8 June 2010
Interviewer: Mike Dick
Interviewee: Joy Cuff
Camera Ruth Bolland
The copyright is vested in the BECTU History Project.
0:00:04.7 MIKE: The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. The name of the interviewee is Joy Cuff, ne Seddon - Matte Artist. The name of the interviewer is Mike Dick. Date: 8th June 2010 and this is Tape One.
0:00:22 Ok Joy, tell me about your background. Where were you born and brought up?
0:00:28.5 JOY: I was actually born in Liverpool because all my family's Liverpudlians but after the war, I was brought up in... well, they came down South and I was brought up in Twickenham I suppose. I went to my first school in Twickenham and then we moved to Banstead when I was about 8 and stayed there until I went to Epsom when I was 16 and that's when I also went to art school.
0:00:58.9 MIKE: Tell me about your passion for art. Where did that come from?
0:01:02.2 JOY: Oh, that was forever. I just... I can't remember when it started I mean I might have been 5, 6, 7. I just always drew. My dad was a commercial artist and he was freelance. I used to go on Saturday mornings... he'd take me up to his studio in London and I used to clear up, you know, help him tidy up. And the smell of, kind of, cow gum and, you know, paper and all that... ah, it was just... and I used to sit and draw, you see, while he was working. I suppose really he was sent to look after me while my mum had my little brother. But I remember when I was 8, I used to be teased at school because I can remember that, having different memories, because I was always drawing. And then when I went to secondary modern and it was a mixed ed, you know, a co-ed, I mean, a mixed education and the boys used to joke that I'd live in a garret, you know, for the rest of my life and I was only 13, 14 so I know that I was always drawing.
0:02:06.6 MIKE: Who has been your inspiration then? Who is your inspiration?
0:02:12.4 JOY: George Stubbs actually because I loved horses. I used to work down the stables from about 9... well, you know, little girls could go down and do things like that in those days... and so I used to draw animals and especially horses and I was really quite good at them. And Doris Cinicin[?] who was a Victorian female and Rosa Bonheur who was also a female and female artists in those days were really just a no-no. Rosa Bonheur used to dress up as a man to go around and do her paintings and I knew all that when I was about 12 so I was really quite impressed with that. And then I used to love the impressionists because my dad used to take me to the National Gallery.
0:03:07.1 MIKE: Where did you go to art school then?
0:03:09.1 JOY: Well yes, but this is back about 1957. There was something called '13 Plus' which you did 50% art and so at 13 your education is just nothing, you know. It fell apart really. But as far as I'm concerned, brilliant. I got into Ruxley Lane in Ewell. So I did 2 years... 3 years?... Yes, 3 years there and then I got into Kingston. I mean I left school when I was 15 because I was quite young in my year but I was just 16 when I went to art school, because now you have to be 18 with at least 5 O Levels I think. I had 2 O Levels and one was Pottery and one was Art [laughing]... and I did NDD which is National Diploma of Design which now I think is DPD, isn't it? I had 2 years intermediate... yes, 2 years foundation and 2 years intermediate and then you get your NDD so it's a 4 years course.
0:04:29.9 MIKE: So how did you get into the film and television industry?
0:04:32.0 JOY: Well, I didn't want to be directed to education and teachers because that's what they used to do... that's the only only route that if you went to art school you were sent down but my dad worked... by now he was working for Ogilvy & Mathers which is now... no, it was Mather & Crowthers and now it's Ogilvy & Mathers . So he was doing adverts and I remember chatting to him about... All I wanted to do is use my art so I wanted to go into the art department of whatever... perhaps it was an studio or live action studio but I'm trying to think...
0:05:28.6: [Cut Tape for thinking purposes]
0:05:33.2 JOY: Because at my final year of art school I just knew what I wanted to do, I went to St. Martin's for evening classes on set design and actually it's Steven Bundy, I just remember his name, he worked for the BBC. Do you remember him? No..? [laughing] He was a set designer and so I did a year of that so the I had that behind me so I started going... I applied to the BBC and I remember the letter, which I don't have anymore, but it said: I'm sorry, you don't have any experience therefore, you know... well I had an interview! They looked at my work. "You're a good little artist but you've got no experience" and I'm thinking well you've got to have a job to get experience, right? So where do I go? I then went around different studios because once you have one interview, well inn those day it was like this, they'd say "Go and say so-and-so", you know, Merton Park or Pinewood Studios. Well actually I went to Merton Park which burnt down in... actually it burnt down when we were there one night in the 1970s..? I can't remember now. Something like that. But I was there and I think it was Peter Mullins, somebody called Peter Mullins, who was an art director or assistant art director and he looked at my work and said again "ooh yes, you're a nice little artist", you know, and we looked at the board to see what was going and of course you have to be, it's a closed shop then so you could only get a job if nobody else had actually filled the space, and on the board there was a job. AP Films. It didn't say Thunderbirds. It said AP Films, Modeller. Well, although I did Pottery, I also did Modelling and I did painting and illustration and so I'm actually turning my hand to many things. So off I go to ring up and they... I think you'll find you've got the letter, I don't know whether or not you've got the letter from AP Films. So I get an interview and they gave me... the heads were about that big, right? [indicates circular shape with fingers] And they gave me this forma made in polystyrene and you model it in plasticine and they gave me Patrick McGoohan because everything was done from Spotlight so I had two weeks to do Patrick McGoohan and get him back and she looked at it... It was Sylvia Anderson and it was "yes, yes, I think you'll do" and so I started... Because I left art school in July and I started in...
0:08:42.3 MIKE: Which year was this? '64?
0:08:44.9 JOY: Well yes. Was that '64? That right because I was art school '60 to '64. And worked for about 18 months. I have got...
0:08:58.2 MIKE: Show me some examples, yeah... I mean, I'm starting to get the scale of these Thunderbird models now. How...
0:09:04.0 JOY: Two foot. Two foot high. But of course, with puppets, if you do the right proportions to a person, they look really really weird. So they have to be slightly, you know, the heads are slightly bigger...
0:09:19.2 MIKE: What sort of characters were you doing then?
0:09:20.7 JOY: Well I did the character characters because all the main characters were all done and every week you did an episode and I did the baddies and the policemen or... the most fun one I ever did, which I really liked, which was right up my street, was Ma Tuttle and they were the hillbillies. That's not a very good reproduction of it but I've got...
0:09:56.9 MIKE: It gives us an idea of it
0:09:58.0 JOY: yeah, I've got some nice slides there because that's a very very old colour photocopier so I mean they're terrible, they were terrible
0:10:09.9 MIKE: So the turnaround would be a week then. I mean, what would that be...
0:10:14.3 JOY: No, they used to actually... I'm trying to think... They did 26 episodes or something didn't they? No, so it was more than a week.
0:10:25.6 MIKE: Can you talk through the process from your point of view as...?
0:10:28.8 JOY: Well we used to get the forma of the head and you'd pick the eyes and the eyes were made by a place in Kingston I think but they were actually real eyes. I mean real glass eyes for people who need real eyes for their eyes to be replaced so you'd pick the colour of the eyes and then they went through the back of... that's right... into the back of the head, sorry, because you had to wig it as well but that was the last thing you did. And they're attached to strings coming out the side [indicated position with hands on own head] so you could make the eyes go either side. And of course you also had blinking. And eye lure eyelashes, you'd put real eyelashes on. So I had lots of those because people, they wear them now don't they? And you build up the plasticine, working on the model, and then once you've modelled it, to make it really smooth and skin-like, you can use turps and a very fine sable brush so it's really smooth. And then you coat it in emulsion and, with a flat modelling tool, you can rub it down so it's really really smooth and there's no finger marks in it. One of the funniest things is, you see, because you have to go and have it ok-ed by Sylvia, when it gets to this point, before you put the emulsion on, you know, otherwise you've got to cover, well, it's difficult to change it. Anyway, she had very long fingernails and it always used to come back with digs in it, because she'd point, you see, "and I think this bit should be..." [laughs] and you'd have this figure with nail marks in it so you'd get those out and, of course the other thing, I don't know if I should say this but, you know, sometimes people always have to criticise, they can't say "Gosh, yes, that's just right", you know? And you'd get "Well, I think you might be, if you do it this way..." so you'd go away and you'd have a cup of tea and you'd go back again. It was fine. Our little secret. And you actually get to that point and you start using oil paint because oil paint's lovely and fine and you start getting fresh colours and if it needs stubble, you put stubble around and you put your eyelashes on. And then you have to wig it. And that was, that was... you'd put little tiny bits at a time.
0:13:17.1 MIKE: What were the wigs made out of then? Do you remember?
0:13:19.3 JOY: Well, it was hair. I'm sure it was real hair because it was very fine. I think it was real hair. So you'd get a long strain of hair and you'd just cut the bit because sometimes they had a slight curve in them and you'd just cut the bit you wanted and you'd start at the bottom to wig it up.
0:13:41.3 MIKE: And how many would be in the team?
0:13:44.5 JOY: Umm, let me think. There was one... There was John Brown, John Blundle, there was me and then later on there was, somebody else joined us. There was four model makers. There was two people, two women in wardrobe and honestly it was, we had the workshop, which was quite small, and then there's almost like a cupboard, I'm sure it was a cupboard and they got the door off it and there's these two women sitting with their sewing machines and there's hardly any room to move [laughs]. And you had two stages, an A stage and a B stage and there was a live action stage, well, that's what they called it and then special effects and then there was the Art Department and the Editing room and then round the front, where Gerry and Sylvia were and you know...
0:14:38.5 MIKE: What was Gerry's role in all this then?
0:14:41.3 JOY: I didn't really have much to do with Gerry, it was Sylvia really. I know the other side of our workshop, the other side of the wall was the Rushes theatre, a little tiny Rushes theatre which was quite sweet and of course, being the only female in the workshop I remember being told off once because I'm always giggling, laughing. I mean, I can work and giggle and laugh at the same time but they didn't seem to think this, you see. Evidently, they had somebody in there they were showing and I was told off then, they thought it was a bit loud and...
0:15:19.6 MIKE: How old were you at this point?
0:15:22.1 JOY: I was twenty when I went there, yes.
0:15:25.4 MIKE: I mean, what was life like for you at this point?
0:15:30.7 JOY: Well, I moved into digs in Maidenhead. In actual fact, my landlady was Joan Rice, you know? Joan Rice of Robin Hood, Robin Hood of the 1950s so that was quite interesting actually because we had a kind of, you know...
0:15:46.7 MIKE: Because you're living away from home for the first time and you're in this new job but I mean, quite prestigious series, I mean, it's huge.
0:15:53.8 JOY: I know! My dad couldn't believe the fact... I think I... what did I earn? £12.50 a week I think. I mean, he was just gobsmacked. I couldn't have earned that much could I? It must have been £10.00. I was either £10 or £12. I know it wasn't any less. No, it must have been a tenner. I t must have been.
0:16:1.64 MIKE: Of course, that would have been very good money for that stage, for somebody of your age, yeah...
0:01:15.0 JOY: I know. Because when I was on 2001, I know in '66 the average wage was, I think, £14.50 so I think I only must have been earning a tenner. Because my digs were £4.10.
0:16:35.0 MIKE: So you were living in Maidenhead and they were based in Slough, wasn't it?
0:16:41:5 JOY: Slough, yes. Stirling Road, Slough and it was next to the Mars factory so that the kind of sickly smell of Mars bar chocolate and what goes into it in the morning was quite [makes noise as if to be sick]. But yes, we seemed to be, I think we were at the end of Sterling Road, the end of the road. I mean, it was just fun. We really had quite a lot of fun. And I met Sylvia in Richmond in about 1980. It was an opening of something that happened in Richmond and I said "Do you remember me?" and "Oh yes!" she said and we started talking about Thunderbirds and she said "We didn't realise what we had", you know, it was just something... What they wanted to do was live action. And they thought puppets, you know, we'll do a bit of children's television and it just took off.
0:17:40.2 MIKE: Because they had... oh, sorry...
0:17:42.9 JOY: No, sorry, I was saying Lou Grade had money in and so they aimed it at the American market and that's when it took off.
0:17::50.7 MIKE: Because they had Fireball XL5 and Supercar..
0:17:54.2 JOY: Yes, yes. Supercar, Fireball XL5, Four Feather Falls I think was their first one and yes, I don't know, not one before Thunderbirds, was there, but they did make a couple afterwards but yeah, I mean, it's been a money-maker ever since, hasn't it? And I think they must have really regretted what they threw on their skip outside but they keep on unearthing bits and pieces.
0:18:23.9 MIKE: So happy memories there?
0:18:25.6 JOY: Yeah, yeah, yeah, you know, I mean, there was lots and lots of young people. I met Brian Johnson there and Brian Loftus who I...
0:18:36.6 MIKE: Describe their role there then.
0:04:17.2 JOY: Well, Brian Johnson was working with Derek Meddings doing the models and that's always been his thing and Derek was the Special Effects Director. I hear he's got a very good reputation in the industry. So has Brian but Brian was a youngster then. And you never really had much time to go in and see what was going on because, you know, you went in at 8 o'clock and it was head down and you worked but sometimes I used to go in next door because really it was so exciting to see these little models on the sets of these special effects, you know, and the rolling road and they had the burning inferno and all this and I mean, they used to set fire to it, as you know, they've got to burn it down, so it's just one take and that's it. The funniest bit was, I remember, they had one of these things which was, a set took a long time, perhaps half a day, to actually build and assemble, and they had one on a craft up with the wire all ready and I think they had to set fire to it. I'm sure Brian would remember this, he'd tell you in better detail but because it's shot six times the speed so then you switch on, there's a camera, and then it has to get up to speed so somebody shouts speed and then they have to camera jam and then it was cut. Well, they were going to say Cut... they shouldn't actually use that word, should they?... But cut, the guy standing over where the wire was was to cut the wire. So it goes, you know, camera actions, speed and it's cut! So he cuts the wire and of course, there's no camera [laughter] so, you know, the set's kind of going up in this, you know, so it was a bit of an oh dear, we've got to have a retake tomorrow because everything was on absolute shoestrings so you couldn't actually make any mistakes but, you know, we laughed and rebuilt it, as you do. I know when they had crowd scenes, because they had two puppeteers, everybody in the workshop used to have to go up in the gantry and you used to have to make people, make them breathe, you see. So if you just look at the crowd scenes, they're so funny because you'd turn the heads and you'd just keep them breathing. That was quite funny.
0:21:08.8 MIKE: But again a great training ground for all the people you've mentioned, as well as yourself, yeah.
0:21:14.4 JOY: Absolutely, yes, yes. Because Brian Loftus was on camera and I mean, he worked for Bowies and so did Brian and then we all met up again on 2001.
0:21:24.8 MIKE: Great. That's lovely. That's really nice. Ok, let's move on.
0:21:30.9: Turnover... Recording.
0:21:32.4 MIKE: So you came to the point when you were leaving the Anderson's. What was the reason for that? What happened?
0:21:41.5 JOY: I don't think about...
MIKE: No? Ok. We'll skip over that.
JOY: No, I don't need to say that...
0:21:52.1 MIKE: So you moved on?
0:21:54.0 JOY: Yes, I moved on but I forgot about... Because I got friendly with Brian and we used to just, I mean, he had a little mini cooper and we used to go off at lunchtimes, especially cold winters, go skating around Buckingham Lanes, you know? And his mum worked at Bowie Films. She was on reception. Hilda. Anyway, they were shooting 'She'. Well, they weren't shooting, they were doing special effects because Bowie, Les Bowie is another person who's an amazing special effects guy and Bob was working there so I was wandering around. Bob Cuff, that's where I first met Bob Cuff in '65 and they wanted a medallion of John Richardson to go around Ursula Andress’ neck, you see. So I just said yes, I can do that! And because I was working on the heads, you see, they thought yes, she can model alright, so I did that. I never went on the set or anything, I just did it. Dirtied it down, made it look old and battered, well, I modelled it looking old and battered because that's what it had to look like. And then I sent it off, or took it round to Bowie Films who were also on the Slough trading estate actually, they were right on the edge of Slough trading estate. So that's my first meeting with Bob. Very quiet, lovely man.
0:23:31.8 MIKE: Tell me about Bob in terms of those days then. What was he doing?
0:23:34.9 JOY: Well he was an amazing Matt Artist. He worked at Shepperton. I think that was his first job which, you know, he worked there for years and John Mackey was there under Wally Veevers but he was doing work for Les and I mean, he worked on so many films. Actually you could find his obit on Erik the Viking.
0:24:00.9 MIKE: It just so happens... I've got his obit if you want to use that as an aid.
0:24:09.1 MIKE: Right, so we were talking about Bob Cuff.
0:24:10.9 JOY: Right, so I met Bob Cuff. Now Bob Cuff was a very humble, modest man. He never talked about what he did. He always kind of shrugged his shoulders and you'd say God, that's amazing Bob and, you know, so he didn't talk about what he did.
0:24:28.7 MIKE: What had he done?
0:24:30.7 JOY: No, I didn't realise until I got to know him because in those days, he didn't get a credit as Bob Cuff working at Shepperton. He was just working under Wally Veevers. Not in many of his films. I mean, he didn't get a credit on 2001, did he?
0:24:54.5 MIKE: No, no.
0:24:56.6 JOY: No. And he did that iconic shot, you see.
0:24:56.1 MIKE: But at that time he was working on things like Richard III, Hobson's Choice...
0:25:03.7 JOY: Yeah, I mean, I didn't know he was! You know, because [laughter] he was, no, he really was a very modest man and so much so that you just didn't know what other things he was doing. And recently, the last few years, one of his younger sons was trying to get together all the films that he's made to make, actually that's how we got the obit together, and it was really sometimes oh no, oh I didn't like that film, ah did he work on that film? Yes. And it was...
0:25:36.1 MIKE: So he never kept a list of all his films?
0:25:40.4 JOY: No, no, he never kept anything, no. And when he stopped, his last film was Erik the Viking, which I worked with him on, that was it. He never painted again. He went into his garden, beautiful garden. Yeah, a lovely family man. I mean, he was just a gentle, lovely family man but... sorry [sobbing] so no, he's got no memorabilia’s, nothing in the house so David, which is his younger son, had tried a few years to get him to remember things.
0:26:12.0 MIKE: So you met him in the '60s then?
0:26:16.2 JOY: '65 I met him, when Bowie Films were on 'She', that's when I met him. I'm actually, sorry, this is all wrong. '64. I met him in '64 actually when I started with Thunderbirds, then they took me, then Brian, it wasn't '65, it was '64. That's when I first met him. And they were making 'She'.
0:25:44.6 MIKE: And where did that lead to? What was the next sort of stage then?
0:26:49.6 JOY: Umm... the next stage was...
0:26:54.5 MIKE: I mean, you worked on Fahrenheit 451. Tell me about that experience.
0:27:00.4 JOY: Well that was something else because I mean I was doing paintings and then going around studios again, hearing things, what's around. And again, someone just gave me, oh Francois Truffaut’s over in Pinewood so I'm trying to think who I wrote to... I think it might have been Syd Cain. And so you arrive at the studio for an interview, say what can you do and I did some drawings at Thou Shalt Not Steal because obviously it's no written word. And also they had newspapers which they were reading, which were all in picture form. And I had to choose a colour so I think there was green for sport and red for war and, you know, purple for the weather or something and each page had to be hand-coloured but with a bias to a certain colour so I did about three of those. Somebody had already actually drawn out and did it, designed the newspapers but I just, I mean, it's a lovely job, you just hand-colour them all and I did the drawings but before, I had to go and meet Francois Truffaut so sometimes you didn't ever see the Director or the Art Director, you just worked down the line. So what you did was obviously shown to them at one point but you never saw it being shown or any criticism but yes, I met Francois Truffaut and I sat on the set with him while he did the love scene of Oskar Werner and Julie Christie and all the stage has to be emptied and it all goes dark. He doesn't know English and I don't know French so we had to, it was a bit like showing it visual, what do you want me to do? I think he knew, understood when I asked a question like that. And then off I went to do it and came back and he just looked at them and said what he’d like.
0:29:21.4 MIKE: Would he draw anything at all?
0:29:24.1 JOY: No, no, he didn't do anything like that.
0:29:25.9 MIKE: So how did you communicate then?
0:29:26.2 JOY: I also had to communicate through a third person if I can remember rightly. He said very little to me but invited me to sit with him while he directed the scene, which was quite interesting.
0:29:41.4 MIKE: What was he like? How did you find him?
0:29:43.6 JOY: Charming. Very, very charming. And very quiet, not... you know, you often think directors are going to be noisy and emotional. I didn't find him that. Maybe he was on certain films, I don't know, but he was very gentlemanly, you know. And then I was invited to... I remember I was up in the Art Department when I'd done some of the drawings and then I was invited down to see the burning of the books set. That was incredible. And being just out of art school, because this was well, not far out of art school, and of course being poor and not being able to afford very expensive art books, I was appalled to find they were real books that he was burning. They weren't dummies. I really felt they should have been dummies but of course, like Stanley, Francois Truffaut always did the right thing so he was burning real books. And that was a one take because it was in that room with all the firemen standing around and that was quite amazing. Quite frightening actually to watch because when the flames started and they had to get all the action in because one of the old women was there, wasn't she? She was burnt, oh yes. So I watched that one.
0:31:05.9 MIKE: But it's just nice that they would actually involve you because there's that danger that it becomes them and us, you know? It's nice that they actually felt ok, we want to involve people who are part of the making of the film.
0:31:18.9 JOY: And then I'd go and watch rushes and I sat next to Julie Christie in one of the days. I only saw rushes a few times. And I had this new bag with me because I was 21 then and one of my friends had another art student make a lovely, lovely bag which I've still got and she looked at it and she said ooh, I like your bag and she wanted one made for her. And she's actually carrying this bag when she's walking across a field in Fahrenheit. Because she can just sit next to you and chat, like suddenly chat to you about shoes you've got on or how you're looking today or how you feel. But some people are quite aloof but she's sweet.
0:32:09.0 MIKE: Excellent. Ok, well I think the next one I guess is '66 and the biggie so we're talking about early '66.
0:32:24.9 JOY: Yes, now this was early '66, very early '66 because from there, and I'm not quite sure, it was somebody else who that person was. It was another kind of oh, they're looking for people, model-makers. So by that time I'd been marked as a model maker because I'd done, although I'd done the drawings on two things on models, or I'd got my ticket by then because I went on Thunderbirds without a ticket because...
0:32:55.9 MIKE: This is a union ticket. Just describe this sort of situation because there are people who just won't know what it was like in those days.
0:33:03.1 JOY: Ok, yes. Well it was like a closed shop so it was open to members and then if they couldn't fill the vacancy then someone who was a non-member could start. And then you needed... I can't remember whether it was 6 people or 3 people to be your sponsors. And I know Bob, I think I asked Bob, I think Bob was one, Brian Johnson's another one... It must have only been 3... and I don't know who the third person, maybe it was Les Bowie or somebody from Bowie Films.
0:33:48.9 MIKE: Ok, 1966. How did you get the job on 2001?
0:33:54.6 JOY: Well, there you go, I can't quite remember who I met but I was told to write to John Hoesli who worked on [inaudible] and I wrote a letter in the October I think it was. Didn’t hear anything.
0:34:22.7 MIKE: Ok, Joy. Just tell about the circumstance... How did you get the job at 2001?
0:34:26.2 JOY: Right, well somebody gave me John Hoesli 's name who was working at MGM at that time, 2001. So I wrote to him in the October. Heard nothing. You know, because you go for jobs and you don't hear anything, do you? And then on the 21st December 65, I get this letter which says we think we might find a little something that you might be able to do, or words to that effect, so please ring this number. So I rang and went almost immediately. Perhaps I just went in the New Year but not before Christmas and met, now who did I see? I think I saw John Hoesli and there was Wally Gentlemen who was in the special effects. He was from the film board of Canada and I think also, he was on the letter as well. So having gone for an interview and chatted to them, I said yes, I think I can do it. I've always said whatever the job is...
0:35:43.6 MIKE: What were they asking you to do then?
0:35:45.4 JOY: If I could do moon, well they said landscapes but when I got there it was moon landscapes which is not, well it's moonscapes, isn't it? So I said yes, yes, so when I got back... I always say yes and I go and start researching. And when I have a job because being in the film industry, it's all freelance, I always buy something either for my library or to do with paintbrushes or something. I buy something on every job I go on so I gradually accumulate a nice shelf of books or objects, something like that. And I bought 'The Earth Beneath Us' which I've still got at home and it's fantastic photographs of all the wonderful landscapes we've got all over the world and so I'm looking at that and thinking about what I could do but then of course you arrive on the film and everything has been designed anyway but it just gives you some knowledge of what you might be doing. And then I got a day to start, in February it was.
0:37:03.4 MIKE: What did you know about the film? What did you know about Kubrick at that time?
0:37:08.7 JOY: Nothing. Not really, I'd seen Spartacus. I knew he was a director at that point anyway but you know, I'd just met Francois Truffaut, hadn't I? [laughter] So I thought I wonder what Stanley looks like because in those days you didn't have them on the box all the time or in the papers. You just didn't see many portraits of them so I arrive, I'm told which stage to go on...
0:37:42.4 MIKE: So this is Borehamwood then?
0:37:44.4 JOY: This is at MGM.
0:37:45.4 MIKE: MGM, Borehamwood. Tell me about the first day then.
0:37:49.2 JOY: On the first day you've really got butterflies because you're on probation for 2 weeks to see if you can do the work anyway and a friend of mine, or one of my best friends from school was teaching up in North London and she had digs in Whetstone so that was lucky so she said ooh, you know, we've got a spare room there so I actually had digs straight away because I thought well when you go on a picture and it's long way away, it's like when I went on Thunderbirds, went there and got digs. And I'd got an old Hillman Husky so I'd drive over Arkley to Borehamwood and I'd land at this huge big studio and there's this great big car park and you'd have to go through security and you'd sign in and I was told to go to... I think it was Stage 6. 5 and 6 were the two stages. One was the live action and next door was the one that the moon sets were on. But huge stage and in the corner, it's all got black drapes hiding the set in the corner which was the iconic set of the pit. And they'd started that. Actually, no they didn't. Sorry, it was another... Somebody called John Rose who was an illustrator had started building the moon sets but because I didn't have the expertise of somebody like Bob who came in the next few, I think it was the next month or something, he came in March, it's the knowledge of false perspective, diorama, how the cameras would be, etc, etc. So I worked with John for a bit and nothing was really shot then because it wasn't quite what Stanley had in mind because Stanley knew in his mind always what he wanted and often, as the case, you have to produce it and say is that right? No, no, it's not quite right. Is that right? Some people who don't actually create themselves, can't draw it themselves or build it themselves but they know what they want when they've seen somebody else draw or build it. And Stanley was actually into an illustrator called Chesley Bonestell and of course most of the sets had been designed before, people had been doing the storyboards and things. It's a bit of a blur those first few weeks...
END OF ROLL 1
8 June 2010
Interviewer: Mike Dick
Interviewee: Joy Cuff
Camera Ruth Bolland
0:00:00.0 MIKE: The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. The name of the interviewee is Joy Cuff, something Matt Artist. The name of the interviewer is Mike Dick, 8 June 2010, and this is tape two.
Joy, tell me when you first met Stanley Kubrick.
0:00:20.7 JOY: My first day is, you know, going through the gates and in, you were told which stage to go to and you arrive on the stage. And [...]/ talking to other, other people who the artist director and people like that. And then three guys walk in. And they're all almost dressed the same; you know scruffy-looking, navy blue. [...] And I just, I didn't know, quite what Stanley Kubrick looked like, and he was quite young he was in his was he 35 something, 36, and they were all about the same age. And [...]/' thankfully [laughter] one of them said 'Oh Stanley this is, you know' and so I knew that which one was Stanley and he just 'Hi!' you know he comes over and shook my hand, looked at looked at the set being worked on and nodded and was talking to, it was Con Pedersen and Doug Trumbull. Who I used to call his henchmen because, he was nearly always when he came round he was nearly always with them because, you know, they discussed all the special effects together, because...
0:01:25.9 MIKE: What was their roles then?
0:01:27.8 JOY: [...] Well I mean, Doug was they were both their right at the beginning, and he was a designer. And they, [...] they were very much into the design of not necessarily designing the craft themselves but...
0:01:49.1 MIKE: You said it's the look and the feel of it all
0:01:50.9 JOY: Yeah yes but, [...] because subsequent this is just an aside, subsequent to that I remember, right at the end of after the moon sets were almost almost finished, they were doing the extra terrestrial stuff. And they went through quite a long phase of trying to design extra terrestrial beings, extra terrestrial landscapes, which really didn't that didn't work because there's nothing so good as what in your memory, what's in your brain. You know your mind. [...] And one of, I think it was 1966, there was a Giacometti exhibition up in London, and I I love Giacometti so I went to see that and I got very influenced by Giacometti, and I made made these Giacometti figures, which stood about [...] two foot six, I would think. Two foot two-two foot six. And we made these puppets, it was Roger Dicken and I, and they were made out of balsa wood, but all lovely elongated head and body and hands and that. But I mean they did look a bit ridiculous you know [laughter], because they were puppets. [...] And then years later on, what was the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, [...] out from the space craft comes these, Giacometti figures. So I mean different, but they were they were an, I just looked at them and thought 'they're my Giacometti figures', and then, I saw it on the screen Doug Trumbull had worked on that film, so we all get influenced by each other don't we? But I mean, we never we could never keep our original drawings, or what happened to the puppets I don't know, they're models so anyway they they everyone used to laugh at rushes and they just didn't work, and you could see what what they did in the film in the end was just brilliant. At work you know we called it the Slit Scan , I mean all that, fast-moving through different shapes and, and then the purple-hearting of the, of the landscapes which we'd done, over, well even some where done in Scotland, you know in Iceland, and all different places like that. And there what they call 'purple-hearting' so, [...] the colours as you will remember, broad highly-coloured, and if you had a, and they reversed colours as well so it made things look really weird. Weird and wonderful.
0:04:24.3 MIKE: Yeah they went to Arizona I think, and the Hebrides I think.
0:04:27.8 JOY: Yes they did, yes, yes. Yeah they're just brilliant. Yes I mean they did recces all over the place and then out in Africa but Stanley didn't go on them, he just sent people off to do all these [laughter].
0:04:40.3 MIKE: Because he didn't like flying?
0:04:40.8 JOY: Nope, he wouldn't fly. Well when he went, when he went back to America he edited the film on the boat. And they had editing suites on the boat. It takes about it used to take about six days didn't it to get back to America. I mean that's just amazing.
0:04:57.0 MIKE: Can I just take you back a bit? Just to your first impressions.
0:05:01.1 JOY: Yes. I just thought he was so quiet. Incredibly quiet. Because he hardly said a word to me. I mean but subsequent to that, thinking of him what I thought and he was, [...] very thoughtful. I mean just a lot, lot of thinking, a lot, lot of, you know he's quiet he lets other people, in meetings he'd let other people talk. And I mean I always use the word humble when I say, I mean he actually used to ask you what you thought, what you thought, and you think well you know he's the big Stanley Kubrick and he asked you what you thought. And I think that's quite amazing because, [...] he then all, well that's what he did. He has surrounding him all these people with you know top of their profession, etc. etc., and he takes a bit from everybody. And he puts it together.
0:06:00.8 MIKE: How would he work with someone like you then, for example?
0:06:03.3 JOY: Well, it was always it was always, I mean I used to go to the meetings, and we used to talk about the next shot and how he'd like the table top to look like. I mean he's even done little tiny I mean I got something almost on the size of a [...] a theatre ticket, well the old theatre tickets not the ones now [laughter]. Two inches by one inch. He'd do just a little diagram and what he wanted, like you know I want the horizon about there and I want some large craters here. And perhaps I want to see something up the side, and so I'd go away, and we'd, I'd start it. And he would come in, at odd times, and have a look, and see how it was getting on. But not make any criticisms until it was actually at the finished stage, and shot. Because they used to do movie shots to start with, but I mean on how the film was done in the end they were all stills. Usually black and white stills.
0:07:13.9 MIKE: Great.
Just tell me, you're settling yourself in to this great movie, what was your… Go on.
0:07:26.4 JOY: And then, I I do remember when Bob and John arrived. John Detroy[??} was in the March, so I hadn't been there very long. And it was just, I mean it was just lovely to know these two people that were so good at their job. And they had the one shot to do, because it was the matting all together of the live action which was done at Shepperton, on the H Stage which was kept in the can. And so this was quite, I mean the...
0:07:59.2 MIKE: Which sequence are we talking about here?
0:08:00.9 JOY: Oh this is the iconic shot of the pit. As they go down into the pit. And it happened to be shot on H Stage as it happens to be the biggest stage in Europe. And they'd finished that and that was gone, by, Christmas. So now, they'd got in the can what what they'd been shooting. I mean they could have, if it had been an absolute disaster there was a possibility of duping stuff. But, but they had this 10 minutes of live action, in the can. And, John and Bob's job was to put it together. And how you, you see, with a, with a glass, when you do a painting you delineate it. Because it's a special camera, but you could say but how could you project to the camera but you do because you have a special, it's a mitchell[??]. And you put your, your live action shot which then is blown up onto your glass. And you delineate it. That means you just draw round it. So you know where your split scene is going to be. But it's slightly different with the model, because you've got to get your, your diorama effect of squashed perspective. But you get your live action and then you start doing formers in cardboard, or and decide how you want it to look. And then you drape it with scrim[??], dipped in plaster, and you build it up from there. And you can see as you build it up as you start to build it up you can if you're making mistakes in your perspective, or whatever.
0:10:00.0 MIKE: How big, again the scale of it, describe the scale of it.
0:10:04.5 JOY: It's amazing, it is so small. I mean can I just pick up my book. Now, [...] this is just this is just amazing, because...
0:10:16.4 MIKE: What are we looking at here then?
0:10:18.0 JOY: Now this is a book I didn't realise I got 40 years later. And it's got notes on terrain models and a great 'private' across it, [laughter]. And I just I looked at it this is what I found the other night, I'd forgotten I'd even written this. Effects through, this is the terrain effects, through guided luck, for small models. And I think that just sums it up actually. I mean you do you do obviously plaster is a fantastic medium, and I worked in it quite a lot for building things, modelling. But, it was a learning process as well really. I must, I mean this is just, I've said it's the most, it is a sympathetic medium, for the rock terrain, as its characteristic is very rock-like anyway. And we were we were thinking of using alabaster, or alabasting, at one point. But it's it's very slow in going off, so that's not very good, and it also expands, so you know it's not as inert as plaster. And I just I obviously I kept copious amounts, which I don't remember doing, but it is my writing.
0:11:41.8 MIKE: What sort of would you write, jotted down in there then?
0:11:43.2 JOY: Well I mean I actually I did I mean things like using wet plaster, splashing with water, either flicked or thrown. If you throw water up in the, if I get a handful of water up in the air, and when it splashes down it does craters. All different sizes. But you have to wait until the plaster gets to a certain point of going off so you have to know at the time, because if it's too wet then you find blobs everywhere. And of course if it's dry it won't do it properly. But as it's it gets to a point when plaster goes warm it starts going warm as well, and so you know you learn.
0:12:26.2 MIKE: So it's a real, you know, sort of experimental, you're just testing it all out.
0:12:28.4 JOY: It was, oh yes. Because they'll be the kind of the crisp craters, which you have, which you use with fresh splashes of water. With far, far-gone plaster. So that's when it's actually really almost gone off but if you pressed it, the whole of the surface would go, so it wouldn't your finger wouldn't sink right in. So water is quite heavy; if you really throw it up high, quite hard, or there's old eroding, oh old eroding craters. So you used plenty of water and repetition of [laughter] splashes. And of course there's also air bubbles in the plaster, which is brilliant, because an air bubble if you, if you [...] if you pour plaster and as it's going off you lift it and bang it. Mind you we couldn't do it on the set, we had to do it away from the set and then add it to the set, because you couldn't lift up a, the model is about six by three. Well actually I did find a list, and I wonder if it's in here, I'll have a look. I didn't realise I'd even kept a, here we are, list of sets. And there's a, there is a six foot square one, and it's a flat-desert lunar terrain. There's a 25 by 4 foot one, which is a long lunar landscape, which you could see through the airbus. So you never got, you didn't having like a rolling loop or anything you know like you often get it this and that[??], or there's goes that canyon again, or whatever. And then you've got a 5 by 3.
0:14:08.0 MIKE: Sorry can I just stop you at that point and get you to describe how that shot was achieved, then through the moon bus then.
0:14:15.1 JOY: Oh well it's quite interesting, because the actual it was the two the 25 feet one wasn't straight, it was a slight V, or it’s a V the other way so it’s a V towards you, like an arrow a flat arrow. And, if you understand what parallax is, and parallax is if you’re travelling on a train, and you’re looking out across fields, and you see a church steeple. And the church steeple hardly moves. But everything in front of you is whizzing by. And as you’re going along, the bit perhaps it’s some houses between that and the, and they’re moving slowly so you have to get this kind of this movement. And they got it by the fact they did a… the camera was on a dolly which had curved tracks, and they, it just worked, it was brilliant. So the, the moonscapes in the distance practically stayed still. You could see it as the camera moved round. But the foreground went through faster. I don’t know whether that really was shown very well, you could see it but it was all there, you know, through the on the moon bus.
0:15:29 MIKE: I was watching it very carefully, I must admit.
0:15:31 JOY: [Laughter]
0:15:34 MIKE: Sorry at this point again I want to, you know, we’re talking 1966 the moon landings haven’t happened yet.
0:15:41 JOY: No.
0:15:42 MIKE: So where do you get your inspiration from in terms of what you’re trying to achieve there?
0:15:46 JOY: Well, there was a lot of talk about what, what the moon surface is really like. I mean is it soft, is it complete dust? Will somebody land on the moon and just disappear? Or is it really hard, like pumice stone ? And what colour is it? You know, and is it shiny, is it matte? It was, and it was talk about that all the time. Then I remember gradually we why we decided it was very, very, a mid-grey. We decided on a mid-grey. And it was to look dusty, but it was hard. And I can remember the day, when they the first landing of the spacecraft on the moon, and I think it was in the papers the front pages of papers it had the arm, and the foot, and there’s the foot, and it’s it’s on the moon. And there are so excited, because there was I don’t know hundreds of thousands of feet of film, behind them, which had got hard surface on it and it was it was matte. We used to put what was called Matting agent into the, into the emulsion that that you sprayed on. So it really, was, it was extra-matte. I mean that was an exciting day, because it was it was right.
0:17:21 MIKE: Because it was one of those myths that actually went around at the time that Kubrick actually, you know that the whole moon landing was a fake, and that Kubrick had actually…
0:17:29 JOY: [Laughter] I know I know, it’s just, I mean it’s quite
0:17:32 MIKE: But I think what it is testament to the kind of research, and the way people like yourself developed these techniques. You know through trial and error and experimentation.
0:17:42 JOY: Yes, yes. But yes, it really was that was quite incredible. Shall I carry on…
0:17:50 MIKE: Please do.
0:17:51 JOY: Then there was, that was the 25 foot one there was a three foot by five foot. There was another three foot by five shot, canyon shot of moon surface. Yes because there was there was one with a high canyon on one side. There was a three by four landscape, there was a couple of those. And there was a 10 foot square one, with a large crater, and that’s that’s, you can see that one, the moon bus goes over that one. And they could shoot it from they actually had it vertical and they shot it all different angles it was quite interesting that was very versatile that one. Then there was a four foot six by three foot one. […] And there was two, a flat aerial shot three foot square [mumbling whilst reading to herself]
0:18:50 MIKE: Can I ask you a question at this moment about you said you mentioned the moon craft, at what point do you marry the two together then, you know with the models.
0:18:59 JOY: Well that came, a long time afterwards. Because, they originally started to shoot and get this on film, each set, but I think in the end they decided they did really beautiful, bromides which is the black and whites. And then did well split screen, they did split screen on a rostrum camera really, which would can be all different angles it can be looking down it can be looking across. And some of them were maybe three shots at once because you had the moon set, […] do you know I’ve suddenly thought I thought it was three but it’s probably not because when we made the star backing, they probably shot the star backing with, the model the model of the moon landscape. Because that can all be lit together because the star backing is lit from the back, after making it with all the little pin holes in the right places.
0:20:10 MIKE: Describe that, because that’s something we talked about this morning. You know how they constructed that affect.
0:20:16 JOY: Well it’s funny, it’s almost like Heath Robinson[??] how you make that [laughter] how these things are made. The backing would be up behind the set, and it would just be black. And you go round the back of it, and you just flick […] a colour, and as with the human brain, can’t do… what did I say it was? I’ve forgotten now.
0:20:53 JOY: When they when they shoot the, the actual moon landscape, the star backing which you could see it on the behind, it also has to be created. And you go round the back, and you flick, paint, which splatters all over it. Now the human brain can’t be random, doesn’t matter if you decide oh I’ve got to do it like, you know randomly, ooh but they’re much too close together I’m going to move them apart. And there’s one over there all by itself you can’t have that. And the brain can’t think like that you see. So you just go around and you prick every little splash, and sometimes they’re clustered together, and there’s another little star all by itself in the corner, and that’s how you do it. And then it’s shot, you know there’s a big 10k behind it, and it’s just it’s nothing. That’s not a real sky it’s the backing. Least I’m sure that’s I’m sure they didn’t use [??] when I’d finished when I’d gone. Perhaps they did, but I don’t think you can really go out and shoot skies, can you? I mean well you couldn’t in the sixties anyway.
0:22:04 MIKE: You couldn’t do it now, the light, too much excess. Fantastic right. What sort of tools did you use in your work then?
0:22:17 JOY: Ah. Well I arrived with my, my little bag of, lots of modelling tools. And some are metal, and some are wood. But of course using plaster, and of course I also used to carve with a Stanley knife. But I had a couple of chisels that’s all I had. And so I’m asked would you like anything? Ooh yes I wouldn’t mind a few chisels please. Thinking well you know well you’re going to, bash the hell out of the chisel into plaster you don’t want really expensive ones, and it was me my brain always thinks you know must do it as cheap as you can. And so back comes the runner, with a set of six footprint. Now in those days, don’t know about now, footprint was the top of the range, and it went from two inch right down to quarter inch. Six of them. I gasp and yes thank you, and I’ve still got one of them which is unfortunately the others got stolen out of not because they were from 2001 but somebody stole our, our tool bag out of our old London taxi. So I had those, and I had a mallet, Stanley. Stanley knife. And you used to get a hack saw. Hack saw blades that’s something else. Scrim, Kleenex tissues. Think what else, I’m going to have a little look here, because I’m sure I made a list of what I actually. Is it a lot of it you can’t, you mustn’t have it looking mechanical. So a lot of it is making plaster move as it’s going off, you can have it you can hold it onto scrim and then gradually, fold it over the mountain range you’d done.
0:24:19 MIKE: You also had dry, loose powder as well didn’t you?
0:24:22 JOY: Oh yes well, we collected if you’re chiseling you collected everything. So I’d actually all my chippings, and you’d grade those as well. So, so that you’d have the bigger chips at the front, as you’d go and find is it scree[??] going down a mountainside. You’d just drop it down so it landed, well as it landed it stayed there. Now to keep everything from perhaps moving, I then used to spray everything with it was Evo-Stik, in the colour you know, the grey. And the matting agent. And I only got rid of it the last bit of matting agent a few years ago because we didn’t quite know if it was toxic because you didn’t know what you were using. I’ve kept this polythene bag for like 30, 40 years, and it’s really funny stuff. It’s almost wax-like. So what’s, you put that in, a suspension and put it through an air-gun. And spray everything. And, it should stay.
0:25:33 MIKE: Which leads me beautifully to thinking about working conditions, what were working conditions like then?
0:25:41 JOY: Well, on the big stage this huge stage but they make a little area, which we worked inside because it was so cold in the winter. And you’d be all by yourself, because I often I was working by myself for quite a time, and odd times. Because I worked with Bob and John, we did that shot well I mean Bob lead the shot obviously and that’s how I learned my craft of actually how mattes work. And once that was finished, they were off, because, they were Bobby’s. Bobby’s not actually he did he said he wasn’t a model maker mind you he did the models but you know I mean that’s Bob. Very modest [laughter]. And I was like oh you’re not going to leave me, and he said to me you’ll be fine, you’ll be fine, you’re great. No it’s alright, you’ll be alright. And so I just I worked alone quite for quite some I’m not sure how many months but quite some time. But then, I mean there was a lot of being the only female, on the set really, well I was the only female on that stage. And on the main stage, which was the, because the two stages back-to-back, so where I was as big as where the centrifuge was. But hardly anybody was allowed through, I mean Stanley use to come through, and people from his you know like Doug and Con and people. But you didn’t get many visitors. I really thought about it subsequently and thought it’s because he wanted to actually he didn’t really want anybody to see, how the moon sets were made because it was all a big secret. Because I think they were all destroyed at the end of the film. There’s just, just nothing of them. But, I got more and more people like you know the plasterers, the electricians, the grips, they were always coming in and out, because I mean they are part of MGM crew. And they were, actually, you had to sign that you never spoke to anybody outside about what you were doing, how it was done, etc. etc. So I expect they had that as well. And the chippies built, in front of my set when I’m busy chipping away by myself, they built a leaning rail. It’s the same as they used to have in cowboy films, to tie the horses up to. So they could come and just lean and watch me working and make rude remarks you know. And I’m very good at just you know, I don’t rise to anything like that. Carry on working. And I think, they, as the days went on, I think, they thought this is not on, we can’t rile her. And one it was after lunchtime because the guy had been drinking because he smelled of drink, and he came onto the set and I was working. And I was bending over the set, ignoring everybody. And he went and touched me up my bum. And I turned around and smacked him round the face. And all the blokes just laughed. And then it went silent. And he stormed off and I realised I was just told then that I just, I just hit the NATKE shop steward right around the face [laughter]. So the first point everybody thought oh great, you know, that’s brilliant. Then it was ooh ah, so. And then it was, I was blacked, and everybody out. So I wasn’t allowed, and he said you know. Unfortunately being enraged I didn’t keep the letters which went backwards and forwards. I was referred to as the girl, I was never referred to by name. He actually, he put in writing he wouldn’t have let me through the gates if he’d known I was coming in. But I did have a ticket, he didn’t think I had a ticket but I did. So that saved me there. And then I shouldn’t be using plaster, because it was demarcation. But then, that’s my medium I’m using and I’m a sculptor from the art department but no, I was using it on the stage, I could use it somewhere else but not on the stage. So, and I remember Brian Johnson actually was, he must have been our rep because he came to my rescue and said you know he went, well he went to meetings, I didn’t even go to any of the meetings, I mean I was just the girl. Just, no mention of the fact he’d actually sexually harassed me, and actually that I said I could smell drink on him anyway. So, I think it was two weeks I didn’t work and Hawk Films paid me for two weeks, while they sorted this out. And they sorted it out by, giving me a plasterer. A labourer, plaster’s labourer, not actually a plasterer plasterer. Because, to start with I had to have a plasterer and a labourer. Now the labourer makes up the plaster, mixes it up, and then the plasterer uses the plaster. But I want to get my hands in the plaster and know sometimes I’d put lots of plaster in and make it a really stiff mix, or sometimes I wanted a weak mix. And there are little things like you can make it with cold tea so it goes off slightly slower so you have a bit more time to work it. Or you make it with warm water and it goes off really fast. And all these things make different, the different you know…
0:31:28 MIKE: You’ve got to feel that.
0:31:29 JOY: Absolutely. You’ve got to feel it. So it was a bit of a struggle. And this, I think it was. I just, I can just see this guy with the fag hanging out of his mouth all the time, so he was a chain smoker. Roll ups. And he was the plasterer. But what he what was he going to do? But he had to stand there and watch me work. And in the end they decided that, I think they were a bit short of plasterers, on another set or something, but he disappeared slightly. He used to go ‘Are you alright to…?’, it was Gordon Isold . I remember the name young guy, he went off and, or he went back to the plasterers shop and did something else. But Gordon was very sympathetic and, also had quite a good knowledge of plaster, and we’d talk it through and, because you never knew who was. Because it was it was dark but it was so big the stage that you, you know someone could be standing over there watching you in the dark, because you’re only lit where you’re working. So you had to be really quite careful. But, that was a funny episode.
0:32:38 MIKE: What about, you were working obviously in a big studio complex, what else was going on around about you, other productions that were going on?
0:32:46 JOY: The Dirty Dozen was done next door I remember that being done. And you know meeting, these amazing American stars walking down the corridor who say ‘howdy’ to you and you’d nod and [laughter] walk past. It’s just it’s just I always found it very funny. Patrick McGoohan also was, what would he have been on? Probably, was Danger Man…?
0:33:09 MIKE: Danger Man was around then.
0:33:10 JOY: Yes Danger Man, Patrick McGoohan was next door. Now Patrick McGoohan had a fight with, oh who was the other, who was the Welsh man who…
0:33:21 MIKE: Joy, you’ve just discovered this notebook. Tell us a bit about the notebook.
0:33:26 JOY: Well, when I was on 2001 I made copious notes about what I was doing in all the sets and I realised thinking back now I do do that; whenever I’m working on something I it’s almost like a diary. So I know, when I did it, what I did and I don’t through anything away. Well, until such times as you don’t need it anymore, in cases certainly . But this, so it’s 40 years old, and it must have been put away, and my studio was, when did Paul first build it? In 77 I think, 78? So for 30 years, it went up there, in the bottom drawer of my double-elephant plan chest [laughter], which is huge. So I hadn’t seen it for.
0:34:13 MIKE: And it also contains some of the original drawings you made at the time as well?
0:34:15 JOY: Oh yes, and I didn’t realise, yes, yes. In here, and I’m only just looking through it now. Not only has it some of the original drawings it’s got, it’s also got some negatives as well, with it. So, do you want me to hold it up?
0:34:33 MIKE: Oops.
0:34:35 JOY: It’s underneath your…
0:34:36 MIKE: Don’t stand on it.
0:34:38 JOY: No, don’t [laughter]. There we are. There we are.
0:34:41 MIKE: So what are these then? These are the…?
0:34:42 JOY: Well these, these are actually the, the sets. Now that says, moonscape, Chesley Bonestell. Now Chesley Bonestell was an illustrator in about the forties, and Stanley quite liked his work. And so he actually picked out lots of his designs, and we based our designs on them. Now this was a 3 by 7, block-board, so 3 by 7 tabletop.
0:35:12 MIKE: And some of the notes you’ve got on there, I think on another page there as well which is actually…
0:35:17 JOY: Yes. And this one is a, now this, that is one of Chesley Bonestell’s work as well. That’s a picture of, out of a book, of his. But I’ve got I’ve got some more on the side.
0:35:35 MIKE: I think it’s further back.
0:35:36 JOY: Is it this side? Now here they are, yes.
0:35:39 MIKE: Describe what you’ve got there. Sorry, I’m going to have to cut two seconds
0:35:45 MIKE: Ok Joy, you’ve got your notes here, what are these drawings you’ve got here?
0:35:50 JOY: Well these are quite amazing because, these are just quick sketches from this one’s from a Chesley Bonestell painting. And Stanley had said what he wants. He wanted one called ‘the great wall’; they all had names, and this is ‘the great wall’. That one. And as a matter of fact I’ve noticed I think they’ve flopped it. For the actual shot. Doesn’t matter does it? And this was the, this was built on a 7 by 5 foot rostrum , top. Completed the 13th March [laughter]. And there’s the, the burial site one, this was a different one, because it was it was like 4000 years before you know the, the men were on the moon. And it was a 4 by 6 foot, and that’s the, the burial site one. Which, as I’ve as I’ve explained before, you have to do everything in forced perspective, and when I get all the chippings from, and graded all the chippings, from what, what I’ve been building. That had, sand grains, and it was grey sand, which I’d got from Butlins in Wimbledon. And it was graded sand so you ask for different, I think I got three or four different grades. And then you had to grade it on the, on the actual burial site. So it really looked like a great long pit, which was covered up. And, as I’ve also said about, everything must be fixed, in case it moves. Because if you have a retake and it’s a bit different you know, that’s not on. So I sprayed it with the Evo-Stik , and you have to spray it right from a distance really carefully so you didn’t blow the sand at the same time. And it’s all waiting to be shot, in the afternoon. And along comes young runner, and walks up to the set, and he goes ‘oh, God’. I mean it did look amazing, it really did because the grading of the sand, and he put his hand out and he touched it. And it all stuck to his hand. And he took his hand out, and I just, I was so mortified I walked off the set. I don’t quite know what else I did, I think I went home, I just… Because you start, start work at 8 o’clock in the morning and, I know the trolley comes around with tea, I didn’t, I never really stopped, I used to carry on. And there’s me I’d probably go through my lunch hour if I wanted if I could, but the electricians used to comes around and put the breakers out, so you had to go off for an hour. And then you’d come back and work until six. And then inevitably, if something had to be done you’d work, overtime. And the shot of the pit, that was done on a Sunday, you know and you worked all day Sunday. That was, it took a long time, many hours to shoot that. And they wanted, wanted it done on a Sunday so there was nothing else going on in the rest of the stages in case there was a flux in the electricity. But that’s just, I just remember that. I remember being very cross. And I can’t remember when I came back, either it was the…
0:39:13 MIKE: How long would it have taken you then, that particular piece of work then?
0:39:18 JOY: Well it’s just that I must have finished although the, just doing the pit. I’d probably worked on it all morning. Being told we were shooting in the afternoon. So by the time it was the middle of the afternoon and it was all ready, and they were setting up the cameras, I mean no way would I have been able to do it because I have to clean it all down, because he’s ruined it. You used a, because also had the falling of the, of the sand as though it’s been filled in. You know how you fill in a grave really, really hard edges. I mean maybe I, I can’t remember I just went off and had a cup of tea or whatever I did. But I know I just walked off the stage.
0:40:06 MIKE: And a good cry I would think.
0:40:07 JOY: Probably [laughter]. I don’t know I think he disappeared as well [laughter].
0:40:14 MIKE: Because you would regard that as a work of art, no?
0:40:18 JOY: Well yes, you know you created it. That. And what’s so weird, and I always get this feeling, even when I look at those great big photographs I’ve got of them. I can’t actually believe I did it. And I can’t really remember, I could talk about how it’s done but I can’t really, did I really do that? I can’t quite remember. You know, and it’s complete. Once it’s a completed picture, because they all look… well, it’s unreal but they look quite real. It’s a very unreal feeling.
END OF ROLL 2
8 June 2010
Interviewer: Mike Dick
Interviewee: Joy Cuff
Camera Ruth Bolland
0:00:23 MIKE: Ok Joy, tell me, what was the pay like working on 2001?
0:00:29 JOY: Well, having gone from 10 and then odd jobs, my first two weeks were £16.00 a week which was more than the weekly average, if it’s in ’66, and then after two weeks it was raised to £20.00 and at one point, I think it was after Bob left, a few weeks after Bob left, I was talking about wages with him and he said you ought to ask for some more money because, I think I’m right, that Bob was on £100. Well, quite rightly because of his, you know… but then I was taking over the doing of the sets, not necessarily the marrying of the matte shots like he was. And how do I ask for some more money, just like that? So I was very naughty because I knew Bob and John wanted me to go work for them. I wrote to Victor Lindon, yes it was Victor Lyndon, and I said I’ve been asked to go on another picture and I’ve been offered a lot more money. And he said oh, well what kind of money? What are we talking about? Now I hadn’t really got my head around this and was thinking God, how much more do I ask for? And really strangely I was watching his hand and he was doodling and he doodled the number 30 and I said well, actually it was £30 and he went oh, ok, just like that. So maybe I could have got £35, I don’t know [laughter]. But anyway by that time I’d really establishes myself as I’d made quite a few sets and I was, you know, they were all going down the right road so as a female I felt that I wasn’t paid as much as the other males that were working similarly on, you know… I know that the young guy, Roger, who also was working I knew that he was getting a lot more than me and he hadn’t actually done all the stuff that I’d done anyway and he was engaged to do something else but also working alongside me so I just thought I justified it. But as I said, being female…
0:03:11 MIKE: One thing that was interesting, we talked about Kubrick when you first met him and the kind of, the way that he would work with you, it sounds as though when you were working on your own, what was his reaction when he would come and look at the kind of work that you were doing? Because obviously what you were doing was actually an integral part of the film.
0:03:34 JOY: He actually… there was not much criticism there on the set but if you’d go, like you’d go to the meetings and you’d have these, like the drawings I’ve just seen I’ve done of different things, he would talk about if he wanted one we called ‘The Great Wall’ and he’s say he wanted it quite vertical with perhaps a large feature in the foreground just like the Chesley Bonestell drawing. And well, I copied it quite well but if he’d wanted anything changed, it would go through perhaps the Art Director or the Cameraman. He didn’t actually criticise you there and then to your face but he’d take it all in when he’d come and look at the set. And I remember actually most of the time what I did [laughter] it was just very lucky. It worked quite well.
[Interruption from Sound Dept]
0:05:15 MIKE: So you’re working with Kubrick and you’ve gotten to know him reasonably well now. What were his attributes? What made him such a great director, do you think?
0:05:24 JOY: Well, like I’ve said before, I think he listens to people. And he actually discusses. There’s a two-way discussion that goes on, it’s not a one-way, and he’s also involved in absolutely everything. Not like… you know, lots of pictures, the director is perhaps behind the main shoot. I’ve worked on things where I’ve never seen the director. Somebody asked me what’s Robert Day like to work with and I thought when did I work with Robert Day and I realised it was on ‘She’ but I never saw him. But Stanley actually he got involved in everything. And I think that is why. It’s completely his film. Everything in it is his film and his concept.
0:06:13 MIKE: Because there’s a very thin line between a director having this vision and wanting to be involved in all the different elements that make that vision but there’s also a danger that you can, you know, you have to trust people, there’s a very thin line there.
0:06:29 JOY: Oh yes, I mean he really… it’s like was it the right time when I was in the right place to end up on 2001? You know, I’m incredibly lucky really. But then once I started working there I was definitely part of the team because I was producing stuff that was just what he wanted, just probably what he envisaged or… you know? And I think that went with everybody. I mean, he could have been the director, the special effects director, I mean he was also a producer, wasn’t he? And he edited it. Well, he had to really because it was up here [points to head] and all the shots, it’s the way they’re all designed. They’re all designed as a piece, a work of art, because they’re all designed from stills. The French bedroom set I thought was, well, it was just amazing when we saw that. And how it was lit because it was raised about 4ft? I’m trying to think… 4ft 6? And then on Perspex panels and it was lit from underneath but the lighting of it was just spectacular and I think that was his concept actually. I don’t think that came from Geoff Unsworth I mean, they probably worked together. But he was always after something a bit more, you know, push the boundaries and I think that’s really how he worked. But then to me he was also very quiet. Perhaps he’d shout, I don’t know but you never saw… you know, the temper rages you hear of certain directors, he seems to be very controlled, calm and he was a family man, I mean, his family were often on the set.
0:08:40 MIKE: And in the film as well.
0:08:41 JOY: And in the film as well. Yeah, so where did he meet his wife? On ‘Paths of Glory’. Actually Paths of Glory, I did see that when I was at art school and I love black and white films and of course it was anti-war as well but I saw it actually at MGM. He was showing it in his director’s room in the lunch hour. It goes on a bit longer than the lunch hour but he used to show people that and at the time, I remember him saying at the time he thought that was his best film. Now I wonder if he’d thought after 2001 and I read recently he thought ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ was going to be his best film but I don’t think that’s so actually so I mean Paths of Glory… Well, every single film he’s made is different. You can’t say, well this might be my opinion, you can’t say oh, it’s a typical Kubrick film as you can say of some directors. They all have a message and it’s a different message.
0:09:48 MIKE: The question I wanted to ask you, because I agree with you what you’re saying there, what I’m interested in is from the crew’s perspective, from the production, you know, from the people. Were you aware when you were making 2001 that this film was going to have such an enormous impact down through generations?
0:10:07 JOY: I don’t think so. I mean yes, he was a great director and yes, it was a big sci-fi film, but it would be oh God, we’re not going to, no, no we worked yesterday and oh, you know? I mean it’s always also, people kind of look skywards when it’s another take or it’s wasn’t that one good enough? So lots of people would think well, what’s wrong with that?! But I think you’ll always find that, somebody who has such a high critique sometimes is not tolerated by somebody who’s oh God, you know, I must get on with… Well it’s like the money. The money was running out towards the end, wasn’t it? And that’s when we had American time in motion study people come in and we all had to write down exactly what we were doing every minute of the day and why and blah blah blah. And it turned out that in the odd ten minutes you weren’t doing anything, you actually had to go to the loo. You know? There was no time wasted. I also had to find out if anything held me up, if I couldn’t get something, if I’d ordered something because it was so lovely I could say oh, perhaps I need more Stanley knives, I need another Stanley knife, and I’d get six. I don’t need six, I need one. The next morning, you wouldn’t see any of them [laughter]. So there was lots of filching going on.
0:11:45 MIKE: When did you see the final film? What were the circumstances?
0:11:55 JOY: Oh the final film? I didn’t see the final until Leicester Square and it still makes me go cold. I mean, I’m not cold now but it makes me shiver and when I hear ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ it gives me a tingle, it’s just amazing because you sit there and you can’t believe that all the little bits you’ve seen like you remember seeing the woman who was doing the food and she was right in the corner of the stage I was on and when Gary and Kiera are eating their orange and green food on the set [laughter] how much went into making the different colours, different textures, that was right and that was right. She was there experimenting for ages, just to get those just right. And with the square sandwiches. And I remember when they were doing the monkey masks sequence where they had to eat raw meat and I remember we were all getting very upset about this, she spent ages injecting really good steak with… I suppose it was just food colouring that looked like blood so that they would eat this steak which was slightly done which was nice and tasty and, you know, the blood had to run down their ears. I remember we stood there once and said God, if I earned what they were earning I’d eat it raw, you know? Well, you eat raw steak anyway but [laughter] I mean, what are they getting so fussy about?! There’s all these little things… And it’s awful because when I watch a film anyway, I tend to be behind the camera and I still am when I watch things, how they do it. I mean, there was bits I hadn’t seen like I hadn’t seen this lit scan because you work such long hours and that’s what you were there to do, your bit. I didn’t have time to wander around and see what everybody else was doing at different times.
0:14:15 MIKE: So it’s like a gigantic boat. You’re busy working away at your little section and you don’t see the other sections but so when you saw it at Leicester Square and you saw this complete epic…
0:14:27 JOY: Oh I thought it was amazing. I thought it was amazing. And unfortunately at the time, some of the critics… I mean, I remember one of the critics… seeing “boring” and I’m thinking what!? Because it was so visual. I mean and that’s what film is, you know? And yes, well I just think it was amazing. And just to be part of it… I often use the word, I think it’s magic. That’s what film is. And I felt that is really magical.
0:15:00 MIKE: There’s a couple of little elements I just want to tease out of you and one is the star child. I mean, you told me a wee bit about the making of it.
0:15:05 JOY: Oh yes, yes… Actually, and there are two little stories on this one because Stanley wanted to see me and I often used to get invited down for tea break, only a quarter of an hour, and you’d go on the next stage. And I used to wear a crocheted hat my grandma made me because I had long hair up and there used to be a lot of dust, I mean it was really filthy working on the stage and all this brown[??] and everything, so I’d take my hair down, take my hat off and go down and see him and have a cup of tea. Anyway, he did actually want to see me and have a chat this day and he said did I know of any sculptors? Yes, I know of some sculptors. Some sculptors, plural. But anyway, he knew what he’d want. And actually one of my best school friends was Liz Moore and I was a painter and she was a sculptor and at the time she was doing two busts for Leatherhead Theatre, at the Thorndike, which was a Thorndike. And it was… it’s gone out of my brain who the two are but it was the two, actor and actress attached to that theatre. And she happened to be working in a vegetable shop because as you do because you have your day job if you’re an artist and I thought well, fine. And I told him who she was and her work, she does figurative work? Yes, yes… So I get hold of Lizzy and she goes to see him and I mean she’s a really pretty, bouncy blonde. She actually was in a film a bit later on as a French maid so you can imagine that’s what she looked like, she was very saucy-looking, she’s always laughing, she’s great fun. And she went and modelled the star child. So he’d got the concept of how he wanted to finish the film but actually subsequently to that, I was once by myself in the rushes theatre with Arthur C.Clarke and Stanley, seeing the rushes of what had I done the day before, and then they started chatting about the end of the film and it transpired that in actual fact he didn’t know exactly how he was going to end the film. I mean, you know, you can write the book and everybody’s concept of what they read, the little pictures they have, their imagination and everything, is different. So you want to make something completely different to what you think other people might have thought. This was the end of the film and he got the concept of the star child. So Lizzy had… well, she asked for photographs of Keir Dullea as a baby and also at that time, because I can remember seeing it in Life magazine, they’d just invented the fibre optics of film photography so you could see inside the womb so they had pictures of embryos, right? And the development of a child right the way through, so this was in the middle of the ‘60s. So armed with all that knowledge, she sculpted, she did a sculpture of the young Keir Dullea as she thought. And I think it’s, especially side view, actually I think she’s still got that little turned-up nose in the end. And that was her big thing. Then she went onto, she worked in the make-up department and helped with the monkey masks as well. And then also she carried on and did Clockwork Orange with him, she did the tables.
0:19:04 MIKE: Did you have much contact with the actors in the film?
0:19:12 JOY: [laughter] Much contact? Oh yes, I used to go sit and chat to them on the set. I mean, in my tea break and I remember I took Keir Dullea around the pubs of Borehamwood because he, well, not really a pub crawl because we didn’t get pissed or anything but to show him what little old English pubs are like and it was quite funny because he was dropped off at my digs and of course my landlady ohh! Keir Dullea ! I think he’s been in a Hitchcock film that everybody knew and he’s been about so he was a very lovely young man and they’re all kind of twitching looking out the window, the net curtains, and then from his Mercedes we got in my little Hillman Husky which did have windows, it was a van but it did have windows in it and the seats were draped in towels and stuff because I was always so filthy coming home so I actually had to kind of change those a bit. And the first thing he said, he said Gee, this is quaint! Because it was a 1956, which I didn’t think was very old really but I suppose when you come from a big American car, it’s a lot of difference. So yes, we decided to take him to two or three pubs. I can’t remember the names of the pubs. I wonder if one was The Bell…
0:20:29 MIKE: What did he make of it all? And what was he like?
0:20:32 JOY: It’s funny. He told me he was quite shy. He did seem quite… yes, because Gary was very cookie-type and chatty whereas Keir wasn’t; he was quite quiet. And of course we get into this pub and stand by the bar and it’s quite full and you know how when you’re talking and you get these lulls in conversation? And he’s just ordered these drinks and I look at him and I’ve always seen him with make-up you see and I went “Oh God, I’ve never seen you without your make-up!” and suddenly the pub is like quiet [laughter] and in 1966, you don’t say things like that, do you? I mean, it was quite funny. I don’t know how I got over that one. And I think we talked about Stanley and other films and what it was like to be over here but I can’t quite remember a lot of it. It wasn’t very long; it too him a couple of hours. And then I went out with Gary as well and he was quite…
0:21:46 MIKE: What was he like? Because he was West Coast and Cairn was East Coast wasn’t he?
0:21:49 JOY: Yes, they were very very different. Well I’m trying to think if I went Gary first and then Keir It doesn’t really matter who but the thing that Keir said to me was “oh, I felt so shy to ask you out” and I’m thinking why? Because you’re the big actor! And I’m just working on the set. Anyway, I think that’s just a line. But Gary actually took me to London. Yes, he picked me up in his Mercedes and up we went to London and we went to see ‘It Happened Here’ which wasn’t really on general release, I don’t think, because of the content. And he bought me a box of grapes, which I thought was really lovely. Instead of a box of chocolates or something like that, he bought me a bunch of grapes. I thought that was a nice touch. And we just chatted about all kinds of things: films, clothes, people. And then something that didn’t strike me when I was up there. It was the ‘60s but… oh yes, I was going out with somebody at the time who got a bit “what do you mean you’re going out with that…” and I said “I’m only just going out with one of the actors”, you know? I don’t know why people get so jealous about things like this. But anyway, while we were up there, he was staying at Diane Cilento’s flat in Bayswater. Holland Park or Bayswater. Fantastic place, absolutely fantastic. And we’d get home late and I’m thinking hmm, and I’ve got all my good gear on and I’ve got to go to work the next day. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do about this. So we have a coffee and we sit down and he says to me “Shall I carry on with this?” [laughter]. He says to me “Gee! How would you like to make love to a big movie star?” and I said “I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I see one” and he went [inhale] and just got up and walked out. So I was left thinking well, where am I going to put my feet up? So I slept in my clothes and just stayed there the night. Next morning, he got up, never said anything about it, made some coffee and then the chauffeur arrives and of course, they chauffeur was all this, oh yes, I know. So we get in the car and we’re going back to MGM and he puts a blanket over me for when we went through the gate. So security didn’t see me and I’m thinking now I’m inside and I haven’t gone and signed my name [laughter] so it was quite… I don’t how I got outside again to come in. Or that I never signed my name that day. Can’t remember now but that was a strange day. But I don’t know. They also talk about sexist pigs lots of people are. I heard from another, a very close friend who we used to go to films together and go out to lunch and all that and he said there was a book going on me, on who was going to lay me first. That’s how sexist it was, yes.
0:25:27 MIKE: I want to talk a wee bit about [interruption]. I was just interested in women in the film and television industry.
0:25:40 JOY: Yes, they’re treated a bit like… Well, Wally Gentleman didn’t like females on the set and although he was a special effects guy, he left before it was finished because Wally Veevers was there as well. I’m sorry. It wasn’t Wally Gentleman, it was actually Wally Veevers]. Wally Veevers thinks that women should be at the kitchen sink and I was told that. Not by Wally Veevers but by somebody else who said that’s what Wally Veevers thinks, he doesn’t agree with having females on the set but, you see, I’d been there six months or something and by that time, Bob had been and gone, and I was working away. Anyway, he never really used to speak to me one-to-one at all and he was the special effects director but this day we had to have his set ready by just after lunch so I had all morning to get… it wasn’t the one that somebody put their hand on by the way, because that’s why I was so upset. They used to get the morning and they’d say the camera’s going to be rolling in the afternoon. So I worked really hard and it was getting near lunchtime and it wasn’t ready, so I worked through my lunch hour and I got it ready by two o’clock and he gave me brownie points. I mean, I would just do that anyway. And he just changed his attitude towards me so that was good. But you see, he comes in with a preconception about all females, what do females do. Oh, you see, they’re just a distraction so I got him thinking the right way around again.
0:27:23 MIKE: I think we should move on… From ’67, so what happened there? You went to work with Abacus, yeah?
0:27:38 JOY: Yes. It was the summer. Late summer. It was just finishing and all the moon sets were gone and you were just trying extra-terrestrials and there wasn’t really and I felt I needed really… Bob and John set up Abacus and I really wanted to work with Bob and carry on learning from him. And they serviced films, television, they did commercials, they would do anything that was going but they were very very good at table tops models because of the pair of them. And it was just a very small crew and so I remember… they did the first action man. I mean, the action men, when you think the action men and Tracey[?] dolls. It was all shot in black and white as well. So when I used to have to do the make-up for the dolls, I painted them in black and white so they looked really good on film. And then we got a major Carl Foreman picture, Mackenna's Gold which well over a year, perhaps another 18 months, I can’t quite remember now. So that started in the Autumn I think the ‘Return of She’, they also got bits of the ‘Return of She’ and we were at Merton Park Studios so Bob actually said “oh no, it’s fine, you do these bits”. No, sorry, it wasn’t Merton Park, it was Bury Films[??] they were doing it at. They hadn’t quite established themselves at Merton Park because Bowie was working there as well so I was working at Bowies and John was nipping backwards and forwards doing stuff at Merton Park and on Mackenna’s Gold. So I worked on ‘Vengeance of She’ – we were calling ‘Return of She’ by the end – so it was interesting that because I designed the set that had the temple entrance and the great big bust of Ursula Andress who was She and of course this now is a reincarnation. And we made the model set and I actually painted the sky backing for that. That was lovely. I’m very good at skies and sky backings. I like doing that. And there was a lot to do on that because there was also a huge eye which had to be split in half as the temple was splitting so that was an insert shot so it had to be much bigger. The actual bust was life-size. And then…
0:30:32 MIKE: How did you work on that? What was the process of making that model?
0:30:39 JOY: Well, I did the model at home in my own studio. You start with an armature and you drape it, a bit like the moon sets actually, you drape it roughly with skrim[?] dipped in plaster and then I build it because the thing about plaster, I remember Henry Moore used to say this: there’s a medium, you can add to it and you can chisel it away. It’s a brilliant, a really good medium to work in. So I roughly got it right and then I can’t remember how long it took me because I had photographs; I didn’t have them from life unfortunately. I had the front photograph and the profile which has just reminded me of when I worked on ‘Dance of Death’. I did the portrait of Geraldine McEwan. And I was very lucky, I actually went to her house and did sketches of her there and I didn’t do that from photographs, I just did it from drawings and I had some publicity photographs to help me. And I went away and I did those two. They had to be identical on canvas because it was going to be shot a bullet through it and of course if they wanted a retake they needed two. I think they were both destroyed in the end. But it’s funny seeing Geraldine McEwan then because I thought she looked younger than she ever did on the set, on pictures…
0:32:10 MIKE: This is 1969, yeah
0:32:13 JOY: Yes. No it wasn’t. No, no, because obviously it was made earlier.
0:32:18 MIKE: Right, so it would be ’68.
0:32:19 JOY: ’68 yeah, this is ’68.
0:32:21 MIKE: Yeah, this is with Laurence Olivier as well?
0:32:23 JOY: Yeah, that’s right. Yes, that was in ’68. Yep. And she did, she looked completely… I mean some people photograph younger, don’t they? And some people photograph older but… I mean, she looks very pretty and beautiful and young in that but she looked very, very young in the flesh. So it was quite good to actually see her and then go away and do the painting. And they wanted the painting done Goya-like which I did. I did the first one like Gainsborough and it wasn’t right. I did all the lace and everything like that. You know, I had to do a mock. Can you do this? Yes, I can do this. So go away, do a quick rough one and then they asked me how much and I said £45 a painting but it will be £90 for two of them. Or 45… I said £90 for two. Now, I happened to know someone called Olga Layman who used to do portraits and she told me how much portraiture is in London and it was a lot, it was about half the price. So bearing in mind I was young and out of, you know, people think oh, you haven’t got the experience. And they say oh, you know, I don’t think so. And what happens two weeks later? They wanted it and they come back to me, having said to them I’d need to start it quite soon and having said to them give to me quick, no, no, they come back to me saying right – I think it was ten days or something like that. I was not only working for Bob but I also had to finish this portrait. So I was working quite hard, day and night on those. But Laurence Olivier, I met him, sat next to him on the set.
0:34:09 MIKE: What was he like then?
0:34:11 JOY: Well, he said to me: “You’re quite a good little painter”. And maybe that’s supposed to be an accolade but I was bit, you know, when you’re young, taken aback with… well, what do you expected when I’m doing something with the picture? I wouldn’t bring something that was rough! [laughter] Anyway, he was quite, I thought he was a bit pompous but still, that was probably just old English. No, I was talking about, sorry, I completely…
0:34:42 MIKE: We were talking about…
0:34:44 JOY: I was talking about She. So I also designed that, I helped build it. After I’d done the actual bust, it’s then a mould taken and that’s set into the miniature set, which is like the rocks, side of a canyon. And what’s interesting, they went down somewhere like Lyme Regis. You don’t have to chisel or anything, they took vinimoulds of the rock surfaces and then put them all together. They looked amazing. Because you could get all different scales of these rocks and they picked the right place to go. And there were several shots because there was a little insert shot, which was a long shot where you saw the two little figures edging along a ledge. So we had to marry that, so we build the set for that and then it was oh, must have an insert shot! So there was Olinka Berova who was… I can’t remember… Carol, who was an ex-She. She had to have a close-up of her legs edging along and then she puts her foot right on the edge and then almost falls off. So who’s the only female within striking distance? Me. So I’m busy painting one bit and then suddenly someone says oh, you need to go down by… go down to Slough and buy a khaki-coloured skirt – because it was a mini-skirt, they were all minis – and some tan cream, you know, the stuff that burns. So I rush down there in my dinner hour, come back, tan my legs. So I’m up on the gantry, and this is now, it wouldn’t happen like this now. And that must be at least 10ft in the air. There’s no safety harness. And they’d built a ledge and it’s a ledge going off, out where there’s a split in, well, the gantry and they can take some of the bits that stop you falling off away. And there’s two of the Bowie boys up there to hold onto me while I walk along and then, so the camera’s rolling, so I’m edging along and then I stand on the bit I’m told to stand on which is going to give way. And I must give way with it but it’s alright, I’ve got somebody holding onto me! [laughter] Anyway, this could have been a disaster. Do you know, I still feel funny about it now. This is one thing that goes through my mind several times because it makes me feel funny. I stand on it and nothing happens and there’s this oh, cut! Cut! All this shouting and getting cross, oh for God’s sake, well put some weight on it! And I went like this [demonstrates stepping out motion] and it didn’t give way. And I said “it’s not giving way!” and I’m standing there… I don’t know how, I mean, what an idiot! So everyone has to get up there and the model-makers pull it down and they put it back quickly with another like some light, light plaster. Right, go again. They went again and I did it properly but this time I was thinking oh God, I mustn’t… it’s going to give way this time [laughter] and it did. Yes, you’d have to get… what with equity, that’s very naughty really. But I didn’t think about things like that. It’s like on Thunderbirds, I used to be Lady Penelope’s hand and somebody said this to me recently, they actually got into trouble later on and they had to have a hand artist but in those days I had young, beautiful hands of about a 20-year-old. But what else did I do? That’s about all, there was a lot on She really.
0:38:57 MIKE: You mentioned also Mackenna’s Gold there as well.
0:39:00 JOY: Oh yes, we’re into Mackenna’s Gold.
[interruption by camera crew]
0:39:06 JOY: Mackenna’s Gold. Well, we had many, many, many shots on Mackenna’s Gold. There were glasses, you know, big 6ft glasses of the canyon and the Grand Canyon. They were shot at Technicolour. We didn’t have a big enough set-up so actually we were at Technicolour for many, many months and then we moved back to Merton Park. And I remember Telly Savalas coming in for some of the insert shots. And I made the little replica of Gregory Peck’s horse, just quick, edited and shot. But Telly Savalas mum was a sculptor so we had a long chat in the tea breaks. That was quite interesting. But that was quite epic but as cowboy films go, I don’t know whether it’s one of the best ones on record really.
0:40:07 MIKE: It’s got a good reputation.
0:40:09 JOY: Has it really? Oh, isn’t it funny. It’s Bob’s modesty again. He used to go oh, it’s not on again, is it!? At Christmas. [laughter] It is a Christmas thing. Yeah, it’s funny that. And you know, it’s quite exciting because… actually I’ve got a map here. Now this is what the Hopi Indian had in his rucksack, his saddlebag. And that’s how they found where all the gold was. And everywhere they went, we had matte shots to do. Obviously because you had to have these fabulous shots of the Grand Canyon and you had to put in Omar Sharif and Gregory Peck. And there again, when we were doing the insert shots at Merton Park…
END OF ROLL 3
8 June 2010
Interviewer: Mike Dick
Interviewee: Joy Cuff
Camera Ruth Bolland
0:00:00.0 MIKE: The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. The name of the interviewee is Joy Cuff, something Matt Artist. The name of the interviewer is Mike Dick, 8 June 2010, and this is tape Four.
0:00:22 MIKE: So Joy, yeah, we were talking about Mackenna’s Gold.
0:0025 JOY: Yeah, Mackenna’s Gold. I mean, we did so many little inserts as well and I did lots of art work for the inserts, for the map, and then they had some of the different stars to come down for different inserts and one of them was Julie Newmar who I think was on Catwoman before she was on Mackenna, some time before. She was very beautiful. But she was quite a volatile actress, very difficult, I heard. So the day before she was coming down, they wanted to do all the set-ups and also the camera tests. So who was on the set? And I was dressed up as a Navajo Indian and actually it’s quite frightening, I actually looked like one. But I had the, you know the old Evo - Stik scar? They used to give us… and I was redded down and my hair parted – I had long hair – and you just grease it and it’s all dark. And I wore what she was wearing and you had to stand where she would have stood and I just think… all the lighting. Because they used Q I s as well and I was so hot and the camera test was I had to put the Bowie knife – actually, I’ve still got the Bowie knife, it’s like my memento from it – to Greg Pecks’ throat. But mind you he wasn’t here because that was the camera. I was teased like mad because Carl Foreman’s directing [laughter] and I was thinking I don’t really want to be here! But anyway, that was the camera test which also was shot on 65mm with an anamorphic so I’ve actually got it on 35mm somewhere. I’ve still got it. But where you find an anamorphic lens to have a look at it now, I don’t know. But we were a long time on that film as well. It was another one. Just fun and easy, lovely, long, barmy summers we had.
0:02:33 MIKE: The impression I get though is that you have to be a kind of flexible person to work in the way that you were working. You’d be called upon to do a whole range of skills. I suppose by that point you’ve developed over the kind of movies that you’ve been working on and obviously the early days of Thunderbirds, this kind of basis of skills. I mean, how would you define the sorts of skills that you’ve brought to a production?
0:03:06 JOY: Well, I know it sounds funny but somebody once called me, I think I said this at the beginning, a jobbing artist [laughter]. And that’s what I think artists are, you know, you can do anything. If you can do it two-dimensional… two-dimensional work is very abstract. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, if it looks figurative, it’s abstract because if you’re translating something from three-dimensional into two-dimensional, and then to do three-dimensional work, to me, that’s what life is. You’re reproducing something from life anyway then so… And as I’ve always drawn and sculpted all my life, I didn’t find it strange that I could jump from one thing to another really.
0:03:54 MIKE: I mean the next production that drew on your skills was Tony Garnett and Ken Loach at Kestrel . And that was in 1969, wasn’t it? The Body.
0:04:08 JOY: Yes, The Body was an amazing film actually because it’s the body from birth to death. And they shot some quite amazing footage which probably wasn’t in the film anyway but I did the growth sequence on that. Now this was an animation, I think it was the Great Ormond Street Hospital - I believe it was Great Ormond Street because that’s a children’s hospital - had photographed children, a male and a female, from birth to 18 every six months to study growth. So we decided, we had a designer, so we decided we’d do, a bit like Leonardo Da Vinci’s man who stands like a cross. So that’s how the 18-year-old would end up and so was the baby. Actually it wasn’t quite a baby because they had to stand up so probably about 18 months old. So I did it in the circle with four lines across so you could see also the growth and had to cut each limb because so you’d see every year, and it’s so funny watching them because when they’re about seven or eight, they stand up straight and they have their photograph taken and they get to a teenager they’re kind of sloped, God, have I got to be photographed again, but you had to make them look all the same so I had to cut each limb and then reassemble it and then paint it in so it didn’t look broken so the growth sequence went like that. And I also did one for a hand as well. Which reminds me, on She I also did the… when the hand goes up into the flames and you see it gradually gets licked with flames and then you can skeleton and then it disappears. Well it’s shot in reverse and I gradually built up between shots fingers until… from a skeleton, but that’s an underside, but it’s just interesting to do things almost on set as well.
0:06:30 MIKE: Was that stop frame animation you would use there or what? What sort of techniques would you use there?
0:06:35 JOY: What, on the hammer?
0:06:37 MIKE: Yeah.
0:06:38 JOY: On the hammer? No, it wasn’t stop frame, it was shot… not even at high speed, maybe it was shot at high speed, and we had a real skeleton which was then moulded so we had lots of them all identical and each one was a stage further on to having flesh on it. And they just filmed it and dissolved it, filmed it and dissolved it, and you’re right, I think it probably was on… though it was a model, but I think it was done upright. But it was done on a fixed camera. And the arm was on like an armature that stayed there and you’d just put on the next one but because it’s a dissolve, it worked quite well. I think it was five stages but back to The Body. So I did that and there was a hand to do as well and I also did the title sequence which was quite interesting. I remember the font was Micro Gramma because it was up to the minute which actually is a font now, they’ve changed its name, I can’t remember off the top of my head what it’s called now, but it’s used now because it’s very modern. And…
[interruption by ringing phone]
0:08:12 MIKE: So you got married at this sort of point in the…
0:08:20 JOY: Yes, actually I was married then. Yes, I was married on that. Now, really strangely when I was on The Body, we were on set, one of the doctors came up to me and kind of introduced who I was and she said “oh, you’re pregnant, aren’t you?” and I went “[laughter] Not me!” and I was, which I’ve never forgotten that [laughter]. That was really quite amazing. How did she know because the big thing about The Body was the birth. I remember doing, because I did the titles, and the birth at the end was Barnaby and he had a credit so he must be, he’s got to be 40 now, isn’t he?
0:09:08 MIKE: So you married Bob, Bob Cuff’s son?
0:09:13 JOY: In’69, yes.
0:09:14 MIKE: And then you had Simon, your son, in ’70. What I’m interested in at this stage is how you balanced that, you know, you’re working a very busy life at the moment, at that time, and then you’re juggling motherhood as well. I mean, how did you manage to do all that sort of thing ?
0:09:33 JOY: Well, with The Body, I worked right up until he was due actually because you didn’t think about, well in those days if you were freelance, in fact you probably don’t now, you don’t have any other money coming in, and I just worked up until he was born and I’m trying to think… what did I do?
0:09:59 MIKE: You did Family Life.
0:10:00 JOY: Yes, I did the titles of Family Life, didn’t I? Well then actually I started doing things in my own studio at home. And if I was working, I’d take him over to my mum so I was quite, I didn’t used to work all the time and also I used to work at night. And I’ve actually got, you know and 30, 40 years on, I do work really well, I can get up at night, I can work really well at night.
0:10:30 MIKE: You’ve got this wee baby and [laughter]…
0:10:33 JOY: Yes, I know. I know. [laughter] And I know when I worked, I think it was Sean Hudson, I worked on “Brancusi”as something for the Arts Council and that was titling again and I had him with me. I mean, he often came with me to meetings and I remember breast-feeding at a meeting and nobody kind of, well, I didn’t think there was anything funny in that. And I thought we were al getting open-minded but now, they’re still a bit funny, aren’t they, about mothers working? But yes, I was quite lucky because I didn’t work full-time in a studio, very rarely, if I had to go, like I worked on an advert, I went back to Abacus and worked on something, I’d take him over to my mum’s. Because Paul at that time, he was working on documentaries and he often used to go away for quite some time. You know, like when Simon was one, he was away for a month. And I also started doing quite a bit in theatre so I was doing it at home in between, you know, you’d work 24 hours a day in between feeds. I mean, my house always looked a mess but I mean I didn’t have to go out to actually work a nine to five job which was probably quite lucky.
0:12:01 MIKE: Can we move on to 1988 because that was kind of a major, major film that you were involved in at that point.
0:12:09 JOY: Yes, I did other art work not working in the film industry probably, actually to accommodate children really. And I was close to home. 1988 was The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Now there again, it was Terry Gilliam, people ask me ooh, what was Terry Gilliam like? Well I don’t really know because I was working with Bob and a cameraman called John Grant in a barn on Walton-on-Thames. That was John’s set-up, amazing set-up, just next to his house. And I’d fit that around always getting back just after the kids got back from school, about six o’clock because it’s not really very far away and going over there… I used to have another job actually in the morning as a pottery technician in a school. So I used to go after that and then I used to work at the weekends or at night. I used to take my matte painting home with me and lug it upstairs – I don’t know how I carried it around – we were very lucky, we had an old London taxi then which you get a six by three glass in the back. Because when I was at art school, they said don’t paint anything larger than that because you can travel around in a London taxi. So I could transport it backwards and forwards.
0:13:39 MIKE: That’s good advice, that. What were the challenges of working on Baron Munchausen then?
0:13:46 JOY: One of the challenges was we never got paid for a long time. I didn’t get paid for a year actually. It was quite funny because this is post production and of course he’d spent all his money. I believe, I mean did he mortgage one of his houses, I know he was putting all his money into it. And this was post production. We just get the live action, we’d be told what the rest of it had to look like, well I did the burning city one, well alright it’s a burning Spanish town in the 1800s or something, so you’d go and do a little bit of research on architecture and stuff. What we always had in the studio was National Geographic magazine. And it doesn’t matter what age it is, you know, if you’ve seen them in Oxfam , pick them up and flick through those and you can get lots of research just in a couple of different issues. So once that had been delineated and I’d started to draw that, I think once it’s laid in, you have a camera test quite early on, just to make sure you’ve got things like…
0:15:28 JOY: The early takes always used to show you whether you’ve got the right perspective because that was quite a difficult shot because you’re looking down on the town square, because that was the only bit of live action, and just the side of the house and the front of a house there and all the rest was a burning city. That was quite amazing because we had flames and fires and smoke travelling and that was all on glass because you’d have moving glasses. I didn’t actually see a lot of that shot because you see, you’re away doing another shot. But I knew that was what they were doing because that was all stop-frame when you’re doing moving glasses so…
0:16:17 MIKE: How did sort of techniques change, or did they change because we’re talking what, this is 1988?
0:16:25 JOY: Techniques don’t change at all.
0:16:26 MIKE: Yeah. How’s that?
0:16:28 JOY: This is what’s amazing. I mean, it’s like you talk about Stanley’s technique of using live, undeveloped film in the can. That’s what they were doing 50 years ago because they couldn’t dupe films, or duping wasn’t very good. The minute duping had good quality, oh we’ll dupe it and then we can marry it together and all that, but the quality that Stanley wanted with that shot, you know, it’s not duped so neither the live action or the model was duped; it was two first takes. And split-screens, really only the technique of locking off the camera properly has got better, but it’s exactly the same. And of course now it’s digital, it’s different.
0:17:24 MIKE: It’s CGI. Yeah.
0:17:26 JOY: It is different but it’s works perfectly now. I mean, it used to be difficult because in all your different takes, ah look you can see black so it was a bit of the matte showing off as white or the other way around, it wasn’t painted up to the join. And you were always told you have to do a join where it’s sympathetic, instead of doing it right across something. On Erik the Viking actually, some of the joins would be really quite difficult because they were halfway up a brick wall or… yes, some of them weren’t quite so easy and one of them, I know they got quite cross on one because it didn’t have a locked off camera when they shot it out wherever they did it, in Malta or whatever. I don’t know where they went on location. So if you’d have a slight movement, so you’d have to do a soft matte so that if it did move… mind you, if you knew where it was, I mean I always saw things like that because you’d go looking for the join, to see where it was. One of the best shots in Mackenna’s Gold was the shaft of light which everybody thinks is a real shaft of light, but it’s not. I did that with a spray gun, it was really good. It sprayed light. And it works really well. It’s when they’re actually going in to find the gold.
0:19:00 MIKE: Do you think we’ve lost something, you know? We’ve got all this CGI, we’ve got Avatar, we’ve got all these sorts of techniques that we use now and audiences go in and they watch a movie. Do you think we’ve lost something along the way?
0:19:11 JOY: Yes. What I don’t find strange, and I know people are talking about quality but I saw Alice. Amazing, amazing. But there’s something unreal about it.
0:19:26 MIKE: This is Tim Burton’s latest movie.
0:19:28 JOY: Yeah, yeah. I mean unreal as in it’s a shock. I mean, the crowds in that garden party, I just find it’s unreal. Because the eye can’t see everything. You only focus on a small bit and even when you’re photographing a big expanse, say even on 2001, it still had that, you lose the, like on the moon surface, you lose the quality because the mountains in the background are not modelled as detailed as the ones in front because you don’t see them, you know? They’re a shape. And I sometimes looked and thought why does this look, it does, it looks strange to me. And of course I’ve been a bit of a drop-out for years now. I don’t have a television. I don’t watch television. [laughter] And I probably watch less and less films now. I don’t go to ordinary theatres; I go to an art cinema. And I always think they’re like rushes theatres anyway because having seen epic films. So I haven’t seen 2001 for a long, long time because I’d never go and see it. I haven’t seen it on the box because I wouldn’t watch it on the box because it’s not meant to be…
0:20:48 MIKE: But you’re going to see it in a couple of weeks’ time. Describe that. How do you think you’ll feel when you’re sat to see it?
0:20:54 JOY: It will be emotional because I still shiver when I think about, as I said, it’s the soundtrack. It’s just amazing. And that opening shot is just so beautiful. It makes me feel cold. I’ve just thought of something else about it, the soundtrack… No, I’ve forgotten it now, it’s gone. Sorry.
0:21:21 MIKE: Here you are in 2010 and you sort of look back at the sort of things that you’ve [inaudible].
0:21:27 JOY: Well I think talking about it being unreal, to me, it’s my other life and it’s almost like it was really me, you know? It is, it’s my other life, it’s really strange. But it’s quite nice because you’ve got that and I mean, I wanted to bring my kids up and when you work on the films, you do sell your soul. Quite rightly so because they wouldn’t be that amazing would they? Because you put in everything, every bit of energy you’ve got in it. No, and I’ve been quite lucky to have been at that particular period in time. And I’ve just suddenly thought when you said what will I feel like when I’m watching 2001, when I was introduced to the archives – this was quite amazing – I went there…
0:22:15 MIKE: Can you tell me, explain the archives, I mean, we’re talking about the Stanley Kubrick Archives. Describe about your work there.
0:22:22 JOY: My daughter-in-law said that she belonged to London College of Fashion and part of that is The London College of Communications and in there, there is an archive for film, and they decided they’d like to house Stanley Kubrick’s boxes, his archive boxes which were actually offered to someone else. They didn’t want them so then they jumped in and said yes, we’ll have them. And actually I think the BBC, I’ve seen the film on Stanley Kubrick’s boxes that they made but before that, in ’07, I go along and the boxes haven’t been there long and they’re in the old, original, tatty boxes and they’re like, you know, well films boxes, not necessarily the cans, the film sometimes went in Kodak boxes and all kinds of things, all different shapes and sizes, and they are actually listed and the guy says to me oh, pick a couple of boxes and see if you know what’s inside them. So I’m thinking oh God. I mean, all miscellaneous and miscellaneous and miscellaneous and I said I’ll have that miscellaneous slides and I’ll have that one, miscellaneous polaroids. So off they go and I come back and open the box up and I just start flicking through and there’s some of my work! And it’s not only my work, it was one of my drawings, just a pencil sketch with a bit of colour on it and showing a crater and different numbers all over it, which actually I can’t remember what the numbers meant now. I think it was to do with the… I don’t know. Anyway, ah blimey, you know? So I could tell them that was to do with the production, the sets that I worked on. So I go to the other one and I open that up and there’s polaroids of all the moon sets, amongst other polaroids. So that was really eery because… I think they had a thousand boxes or something and I just picked two and it just happened… So I’m now destined and meant to volunteer at the archives, which I have done and so I go there, once a fortnight probably doesn’t sound like very much but it’s enough to kind of give a day and I’m absolutely exhausted by the time I’m finished, every time. I’ve been given the job at the moment to go through all the slides, 35mm, 2 ¼ , whatever size, and categorise them. Not just categorise them but tell them oh… Well, what I was helping do, they picked up what’s this? It’s a sausage machine. And they say something like what’s a sausage machine? Well it was like a camera mash-up which they used in the special effects and that’s what they called it. And it’s so that when you’re working there you can identify with what you’re doing.
0:25:18 MIKE: Because you are that link with that era. What I’m interested in is why you think it’s so important to do these kinds of things, work there?
0:25:27 JOY: Because now you don’t want to lose this wealth of information really. And quite a few since I’ve been there, there’s lots of students that have come in, sometimes in groups when they’re actually teaching and sometimes it’s been a couple of PhD students, and it just helps you talk about how the films used to be made and what you used to do. It’s like what I said about Stanley doing something that was done 50 years before time. Nobody does it now because of duping of film but he decided that that gives a good quality. Well I don’t think that has been done since because it’s a big step to do it. Lots of money involved. Well I think the technique of split-screen has not changed but the technique of how you get there has. And I know video, well, video is a completely different medium. Completely different. It’s almost as though it’s endless; it’s not like you’ve only got so much footage. When I was in the film, earlier in the 60s, 70s, they used to say documentary was 1:4 shooting, and that’s probably quite a lot if not less, and filming is probably 1:10. And that’s quite a lot. Hopefully it’s less. Because they had so much, the money for the stock, all this, all that, but now I think well you can just wipe off shots you don’t want and re-shoot it. I don’t know whether I’m right, [laughter] but it’s so different. It really is. Which has just reminded me, John Grant once told me that his dad, who was also in the film industry, used to work at one of the little studios in North London and Eisenstein used to come around and beg short ends and they reckon that that’s why, because lots of his films are very short in their cutting and they all used to say that he probably cuts his films before he shoots them so, you know, I think they’re shot… [laughter] which is quite amazing because he couldn’t afford the film. Well I mean lots of the films gone in Russia didn’t they because didn’t they scrape the silver off and re-use it? So all those things, oh it’s gone. I was always watching films from the 20s, special effects films and sci-fi from the 20s and even before that, even silent ones, because I used to think it was amazing to glean information from how they were making things.
0:28:30 MIKE: So when you’re going through these boxes of Kubrick material, are you constantly discovering new things?
0:28:35 JOY: Yes, yes. Now at the moment I’m looking through shot of different scientific stations out there and I can’t quite remember the names of some of them but what a boring day. I get loads of these 35mm slides and they’ve got the most boring shots of long, long corridors and rooms just white, just white oh… and then I came across a big conference room with a long table and chairs going down each side and a big desk at the top and a screen and where did I see that last? 2001. So those were his reference shots for the interiors of when they were having their conferences at the space station so to start with I’m wondering what on earth these are going in the archives for [laughter] but we have to keep everything because Stanley had had those for a reason. And that’s why. One or two things in that… and they were all shot April ’65 because, you know, you see the stamp on the cover of the little slide and it was April ’65 out in the United States. So he did reels and reels and reels. And whether he, he wouldn’t have shot them himself because he was over here, wasn’t he? So somebody else would have been sent out there to do them. Mind you, Stanley nearly always had a camera around his neck. He used to take lots of photographs but lots of his recces were other people.
0:30:18 MIKE: Last thought, final thought.
0:30:23 JOY: My final thought?
0:30:25 MIKE: What will it all amount to, do you think?
0:30:26 JOY: I feel I was quite privileged to be a part of that part of history. That’s my final thought really.
0:31:07 Rostrum shots of Joy’s notebook from 2001 : A Space Odyssey
0:41:10 End of roll