Bosie and Felicity Vine-Miller
JET-SETTING around the world and rubbing shoulders with A-list film stars was all in day’s work for Dartmouth couple BosIe and Felicity Vine-Miller.
The pair, who are both now retired, spent their working lives in the Hollywood film industry.
Bosie fell into that world by accident, while Felicity became immersed in the industry after meeting and marrying her first husband, the film director Ridley Scott, while studying at London’s Royal College of Art.
Softly spoken Bosie, who rose from a humble runner to the dizzy heights of assistant director, said: ‘I got into it quite accidentally. I did my national service in the Royal Navy and when I came out I got a job on the south coast as a yachtsman which really paid nothing, but it was fun.
‘I was chatting to a chap in a pub one day and he said why don’t you come and work at Walter Studios, which is now a housing estate, as a runner, which is the very bottom of the production tree.
‘So I said yes and so I was thrust into this world where everyone drank large whiskies and drove motor cars. My world was strictly pints and a bicycle.
‘I had never been to the cinema in my life, I was an outdoors person. I really had no interest in cinema but I liked the lifestyle so I stuck at it and became a member of the union. From runner I rose to the giddy heights of third assistant director. Then I progressed to second assistant director and then first.’
Felicity travelled with Bosie, who she met in a pub in Wardour Street, Soho, in the early Seventies, when he was filming. Rather than just hang about the set she preferred to get stuck in and work, putting her hand to everything including catering, prop buying, set design and in the make-up and wardrobe departments.
Together they worked on countless film sets all over the world, meeting numerous actors and pop stars including Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas, Roger Moore, Christopher Lee, Harvey Keitel, Susannah York, Denholm Elliot, Jenny Agutter, Michael York, Tony Curtis, David Niven, David Hemmings, Adam Faith, John Thaw, Simon MacCorkindale, Alan Arkin, Tom Jones, David Essex and Engelbert Humperdinck.
‘They are just people,’ Bosie said. ‘If you are working away on location you have an awful lot to do with them because you are probably staying in the same hotel, eating in the same restaurant and drinking in the same bar but if you are on location in England you go home at the end of the day and don’t see them as much.
‘You just take for granted what happens on a daily basis when working with people that other people may be in awe of because to you they are just somebody you work with – it doesn’t matter whether they are Kirk Douglas or Tom Jones.
‘Tom Jones was very nice and David Niven was an absolute gentleman. If he saw you sitting in your directing chair he would say “I’m not busy, would you like me to get you a cup of tea.”
It’s memories of the film crews she worked with rather than the stars which bring a smile to Felicity’s face.
‘Film crews are like family, they look after you,’ she said.
‘The crew always got on well together and used to go out after hours. When we were filming The Riddle of the Sands in Germany with Jenny Agutter and Michael York the crew organised a fancy dress party.
‘Michael York was the judge and I dressed as Marlene Dietrich in the New Angel. The crew were outrageous and we all got thrown into the pool at the end. We used to have such good fun.’
Felicity does have fond memories of some of the film stars she has worked with, particularly Charlton Heston.
‘He was lovely, such a gentleman,’ she recalls.
‘He was never late and knew exactly what he was doing and was extremely courteous. He was an old-school actor.
‘He had to kiss me because I was standing in for his wife who was pregnant. I had to lie in the back of a jeep to go to hospital. While I was standing in for her he had to bend down and kiss me. It was lovely.
‘In Bad Timing I played Denholm Elliot’s mistress and had to come out of the shower naked rubbing a towel on my head. Bosie said if I wanted to do it, it was fine by him.
‘I had to entertain Christopher Lee on the Return of Captain Invincible. I had to keep him company because they didn’t want him to get bored while he was waiting to go on set.
‘I was utterly transfixed. He had a wonderful speaking voice, it had great resonance.
‘He was very courteous. But what do you talk about to someone like that? We talked about music. He was a fantastic singer, he could sing opera.’
Bosie worked in the movie business for more than 40 years, specialising in marine action, stunts, special effects and large crowd control. He said: ‘I loved being a first assistant, and I remained one for my entire career. I have directed movies and commercials of course, but I didn’t enjoy it as much being a first assistant director – I really enjoyed that role as you have to use your organisational skills as well as your creative skills in directing background action and crowd scenes.’
He has been assistant director on many box office hits including The Return of Fu Manchu, The Persuaders, The Riddle of the Sands, Revenge of the Pink Panther and Goodbye Paradise. He was also the associate producer on the short film, The Dollar Bottom, which won an Academy Award in 1981 for Best Short Subject.
‘It was absolutely wonderful to win an Oscar, it was the pinnacle of my career,’ Bosie said.
He has worked all over the world but cites India as his favourite location.
‘I particularly liked working in India because of their wonderful organisation skills,’ Bosie said. ‘It takes a long time to get anything done but it is always done, and they are very gentle people.’
In 1981 Bosie and Felicity also spent time filming in Dartmouth for the TV film Drakes Venture starring John Thaw. ‘A lot of it was shot in Dartmouth and I used local people as extras at Blackpool Sands,’ Bosie recalled.
Felicity’s two children with Ridley, Jake and Luke, also have successful careers in the film world. She said: ‘They were brought up in the film world. They would sit having breakfast with David Bowie and meet all sorts of stars.
‘My grandchildren were recently playing football with Russell Crowe on the set of Robin Hood.’
Felicity and Bosie lived in Australia for 10 years during the 1980s and it was there she began painting again.
Since then Felicity has brushed her way to two awards. In 2004, a self-portrait was accepted for the Not the Turner Prize competition organised by the Daily Mail and in 2006 her portrait of the Queen to celebrate Her Majesty’s 80th birthday won third place in a competition organised by the Daily Mail Weekend.•
First Published October 2012 By The Dart