BLOWING MY OWN TRUMPET, HORN, WHATEVER.|
24th NOVEMBER 2010
Sometimes one has the need to show off. I am very proud that two writers that I have worked with, commissioned screenplays from, are doing so brilliantly at the moment. Julian Fellowes and David Seidler. To repeat myself, if you have the talent and keep going you will get there! They both have. Julian’s success has been terrific and he has now skipped the obligatory knighthood and been made a peer. “Downton Abbey” has done a lot for the viewing public, ITV and of course Julian. I commissioned a screenplay from him based on a book “The Face of a Stranger” by Anne Perry, just before he was asked to write his Oscar winning “Gosford Park” . Our script was an excellent adaptation of the book, but was taking a long time to get made and sadly Anne Perry decided to let the option on the book go to another Producer and that was the end of that. The new people wanted to have their own script written, not unusual. I was very disappointed and quite angry as a lot of hard work and money had gone into the effort of getting it to the screen. But that’s show business.
David Seidler and his then writing partner Jacqueline Feather wrote a wonderful screenplay “Against the Tide” for me. This was based on Dame Naomi James’ story of her solo sailing voyage around the world in the 1970’s, the first woman ever to accomplish the feat. As you can imagine it was a very difficult subject to bring to life as a film, but David and Jacqui did a marvellous job and at one point Demi Moore wanted to do it. But we would have had to really film at sea; computer graphics were not as far advanced at that time and it was too difficult and expensive. If you ever saw the very fine film “The Perfect Storm”, Dame Naomi encountered similar massive waves and at one point was completely turned over by one. It is an extraordinary story and it should be made one day. Sadly there are many, many wonderful scripts about, that have not been made for one reason or another. Timing is all. So I feel justified in my choice of two unknown writers, who both have really made it.
I enjoy the development part of Producing as that is really the creative time for the Producer. Finding the material and the writer and then getting that first draft! When the production actually gets going it can be a bit tedious just standing behind the camera, wanting to be in front of it, acting! I found this when we did “The Cater Street Hangman” for ITV and A&E. However I did get to work with Prince Edward, the current Earl of Wessex - his company Ardent Productions was one of the Producers. The Prince was rather more involved, than was the original intention, as he was usually busy with the documentary part of the Company’s programme. Prince Edward’s partner suddenly called in sick just before we started shooting and the Prince had to step up and be the main Producer. I liked him very much, he was funny and charming and really good at “getting on with it” in a no nonsense way. It made me laugh because if we ever travelled to Manchester for the filming, he and his policemen (lovely guys, who had to go too) would travel standard class, while the press were always hunting for him in first class.
I have been film going a lot because it’s Oscar and BAFTA time again. Best so far for me is “Hereafter”, a wonderful moving, uplifting film directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Peter Morgan and starring Matt Damon. I cant really tell you what it’s about, (I would, but I dont want to spoil it) except that it is really worth seeing and I highly recommend it. It is a very different movie for all of them and having seen and admired Peter Morgan’s work, I was surprised and delighted by his unusual departure from his past work. No cliches and full of compassion and humour.
I have already written about “The Kings Speech”, written by David Seidler, which is terrific and I urge a visit. “Despicable Me” is fun and very good, “The Kids are Alright” is also good, but the characters are rather sad and unattractive. Good writing really must show multi- dimensional characters, few people are either all good or all bad.
I have heard recently from my old friend Michael Winner, in whose new book I appear alas only once, but with photograph; he directed the very good film I did called “The System” (publicity stills left and above) At the time I cannot say I was deeply enamored of Michael and his rather boisterous, bossy style of directing, but since then, time has mellowed my thoughts of him. And it was on this film that I met David Hemmings. I think the film could have been a big success in the USA, but it was released over there as “The Girl Getters’, which immediately gave it a rather prurient image, which it didn’t desrve. I haven’t read Michael’s book yet, only dipped into it - it looks like fun and will no doubt remind me of many long forgotten names and happenings. I appeared very briefly bare breasted in the film and it caused an uproar at the time - would be nothing now. But I did it, because it fit the character I was playing, the script and scene we were doing. It was quite a “cinema verite” movie. I did not do it again, but never had a problem with nudity if it was done for the right reasons. Nowadays it’s no big deal and in a way I think that’s right. There is nothing wrong with the human body. My mother, who was a very good professional artist, always said that she could never understand some people’s prejudice against the human form, the most natural thing in the world. I suppose it comes from the Bible and the Garden of Eden.
I will say, though that I am not always enthralled by the sight of people making love on film.
Think I have said it before - it makes one feel rather like a voyeur and it does make me feel rather uncomfortable. Sex between people is very personal, I think, unless you enjoyed Roman orgies etc at the time, quite a different experience I imagine, haven’t ever indulged myself!
And on that note, I take my leave of you.
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