Producer donates archive to BFI

Thomas collection includes scripts, prints and marketing materials

by Amber Wilkinson

Jeremy Thomas Collection will include archive material from Ben Wheatley's High Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston
Jeremy Thomas Collection will include archive material from Ben Wheatley's High Rise, starring Tom Hiddleston
Producder Jeremy Thomas has donated his personal collection to the BFI National Archive.

The BFI say the "significant donation from his working archive" spans his career from his first film Mad Dog Morgan, directed by Philippe Mora in 1976, through to Ben Wheatley's High Rise in 2015.

Consisting of both moving image and paper-based material, the donation includes rare 35mm prints, scripts, production material and international posters from films including Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing (1978), Nagisa Ôshima’s Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983), Bernardo Bertolucci’s Oscar-winner The Last Emperor (1987), David Cronenberg’s Crash (1996), Jonathan Glazer’s Sexy Beast (2000) and David Mackenzie’s Young Adam (2003).

The archive will continue to receive ongoing donations from the producer and, once fully catalogued, the paper-based portion will be collectively known as The Jeremy Thomas Collection. The donation from Thomas, who was BFI chairman from 1993 to 97, also includes rare moving image material such as the original sound tapes by David Byrne and Ryuichi Sakamoto for The Last Emperor as well as the prooducer's 35mm print of the film, plus 35mm prints of Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Karel Reisz’s final film Everybody Wins (1990), Bertolucci’s adaptation of The Sheltering Sky (1990) and Thomas’s own film as director, All The Little Animals (1998), starring John Hurt and a young Christian Bale.

The work of other directors included in the material includes Stephen Frears, Terry Gilliam, David Mackenzie, Jonathan Glazer, Takeshi Kitano, Bob Rafaelson, Jerzy Skolomowski, Takashi Miike and Richard Linklater.

The BFI said in many cases the archive documents the history of a production from initial story and script drafts through to art department drawings, location work and production stills as well as marketing and press campaign materials.

Thomas - who was honoured with a BFI fellowship in 1998 - said: “The BFI has been important to me since I was young, and a lot of my film education has been through preservation of things past which I enjoyed at the National Film Theatre. My affectionate involvement with the BFI culminated with my work as Chairman. I’ve decided to entrust my archives starting at the beginning of my career through to my recent work, and I intend for all my extensive material to eventually be together in the BFI National Archive. In the words of Cocteau: 'There's no such thing as love; only proof of love.'

BFI creative director Heather Stewart added: “I couldn’t be more thrilled that Jeremy is donating his personal collection, a history and expression of everything he has stood for as one of Britain’s greatest producers, to the BFI. Jeremy has fought for film culture all of his working life, and as ex-Chair of the BFI he understands perfectly the critical role that the BFI’s film, television and moving image archive plays in making sure that these key documents and many rare films are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

"It is a big step for him to take to let go of so many personal prints. I can’t thank him enough for his generous spirit. The collection offers an amazing opportunity for students and researchers to understand more about how films are made, and is a real treasure trove for the BFI to use to illuminate and contextualise our public programme.”

Chair of the BFI for five years from 1993-1997, Jeremy Thomas was honoured with a BFI fellowship in 1998, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture, and was the subject of a BFI Southbank retrospective in April 2014, ‘Made in Britain’, celebrating 40 years as a producer.

The donation follows the recent move of Thomas' Recorded Picture Company and HanWay Films offices from Soho to Notting Hill. His archive will join other significant personal collections held and preserved at the BFI National Archive John Paul Getty Jnr Conservation Centre in Berkhamsted. Once the donation process is complete and cataloguing is underway, it will be accessible to view by appointment through BFI Special Collections at the BFI Reuben Library.

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