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Cinematographer Alec Mills, known for his work on James Bond films, dies at 91

Renowned cinematographer Alec Mills passes away at 91.

Alec Mills, a talented cinematographer who made significant contributions to the iconic James Bond franchise, has passed away at the age of 91. Mills, who started his journey as a camera operator, eventually rose to the position of cinematographer on two Timothy Dalton-starring Bond films, The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill. His son, Simon Mills, announced his passing on Monday, revealing that his father had been battling dementia and was residing in an assisted care home in Buckinghamshire, England.

During his tenure in the Bond series, Mills operated the camera on five films: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), and Octopussy (1983). Director John Glen recognized Mills' talent and selected him as the director of photography for The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill, making him an integral part of these two Bond installments. The latter film was primarily shot at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City.

Mills' contributions to the film industry extend beyond the world of James Bond. He worked as a camera operator on several notable films, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Tragedy of Macbeth (1971) directed by Roman Polanski, Gulliver’s Travels (1973), Death on the Nile (1978) directed by John Guillermin, Eye of the Needle (1981), and Return of the Jedi (1983) directed by Richard Marquand.

Born on May 10, 1932, in London, Mills grew up with a passion for movies. He used to sneak into movie theaters with his friends until they were caught, leading to a stern talk from his father. This incident, however, served as a catalyst for his future career in the film industry. Mills began his journey by working as a clapper and loader at Carlton Hill Studios for three years, gaining valuable experience on films such as The Sleeping Tiger (1954) directed by Joseph Losey. He then joined the British Navy for his national service and later worked as a focus puller on films like Swiss Family Robinson (1960) and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961).

Mills' breakthrough came in 1966 when he worked as a camera operator on the ITV series The Saint, starring Roger Moore, who would go on to become another iconic James Bond. His exceptional work on the 10-part South African miniseries Shaka Zulu (1984-1985) convinced producer Albert Broccoli that Mills was ready to step up as a cinematographer for The Living Daylights.

Beyond his impressive filmography, Mills also made significant contributions to the film industry by co-founding the Guild of British Technicians in 1978. Additionally, he served on the board of governors for the British Society of Cinematographers from 1998 to 2009. Described as kind, warm, and generous, Mills freely offered his time and encouragement to aspiring filmmakers.

In addition to his work in the film industry, Mills also shared his knowledge and expertise as a teacher at the National Film & Television School in Beaconsfield, England. He even authored a book in 2014 titled Shooting 007: And Other Celluloid Adventures, which offered fascinating insights into his experiences, featuring a foreword written by Roger Moore.

Alec Mills leaves behind a lasting legacy in the world of cinematography. His immense talent and dedication to his craft played an essential role in the success of numerous films, including the beloved James Bond franchise. Our thoughts go out to his family, particularly his wife, Suzy, whom he married in 1977. Alec Mills will be remembered not only as a skilled cinematographer but also as a compassionate individual who selflessly contributed to the film industry.

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