphone,"... even greater heights of abandon!"

He's how you imagined, and hoped, a movie director would be.

It was sad he couldn't find backing in his later years, and it tells you something about the priorities of our present day film industry.

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