This week Iconic Images speak with Terry O’Neill about his time photographing Clint Eastwood on set.
“Like I’ve been saying, most of the time on film sets you are just sitting around waiting for the moment when the director calls you back over to shoot the scene. So in between takes, I’d just wander around, chat to the people working and look around for opportunities for images.” In the early 1970s, Terry O’Neill found himself working more and more taking press shots for Hollywood Studios. He was naturally gifted, and after a decade spent on the streets of Swinging London, O’Neill knew a good, unposed image when he saw one. The studios liked him because the actors and directors liked him. “I can talk to anyone,” Terry recalls. “I never had a problem just striking up conversations with people, whether that person was Audrey Hepburn, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney or Sean Connery. For the most part, we were all just working. I was working behind the camera and they were working in front of it. I never treated them with kid-gloves, never gossiped behind the scenes and they trusted me to hang around to get great shots of them.
If it was a bad shot, or a shot that was less than flattering to them, I didn’t run it. That’s not what my job was. And I think they respected me for that. “I was also around the same age as most of the people I was taking photos of. And there is an advantage in being English in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s the accent,” he laughs. “I think Brits are just born with the natural gift of the gab. Plus, the Hollywood types were really obsessed with the ’60s Brit scene. I remember when I first came to Hollywood in the early 1960s—to shoot people like Fred Astaire—all he wanted to talk about was The Beatles. Imagine that! “I was on the set of a western called Joe Kidd , starring Clint Eastwood and directed by John Sturges. Clint was cool, no surprise, but didn’t really like having his picture taken. So the shots I was able to sneak in between the takes, other than a few classic portraits, were mainly off-the-cuff, when he wasn’t looking.”
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