Arthur Wooster, who has died aged 91 after suffering from dementia, was hired by the director John Glen to bring scenes of daredevil action to the screen as second unit director on all the James Bond movies of the 1980s. This followed a career mostly spent shooting documentaries, including a groundbreaking 3D film of the Queen’s coronation.
Glen, a film editor on some early productions that Wooster worked on as a camera operator, knew the qualities that he could bring to supply thrills and spills. “He was prepared to fly in fast fighter aircraft, ski, mountain climb, and he was a terrific underwater cameraman,” said Glen.
As well as masterminding shots below water in his first 007 film, For Your Eyes Only (1981), Wooster mounted two car chases. One, filmed over 12 days, was shot in Corfu, with top stunt drivers standing in for Roger Moore, as Bond, and Carole Bouquet, his co-star, in a Citroën 2CV and a Cuban assassin and his cronies in two powerful Peugeots. After following the action along winding roads through olive groves, with tyres screeching and guns firing, the 2CV dramatically jumps over one of the villains’ vehicles.
Wooster’s other standout Bond moments were shooting Moore in a train fight, from a helicopter high above, for Octopussy (1983), and in a fire engine chase through the night-time streets of San Francisco for A View to a Kill (1985); and Timothy Dalton clinging to the top of a Land Rover as it speeds down the Rock of Gibraltar in The Living Daylights (1987) and dicing with death during a tanker chase in Licence to Kill (1989).
Wooster returned to Bond films later to provide additional “third unit” material. He captured stunt performers, doubling for Pierce Brosnan as 007, jumping from a Swiss mountain on a motorcycle and skydiving in pursuit of a single-engine plane for GoldenEye (1995). He also filmed derelict oil platforms for The World Is Not Enough (1999) and took to a fishing boat to shoot the opening surfing sequence for Die Another Day (2002).
Arthur Wooster, right, and Bob Angell attend the preview screening of The Queen In 3D at Channel 4 studios in 2009. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
Earlier, in his documentary-making career, Wooster shot in colour the only 3D footage of the Queen’s coronation. However, Royal Review 1953, which was commissioned by the newsreel company Pathé Films, was never publicly screened at the time because the 3D format proved short-lived. It was dropped because of the expense of installing the system in cinemas and supplying audiences with special glasses just as the public were turning to the newly popular television.
Wooster and the director, Robert Angell, placed two cameras side by side and edited the pictures together to give the illusion of 3D for their coverage of the Queen’s return journey from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey and events over the following three weeks, including a trip to the Epsom Derby and the first close-up shots of the new monarch as she embarked from the royal barge on the Thames.
After being deposited with the British Film Institute, the documentary was finally screened more than 50 years later during a Channel 4 week of 3D programmes in 2009.
Arthur was born in Hendon, Middlesex, to May (nee Elstone) and Sidney Wooster, and grew up in Wembley, north-west London. On leaving East Lane county secondary school at 14, he worked in his father’s butcher’s shop, which supplied meat to Wembley film studios, opposite. Its production manager secured him an interview for a clapper loader’s job with the Crown Film Unit, then part of the government’s Ministry of Information.
He first worked on The True Story of Lili Marlene (1944), a wartime film directed by the groundbreaking documentary-maker Humphrey Jennings. Wooster worked on documentaries for much of the following 40 years, as well as public information films for the Central Office of Information and other sponsors, broken only by national service in the RAF (1947-49), when he repaired aircraft instruments.
The Crown Film Unit closed in 1952, when Wooster was about to work as focus puller on a new production in Africa, which was then taken up by Group 3 and produced by John Grierson, the father of documentary-making. The result, Man of Africa (1953), directed by Cyril Frankel, was a dramatised documentary shot in Uganda and featuring an all-black cast.
With Angell and other former Crown Film Unit colleagues, Wooster set up the production company Film Partnership and established himself as a camera operator.
Alongside sponsored documentaries, it supplied a film unit to the BBC, most successfully for Passport (1958-60), which Wooster shot in western European holiday destinations. The travel series was presented by Richard Dimbleby, who then became chair of Film Partnership, providing finance to widen its ambitions. However, Dimbleby’s death in 1965 led to his son David buying the company.
By then, Wooster was freelancing. Sports documentaries became one of his specialisms and he was one of the camera operators shooting in colour the England football team’s greatest day for Goal! World Cup 1966. He also worked on The Olympics in Mexico (1969), Visions of Eight (1973), at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and White Rock (1977), the official film of the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics. This led him to be hired as a camera operator on feature films such as the ski drama Downhill Racer (1969), starring Robert Redford, and Le Mans (1971), with Steve McQueen as a motor racing driver.
Alongside his skills in aerial photography, Wooster was known for shooting underwater sequences, working on Bear Island (1979), starring Donald Sutherland, and Raise the Titanic (1980).
As a second unit director, he also worked on the racing drama Champions (1984), The Avengers (1998), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Enigma (2001) and The Count of Monte Cristo (2002). He won Bafta’s Michael Balcon award for outstanding British contribution to cinema in 1983.
In 1964, Wooster married Anne Twiddy. She and their sons, David and Tim, survive him.
• Arthur George Wooster, cinematographer and director, born 18 May 1929; died 31 August 2020