Hercules Bellville, longtime right-hand man to producer Jeremy Thomas who also worked closely with Roman Polanski, Bernardo Bertolucci, Michelangelo Antonioni and numerous other filmmakers, died Saturday in London. He was 69. He had been successfully treated for cancer more than a year ago but suffered a relapse at the beginning of this year.
A highly cultivated bon vivant and connoisseur of art and people, the long and lean Bellville had cut a prominent figure on the international film scene since Polanski hired him as an assistant on “Repulsion”; it was Bellville’s spindly, bony fingers that came through the walls to menace Catherine Deneuve in the nightmare sequence.
For the next 14 years, Bellville worked with Polanski and producer Andrew Braunsberg in various capacities on “Cul de Sac,” “Macbeth,” “What?,” “The Tenant” and “Tess,” for which he shot a British sequence when the director couldn’t enter the U.K. for fear of extradition to the United States. He had previously appeared as a featured extra in a ballroom sequence in Vincente Minnelli’s Paris-lensed “The Reluctant Debutante.”
Born in San Diego, Bellville had an American mother, while his English father, Rupert Bellville, a test pilot and bullfighting enthusiast, was a crony of Hemingway’s in Spain. After studying languages at Oxford, Hercules Bellville programmed cinema programs at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts before meeting Polanski.
Bellville was assistant director to Antonioni on “The Passenger,” which started a close association with Jack Nicholson that continued on “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Blood and Wine.” Bellville lived in Los Angeles during the first half of the ’80s, when he worked on “Being There” and co-produced “Strangers Kiss.”
Moving back to London to work for Thomas in 1984, Bellville worked on many of the producer’s subsequent films, including “The Last Emperor,” “Little Buddha,” “All the Little Animals,” “Sexy Beast” and “The Dreamers,” often as associate or co-producer, and on projects with David Cronenberg, Johnny Depp, Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Demme, Bob Rafelson and Phillip Noyce. Bellville was a key behind-the-scenes figure for these and many other filmmakers.