A stunning exhibition of behind-the-scenes photographs on the set of Bernardo Bertolucci’s iconic 1987 film The Last Emperor are on show at Beijing art institution M WOODS‘ Longfusi site.
Hong Kong photographer Basil Pao, who was also a still photographer for years on Monty Python star Michael Palin’s travel series, is the man behind the camera, snapping candid photographs of actors and crew of the movie.
The film was the first international feature to be filmed inside the Forbidden City and went on to win a number of Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director and others.
Persistent rain delayed the filming of the ‘ImperialWedding’ scene.
Outside the Meridian Gate, the Italian wardrobe assistant did afinal walk through to inspect the hundreds of costumes beforethe cameras rolled for the ‘Expulsion of the Eunuchs.’
Pao also acted in the movie, starring as Prince Chun, the father of the title character of the film, Puyi, the Last Emperor himself. Pao met Bertolucci in Hong Kong in 1985 and the pair hit it off and the former flew into Beijing 1986 to star in the film. He got caught up in activities on set beyond his acting duties, like finding horses for the film’s Imperial Guards and helping to manage the 19,000 extras that appeared in the movie, providing him with plenty of opportunities to capture the photos that we see in this showing.
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While photos show the film’s stars, like Joan Chen and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, many also show extras lounging in their downtime between shooting, while we also see crew interacting with the awe-inspiring and enormous set-pieces that had been made for the film.
John Lone as adult Puyi. The young Emperor had just cut offhis cue in a previous scene, and was about to expel theeunuchs from the Forbidden City.
Ladies-in-Waiting by a small lake in the Summer Palace.
Ladies-in-Waiting watching the arrival of Kuomintang soldiersfrom the sidelines of the Tennis Court set.
Fashion models playing female divinities in the Palace ofTranquil Rest set were tasked with looking after Peony – theDowager’s Pekingese that was featured in close-ups on herdeathbed.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Chief Eunuch Chang
All images ©Basil Pao 1986 • All rights reserved. All images courtesy of M WOODS.
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