Sleuthing out a model career
HE’S worked with James Bond, Indiana Jones, Superman, Luke Skywalker and various aliens – but you probably don’t know the name Bill Dennis.
The 73-year-old English expatriate has worked on a plethora of blockbuster films over the years making models, moulds and set finishing before he emigrated to Perth in 1982.
Among them are Alien, Rollerball, Superman I and II, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Battle of Britain, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stars Wars, Return of the Jedi and various Bond films with Sean Connery and Roger Moore.
In Australia, Dennis worked on the mini-series A Fortunate Life, Windrider, The Light Horsemen, various commercials and several notable Perth sculptures – Gorilla and Young near Perth Zoo’s main entrance and Women in Headdress above Cinema Paradiso.
He returned to the UK between 2001 and 2009 and worked on Johnny English, Casino Royale, The Bourne Ultimatum, Thunderbirds and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Now retired and back in Perth, Dennis’ latest challenge is creating a major prop for a production of the murder-mystery play Sleuth at Limelight Theatre.
And he’s well-placed for the task, after working on the original Sleuth film starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine in 1972.
“When I retired, I volunteered to help out at Limelight Theatre to paint sets but a back injury curtailed my involvement,” he said.
“After the director, Sue Mainwaring, told me she was putting on a production of Sleuth, I mentioned I had worked on the original film.
“She asked if I could build the laughing sailor for her, a prop integral to the play – I laughed and said would cost thousands.
“But I was getting bored with my retirement and said I would volunteer my time if they paid for the materials.”
Dennis took on the job, creating the laughing sailor from silicon rubber, foam, aluminium, fibreglass and a windscreen wiper motor,
“I hadn’t built anything like it before, so designing it on a shoestring budget and ensuring it did what’s necessary in the play was a real challenge,” he said.
“When the show ends, I would like to put it into The Blender Gallery in Joondalup for its Christmas show to highlight the art of film and theatre prop-making, if I can get permission.”
Written by Anthony Shaffer, Sleuth won a 1971 Tony Award for best play and was also adapted by playwright Harold Pinter for a 2007 film remake starring Michael Caine and Jude Law.
The play follows mystery writer Andrew Wyke, who lures his wife’s lover Milo Tindall to his manor house where he harbours an obsession for inventions and deceptions of fiction and a fascination with games.
Sleuth plays at 8pm, September 27, 28, 29, October 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13. Tickets are $19 adults, $16 concession and $10 children.
Book on (08) 9571 8591 between 9am and midday, Monday to Friday, or online at www.limelighttheatre.com.
Limelight Theatre is located on Civic Drive, Wanneroo.
sleuth-bill: Bill Dennis, centre, with the laughing sailor he has created for the play Sleuth with actors Bob Mainwaring and Chris Juckes.