Noel Coward and Leslie Howard must have got a few actor/producer/writer credits during the war years.
The man of many talents shone again today on CH4 with the Angry Silence ,I always record it when its showing . its opening titles include the title Beaver films which I know was his producing company.Was he a pioneer in being the first major actor/ producer in Britain?,my recollection of that time was that most stars were tied to contract and didnt produce any films
Am I correct?
Noel Coward and Leslie Howard must have got a few actor/producer/writer credits during the war years.
Digging back into history, in the 1930s then popular comedian Leslie Fuller even had his own studios at Elstree (now BBC Elstree)...
A great many turn-of-the-20th century pioneers served as producer, director and actor, but that was more due to expediency than for any other reason - I suspect Cecil Hepworth played the father in the pioneering Rescued By Rover (1905) because he was cheaper than hiring outside talent. So I think that's cheating a bit.
But Guy Newall (1885-1937) was arguably a quadruple-hyphenate towards the end of the 1910s, frequently serving as actor, writer and director - and also de facto producer, since his films were made for his own company, Lucky Cat Films.
And of course writer-producer-director partners Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger both appeared in their own films. Emeric was just an extra on the Monte Carlo railway station and Michael often appeared in small roles.
Bernard Miles was actor-writer-producer-director in The Tawny Pipit (1944)
Bryan Forbes did a lot in all 4 roles but rarely on the same film
And if you do get the chance to see them, try and make it...his acting style was very restrained for the period, his films tend to explore English character, stoicism, the stiff-upper-lip thing. If you can engage, with, say, the films of Powell and Pressburger, you will find them interesting. Quite a few films of his have been shown at the NFT over the last couple of years, and they help blow away the view, often expounded in film histories, that British silent film was rubbish, apart perhaps from Hitchcock.Originally posted by Wetherby Pond@Apr 26 2005, 08:41 PM
But Guy Newall (1885-1937) was arguably a quadruple-hyphenate towards the end of the 1910s, frequently serving as actor, writer and director - and also de facto producer, since his films were made for his own company, Lucky Cat Films.
You can add Henry Edwards too, an equally fine Producer/Director/Actor/Writer, along with his star wife Chrissie White. He reinvented himself as a dependable character actor in the fifties, but he had been a huge (and deservingly so) star in the late tens, early twenties. Well worth seeking out his films...It's such a pity they are so rarely screened, and commercially unavailable, as one of the reasons british silents are dismissed, is that so few have been able to, or can be bothered to, actually go and see them.
Violent video games and DVDs of films like Sweeney Todd, Eastern Promises, Saw and Hostel are regulary traded around school playgounds
by children as young as ten according to a schoolteacher friend of mine....It is impossible to stop childen viewing these.....
Lord Attenborough has blamed violence in films for rising levels of knife crime.
Richard Lord Attenborough blames film violence for knife crime - Telegraph
By Martin Beckford
25 Jul 2008
Lord Attenborough claims viewers have become desensitised to real-life crime
The Oscar-winning director, who first found fame playing a young gangster in Brighton Rock, said cinema audiences were once shocked by seeing weapons on screen.
But he claimed that as violence has become more prevalent in films, viewers have become desensitised to real-life crime - making the carrying of knives "almost an acceptable commonplace".
His comments come as England is gripped by a wave of knife crime.
In London alone, 17 teenagers have been stabbed to death since the New Year, while official figures disclosed earlier this month that a knife crime took place every four minutes in 2007.
Now 84, Lord Attenborough began his career as an actor and came to prominence after starring as the vicious gang leader Pinkie in the 1947 film adaptation of Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock.
He also played the serial killer John Christie in the 1971 film 10 Rillington Place.
Lord Attenborough, who won an Academy Award for his direction of Gandhi, is still president of Bafta, Britain's film industry awards body, and chairman of the production company Goldcrest.
But he told the Brighton Argus newspaper that he "abhors the pornography of violence" in modern films.
Lord Attenborough said: "Thirty years ago if Gary Cooper pulled out a gun the audience would give a sharp intake of breath.
"Now the act of violence with a gun or a knife is the norm and we in the entertainment industry are partly responsible in making the presence of weapons such as knives almost an acceptable commonplace.
"So now knife crime is not thought of as something that is horrific and to be abhorred. It's part of normal existence."
Earlier this year censors approved the release on DVD of a group of "video nasties" which had been banned for 20 years, on the grounds that modern attitudes to on-screen violence are more relaxed.
The British Board of Film Classification allowed films including Driller Killer and SS Experiment Camp to go on sale.
Sue Clark, of the BBFC, said: "In today's current climate we do not consider these films to be a concern."
In new releases, more and more scenes which once would have been censored for their violent content have found their way onto cinema screens.
Instead of cutting scenes, censors now just provide detailed information about what is depicted in the film.
Adverts for the 18-rated Eastern Promises, released last year, stated that it contained "three key scenes of extremely visceral violence, two images of throats being slit and one of a man's eye being viciously and repeatedly stabbed".
An entire genre of horror films known as "torture porn", including Saw and Hostel, has developed in recent years, which contain lengthy scenes of sadistic and graphic violence.
However many commentators now believe the violence contained in computer games is more damaging to youths, as they spend more time playing them than watching films and because they are becoming increasingly realistic and detailed.
Earlier this year a report commissioned by Gordon Brown recommended that video games be issued with cinema-style ratings to stop young children buying them.
Well, he does have a point. We are very desensitised to violence these days.
A couple of weeks back, The Exorcist was shown on late night TV. Now, when this film was originally release in the 70s, I remember ambulances were on standby outside cinemas, people fainted, went mad and there was much outcry about the violence/language/etc.
Now in 2008, it's a choppily edited piece of interesting cinema, but hardly the shockfest it once was. I avoided it for years because I thought it's freak me out too much, but.... nah. I'm as desensitised as everyone else. Honestly, I've heard worse language out of Gordon Ramsay on Prime Time telly than Linda Blair.
Excessive violence in cinema is part and parcel of the loss of artistry in cinema. Splatter sells, why bother with a plot? But I also think part of the problem with current levels of violence is the shock value is never counterbalanced by showing the affect on people.
One of the worst offenders of public desensitisation IMHO are the Bruckheimer TV shows - CSI: Oodnadatta, and alike. The victims are invariably 'hot babes in underwear' who seem to never have parents or friends, who die in a hideous manner (usually involving wild sex and drugs) and are then disemboweled on an autopsy table all for family entertainment. Tell me that's not having an affect on the psyche of the population on some level.
Lord Attenborough needs to go back to his funny farm.
30 years ago was 1978 (post Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw, Straw Dogs, etc) and Gary Cooper died in 1961. I think audiences were used to a bit of screen violence by then.
I hardly think Saw and Hostel are responsible for teenagers knifing each other whenever they get "dissed". Now, if they were kidnapping American tourists, keeping them in a warehouse, and then advertising this fact so that they could be paid by rich people who wanted to murder them I might be a bit worried...
These type of kids rarely visit the cinema anyway. A far more corrosive influence is the soaps which are transmitted on televeison every night - full of people with no aspirations who spent all their time in the pub and are in relationships where they show no affection or commitment at all.
We have had this debate on the forum before .... it is a researched fact that exposure to violent images does de-sensitize individuals to real violence. I think that films such as Saw and Hostel simply feed the desire for some people who wish to watch such crap but they can't be blamed for the current situation. They don't help, but the rot set in years ago. The films mentioned (Exorcist, Straw Dogs etc) actually have soem artistic merit ... it is mainly the worthless 'slasher' pics that emerged in the wake of Halloween kicked off the craze for excessive gore and the advent of the 'video age', especially pre-cert, cemented it's dubious popularity.
I must defend Saw, it's macabre and sinister but an extremely well-plotted nightmare scenario for two people. There's no madman running around with a chainsaw/axe, it's just two people (and a body) in an enclosed space given an awful conundrum to get free.
Knife crime is a social problem but like earlier criminal trends it's simply easier to blame it on a Clockwork Orange of Chucky.
It's a bit hypocritical of Lord Dickie as the nihilistic Pinkie must rank amongst the most callous villains of British cinema.
Originally Posted by DB7
Sure Pinky was a callous sociopath, but he was also a fairly clearly defined character - the audience could see he was vile and cowardly and (in the book, especially) there's explaination as to why he's the loop he is. And the characters around him don't accept him as anything but as a nasty little criminal. There's no pay-off for being Pinky.
But I don't think that's the sort of violence in film Dickie's talking about, in any case. I think he's referring to slasher films and 'explosive action' films.
There's an anonimity to the modern slasher 'villain', They're hellbent on killing everyone and everything with no real explaination of why. They just take their anger out on the world and bugger any scantily dressed women and jocks that get in their way. And they may get killed (hideously) in the end - but they'll be back to reek more revenge next time. There's payoff in that.
I don't believe a film will make someone go out and kill any more than a heavy metal song will. But, constant exposure to anything will move a person's boundries of normalicy.
A single viewing of film, unlikely unless the person is already troubled, but Wicked Lady is spot on about constant exposure to such stuff.Originally Posted by Wicked Lady
In a different arena it's similar to the current drive for footballers to respect refs ... the kids see twats like Cashley Hole bad mouthing the ref on a regular basis and thencopy the mon a Saturday morning during school matches.
Laughter and loss
Richard Attenborough shares a wicked sense of humour with his brother David but feels 'totally unable' to overcome the death of his daughter and granddaughter in the Asian tsunami
He's known the world over as Dickie. Or, more accurately, as Dickie Darling. But he says he doesn't like the name Dickie - he always wanted to be plain Dick. For years he was Sir Richard. These days he is, officially, Lord Attenborough. I shake his hand and ask what I should call him. He looks me in the eye. "Baldy!" he says instantly, and hoots with glee.
He's 85 now, white-haired, gap-toothed and more Falstaffian than ever. I can hear him straining as he climbs the stairs from his Richmond garden to his private cinema. It looks more like a treehouse from the outside, but inside the cinema - crammed with cons that were once mod - could be an alternative set for Stanley Kubrick's 2001.
Attenborough is wearing blue denim jeans and a blue denim shirt, white socks and a hearing aid in each ear. He laughs like a little boy and looks like the old man he is. Where to start? As an actor, he starred in some fine British films - excelling as slimy scumsters and psychopaths in films such as Brighton Rock (1947) and 10 Rillington Place (1971). As a director, he made two of Britain's most successful "issue" movies - Gandhi (1982) and the anti-apartheid thriller Cry Freedom (1987). Later on, he returned to star in the 10th highest grossing film ever, Jurassic Park (1993). He is the life vice-chairman of Chelsea football club, a patron of any number of charities, president of Rada and Bafta, and, of course, he is the ultimate luvvie. His Spitting Image puppet was more tearful than Gazza - all you had to do was show him a hanky and he'd be in floods.
Amazingly, Attenborough is still working, still developing cherished projects. The day we meet, he's just received an offer to return to the stage - after a 50-year absence. He seems to be bubbling with life and ideas and optimism. But you don't have to dig deep to discover a crushing sadness. In December 2004, he lost both his daughter and granddaughter in the Asian tsunami.
Attenborough has just published an autobiography - of sorts. The book is written with Diana Hawkins, with whom he has worked for 50 years. Together they piece together his life - a section from Dickie is followed by one from Diana and then another from Dickie. Hawkins started out as Attenborough's publicist and ended up as his confidante and right-hand woman. The dialogue effect brings the book to life - at times you can almost hear the pair arguing over their shared memories. It's classic Attenborough - you can't turn a page without a household name being dropped. Here's Princess Diana confiding in him, there's Charlie Chaplin turning round in a cafe to tell him what a wonderful actor he is, and, yes, that really is Nelson Mandela telling him Cry Freedom changed the world... It would be unbelievable if it wasn't all so blatantly true. What makes it so much more than an auto-eulogy, however, is its honesty and the overriding theme that sustains it - the power of his love for his parents.
The book is called Entirely Up To You, Darling. At first sight, that appears to be a throwaway joke of a title, but it's more than theatrical high camp. This is the expression his mother used in the second world war when she told her three sons that she and his father would like to adopt two Jewish German girls. It was entirely up to the boys whether they agreed to it, but they knew once their mother had put it like that they had no choice. The girls went on to become part of the family. Attenborough never forgot the expression, and it became his own means of persuasion. When Leslie Caron asked for a day off from filming because of period pains, he told her, "It's entirely up to you, darling!" - she knew that meant she had to be on set first thing next day. Entirely up to you, darling, was the closest Attenborough came to giving orders.
On arriving at his house, I walk through a large garage to get to the door. Two cars are parked - a Mercedes and a Rolls-Royce. His assistant, Gabrielle, lets me in. "What time are you expecting himself?" she asks before passing me over to Bill, Attenborough's chauffeur and Man Friday. He tells me that he's worked for Attenborough for 15 years. You must like it then, I say. "Well, too old to move now," says Bill, who's got something of the pantomime cockney about him. "Anyway, I'll do you a coffee." The setup is a tad Upstairs, Downstairs.
Attenborough is the most tactile man I have met. From the off, he reaches for my hand, pats it, holds it, as he tells his stories. He is fond of the Guardian, he says, because it's the paper his parents took when he was growing up in Leicester. It's impossible not to warm to him. I ask how he manages to keep working. Only last year, he directed Closing The Ring, a second world war movie starring Shirley MacLaine. "There's an AE Matthews story - he was a wonderful character actor. Somebody says to him, 'You must be in your 90s - how d'you keep working?' and he said, 'I get up, I reach for the Times, I look up the obituary notices, and if my name's not there, I get dressed.' " He wheezes with delight.
Hawkins walks in. Their affection for each other is obvious.
"Hello, lover," he says. "You all right?"
They hug. He doesn't let go. "Good to see you, darling. Bill's bringing you some coffee?"
I tell Hawkins that the book was so riveting that I was up till 2am reading it. Attenborough grins. "Listen, mark it down, you silly bitch. 'A riveting read.' " He gives her a playful slap. "She worries about every sentence, every split infinitive."
They say they disagree on so much, and that's what makes it a healthy relationship. She is one of the few people who will sit through rushes with him and tell him if something is rubbish. What do they most often disagree on? Politics, they shout in unison. He is a lifelong socialist, she a Tory. "If I were to tell him about MRSA or people's terrible experiences in NHS hospitals, he'd say,
'Oh, darling, you have been reading the Daily Mail again.' "
"Yes, I would," barks Attenborough. "And I'd ban the Daily Mail."
Attenborough has always been happy to embrace his contradictions: he has sold serialisation of the book to the Mail.
Hawkins loves teasing him about his politics. She tells me of the time he had to meet Margaret Thatcher for a seminar about the film industry. "You were so grumpy about going to see her and how much you hated her. And there were all the film industry people there who had submitted the figures and were supposed to know them inside out, and one of the delegates said something and she corrected him and said, No, that's wrong. She had read that brief in the early hours of the morning and knew the facts better than they did, and... Do you remember?" She looks at him.
He covers his ears with his hands - a little boy who refuses to hear. "No, darling! I don't remember, Di."
"He was just knocked out by her grasp of what they had gone to tell her."
Did he respect her? "Yes, I suppose I did have a degree of respect for her. Yep," he says reluctantly. And did he resent the fact that he respected her? "Yes! Yes! YES!"
Attenborough once said that if Thatcher won the next election, he'd leave the country. She didn't. But would he have? He grins, embarrassed. "No! Theatricality to a pathetic level."
I ask if he agrees with Hawkins' description of him as a champagne socialist. "I bloody well wouldn't," he shouts.
Why not? "Well, it's bollocks."
"Look out of the window, look around you," Hawkins taunts, directing my gaze to the vast garden and salubrious surrounds.
Dickie: "Living the way that I do is not to the detriment of my politics and socialism. That's why we had the silly row about the car. We had to go to some event. We were electioneering."
Di: "It was a very impoverished Nottinghamshire mining town. Almost every shop was boarded up. The Labour party HQ was on this street, and he drew up outside it in the Rolls."
Dickie: "My point is, what a dreadful thing to park around the corner. If I am going to go, I think it would be awful to stick the thing round the back and walk, or get in a clapped-out old car to turn up in. It would have been dreadful hypocrisy."
Di: "Yes, but equally, the contrast of turning up in this polished Roller with a uniformed chauffeur... I don't know how you did it."
Attenborough put his three children and seven grandchildren through private school. Education, a good start in life, was always his priority. That, he says, goes back to his father - "the Governor" - a teacher, Cambridge don and later principal of the college that became Leicester University.
The academic gene, he says, was passed to his brother, the naturalist David Attenborough. "Do you know Dave? Oh, he's a darling. He's terrific. He lives a few hundred yards from here. He has all the skills of the Governor. What Dave's really doing on the box is teaching you, and in the most skilful, almost surreptitious way, he plants information."
Are they very different? "Yes, except when it comes to performance, and then we are identical pretty well." Shut your eyes, and subtract the darlings, and you could well be talking to David. "He writes very well. Have you read his book? I'm devoted to him. We get on so well because basically we have a fourth-form sense of vulgarity." How does that express itself? "Just in third-rate, ridiculously dirty stories." His son, Michael Attenborough, shares the vulgarity, he says. "Have you met Michael? I adore him, bless him."
Attenborough says both his brothers were much cleverer than he. Whereas David and John, who worked in the car industry, went to Cambridge, he opted for drama school. The Governor was not convinced it was a suitable grounding for a useful life, but so long as he showed ability and dedication, he would trust his son's instincts. "He said, 'We can't pay for you, but if you get a scholarship, Ma and I will do everything we can to support you.' "
When he returned home after his first term in 1941, he went into his father's study and saw a pile of classic drama texts on the side of his desk - a history of Greek theatre, Chinese theatre, you name it. His father never said anything about the books, but it was obvious to Attenborough that he had been busy educating himself so he could help his son. Ever since, he says, he's been determined to prove to the Governor that he did, in fact, make a wise career choice.
"Everything is driven by his admiration for his parents and wanting to please them," Hawkins says.
They were such strong people, Attenborough says, so admirable, so moral. He remembers seeing his mother march under a banner of the hammer and sickle supporting the republicans in the Spanish civil war. It was controversial at the time - after all, she was the wife of the college principal - and he was so proud of her.
A year into drama school, Attenborough was called up and joined the RAF, and in 1943 he was seconded to the RAF Film Unit, where he filmed bombing missions from the air, and the feel-good propaganda movie Journey Together. After the war ended, he was making his name as an actor, but that was never enough for him. In the end, he says, he was the son of his parents, and he wanted to effect change on whatever level. "You act in a movie, and at the end of the day the director and editor decide what your performance is." There were so many films he made, he says, that were meaningless or plain daft - films he knew his parents could never watch with pride. "I can't even remember the titles, but absolute crap, not even high comedy. Unless you use this extraordinary invention to some degree to make the cry for compassion or the plea for tolerance or whatever it is, then you deny the genius of its invention. I passionately believe that. I really do. It's something that worries me in TV, too."
Which of the movies he's acted in did he like? "A film called Seance On A Wet Afternoon. Forbesy [Bryan Forbes] wrote it and directed it - that was good. Di liked Guns At Batasi, where I played the regimental sergeant major - which is what she says I really am."
Is that true? "Yes, it can be," Hawkins replies. "Yes, he is a bit of a martinet."
"Martinet!" he shouts. "You've never said that before. Hehehe!"
Attenborough says he was always a character actor, never a traditional leading man." His eyes widen when I ask why. "Well, I'm 4ft 2in, and not exactly a matinee idol." He's thinking a bit more why the acting wasn't enough. "In the end I wanted to put my name on the bottom of the page. That's all I care about."
In his book, he describes himself as "eternally optimistic and to a degree selfish and egocentric." He has always come across as a gentle man, but you need a pretty thick skin to get films made, let alone get them made how you want. In Gandhi, he directed a scene with 400,000 extras - the largest number of people in one scene in movie history. The truth is, he says, he's ruthless. "I would be distressed if I actually hurt somebody, but I am prepared to make someone uncomfortable or incur displeasure. Popularity does not matter to me at all. When I'm directing a movie, nothing else matters."
His first film as a director, made in 1969, was Oh! What A Lovely War - an adaptation of Joan Littlewood's stage musical about the wasted lives of young men in the trenches. But it was Gandhi in 1982, with Ben Kingsley in the title role and the cast of hundreds of thousands, that established him as a film-maker. He was determined to make Gandhi, but met with much opposition. One studio head told him, "Who the fuck wants to see a movie about a little brown guy dressed in a sheet, carrying a beanpole?" The film won eight Oscars, including best film and best director.
Had he made this film for his parents as much as for himself? "Yes. Yes! It's true," he says. "I remember going into a cinema - couldn't have been more than 13 or 14 - and hearing people's derision when this shot of Gandhi came on, I suppose in the 1933 conference, and my father saying, 'Dick, they are such fools, they have no concept of the quality of this man. He is a great man. A great man!' "
A few years later, Attenborough made another epic about political consciousness, Cry Freedom. This met with more controversy - its critics were disappointed that the story was more about white journalist Donald Woods than murdered ANC activist Steve Biko, and dismissed it as a liberal soft-soaping. And yet it did have a huge impact, bringing the issue of apartheid to mainstream cinema. "People knocked me or the film to the extent that it wasn't an illuminating definition of black consciousness and so on, and didn't really do Biko the honour it should have done. But I wished to make a statement about a black man and a white man, both of whom were totally opposed to each other when they first met, and by virtue of respect and events... Nelson said to me it made a greater impact on white people than any speech he'd ever made." He smiles. "It was totally untrue, of course."
When Attenborough says Cry Freedom was misunderstood, Hawkins says that was her fault because as the publicity director she allowed it to become known in preproduction as the Biko film.
"Bollocks," he replies. "It wasn't your fault. We couldn't think of a title."
I ask Hawkins what she most loves about him, and what she most dislikes. "Most love?" she says in a voice that enunciates with Judi Dench-like clarity. "I think generosity. What annoys me? Well, this thing that he's a man of the people when he doesn't know what's happening just outside there." She points out of the window.
"Bollocks!" screams Attenborough, loud enough to blow the cinema down. "You... You say this when you wish to make me angry. I have as much knowledge of the man who sweeps the roads as you do."
Di: "Look, if you were to walk outside this gate and God forbid be run over by a car and taken to A&E, the nurses and doctors would recognise you, you'd be whizzed through, that's what celebrity does for you."
Dickie: "But what's that got to do with dislike?"
Di: "That is the cocooning effect of wealth and celebrity."
Dickie: "But that wasn't what you were being asked. What do you dislike most about me?"
Di: "What I dislike is that you think you know, and you won't admit that you don't."
Perhaps the main difference between them, Attenborough suggests, is that he is a Mary Poppins, always thinking the bottle is half full, while she thinks it's half empty. And as a film-making team, that works well - he always convinced anything is possible, she always preparing for the worst.
The room is quiet, and Attenborough's looking out of the window. The mood has changed. I've been wanting to talk about his daughter and granddaughter, Jane and Lucy, who died in the tsunami. Whenever he brings it up in the book, he just as quickly turns away from the subject, as if he can't bear to think about it.
"You will know how devastated Poppy [his nickname for his wife, Sheila] and I have been about Jane and Lucy... A total inability to overcome it," he says. "I regret that my commitment to my work, to the charities, to whatever, allowed me to spend more time away from the children than, in retrospect, I would have wished. I miss Jane and Lucy desperately. I remember saying to myself, 'Oh, I'll do it next week', or 'I'll find time on the holiday', and of course I didn't spend as much time with Jane... I long for her to walk through the door now. There are so many things I'd love to talk to her about. She roared with laughter all the time. She was my father's granddaughter. Oh, Janey Jane. My son Michael could make her laugh to the point of hysteria, almost. She was the most joyous person to be around..."
He stops, gathers himself. He says that the extended family used to gather every Christmas, but not any more. "We decided, Poppy and I, because it happened on Boxing Day, that the next Christmas we'd go away, just the two of us, because if we wanted to cry, we could cry, and if we wanted to laugh, we could laugh. We were not answerable to anybody else's reaction to our behaviour." He pauses. "People say, do you cope? Of course you don't cope. Does the pain get less? No, of course it doesn't get less. You find an ability to place it in the box, to deal with it, rather like being an actor."
He recently donated his collection of Picasso ceramics to the Leicester art gallery in remembrance of Jane and Lucy. "We collected them for 40 years. One of the first birthday presents they ever bought me, Jane, Michael and Sheila, they gave me a Picasso ashtray. Jane adored the humour in Picasso."
After Jane died, he couldn't listen to music. "It upset me all the time. I find music very moving anyway... If God said, What art form do you want to go on living with, I'd have no problem - not drama or cinema or painting. If I couldn't hear music I would give up. Jane adored music and ran the Ballet Rambert for a time as an administrator."
Hawkins returns - she's been having a cigarette.
"Better?" Attenborough asks, in a perky voice, putting the tragedy back in its box.
"Yeah," she answers with gravelly relish. Attenborough used to smoke 60 a day, so he understands the itch.
How good a film-maker does he think he has been? "Not great. I'm not a - not cineaste... What's the word I want, darling? I can't find words, you know. I've lost them."
"Auteur," Hawkins says.
"Auteur. I'm not an auteur in any sense. I'm a narrative film director, I tell stories... I've never made a great film."
The year Gandhi won all its gongs, it was in competition with Steven Spielberg's ET. "ET was a much better piece of cinema than Gandhi, but I made important films. Important in relation to their content. It was worthwhile making Cry Freedom in relation to apartheid, and Gandhi because huge swathes of people didn't know anything about him. I think the best film I've made was Shadowlands, which was so fantastically acted by Debra and Tony [Winger and Anthony Hopkins]. I think it's the most satisfactory film. The Gandhi film was not as disciplined as it should have been. Cry Freedom did not have the rainbow definition I wished it to have had - which is what Madiba [Mandela] wanted."
But that's all in the past. Now there's the future to be getting on with. There are so many projects to be developed. We walk back through the house where he and Sheila have lived for 63 years, and it looks as if they are still in the process of moving in. On the walls are photos of Attenborough with Mandela, Princess Diana ("To Dickie, with fondest love from the other lady in your life, Diana"), and Spielberg ("To Dickie, you fill my heart with happiness. No one deserves to be as nice as you. With eternal gratitude and friendship, Steven"). One of his proudest moments came when Spielberg asked him to hold the reins on Schindler's List for a couple of weeks while he went off to edit Jurassic Park. (He couldn't, because he was making Shadowlands.)
On the walls are cartoons of him as a young man, from his days in the theatre. There is one of him and Sheila starring in The Mousetrap. "A couple of years. Dreadful! Chinese torture to be in that long."
He's looking for a copy of the screenplay about Thomas Paine written by Trevor Griffiths. This has been his dream for 50 years, ever since the Governor gave him a copy of Rights Of Man and the director John Boulting, who was his boss at the RAF Film Unit and went on to direct him in Brighton Rock, suggested turning it into a film. Paine is one of Attenborough's great heroes. "I could understand him. He wrote in simple English. I found all his aspirations - the rights of women, the health service, universal education... Everything you can think of that we want is in Rights Of Man or The Age Of Reason or Common Sense."
So if he made it, would that be for the Governor? "Oh, yes, of course. But you do that, don't you? I always wanted to tell my parents what I was going to do, or what I was hoping to do, and I still do." ·
Entirely Up To You, Darling, by Richard Attenborough and Diana Hawkins, is published by Hutchinson.
I think Richard Attenbourgh is a standing joke among some people, but people often mistake sentiment for sentimentality.
He really does come across as a wonderful man, whose only fault is to be a warm, caring human being.
I met them in Canterbury in October 2004, just a few months before the tsunami hit. Sheila had come along to introduce a screening of A Canterbury Tale and she'd brought the old man with her. Lucy was at King's School, Canterbury and had never seen her grandmother at her most glamorous, so she came to see the film as well. It was a great evening and I took this photo:"You will know how devastated Poppy [his nickname for his wife, Sheila] and I have been about Jane and Lucy... A total inability to overcome it," he says.
Nick Burton, Sheila, Jack Cardiff, Dickie and Lucy.
(Click on image for full sized version)
When I heard about the tragedy I sent them a copy of it along with a letter of condolence.
I had chatted to Lucy after the screening, she had really enjoyed it and she was a lovely young woman.
Oh my! Thats all he needs after losing his daughter and his grand daughter, life must be hard enough for him and his family as it is!
I wish him a speedy recovery.