How did you get into the industry?
Quite by chance. I left Grammar School in 1954 with 5 'O' levels intending to join the King Alfred Naval School and become a Deck Officer in the Merchant Navy. However, I failed the eye test and was told that I was partially colour blind which meant I couldn’t be accepted. It turned out that this was an incorrect diagnosis but fate had other plans.
What characteristics do you need to succeed – what do you consider to be yours?
Patience and perseverance plus a calm disposition and plenty of common sense. I think I am a logical thinker and a determined person once I have made my mind up.
What’s been your greatest industry experience?
Working closely with Lord Attenborough and being a close friend of his for over 40 years.
What’s the greatest challenge you’ve been faced with professionally?
Bringing Gandhi to the screen and following that with Out of Africa both being best Oscar Best Picture winners 1982 and 1986. Gandhi was a monumental challenge and in every way changed my career for the better in every sense.
If you could turn back time is there anything you would do differently?
I walked off a movie in 1999 after 39 weeks of hard work, over the unfair sacking of a close colleague. I was furious that I had not been consulted by the studios. It was a big mistake and virtually ruined my reputation in Hollywood. The movie was a flop anyway and I should have seen it through as any professional ought to.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Never send an angry email until the next day.
Do you have someone you looked up to?
Hugh Attwooll. He was head of Disney UK when I was a production runner desperate to get my union ticket. He said “Keep knocking on the door and one day it will open”. He also said “Be the best you can be – even if it’s a runner”.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?
The Tax Break and the Micro Chip.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Identify your ambition but know your limitations.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Act in haste – repent in leisure!
What production are you most proud of and why?
Shadowlands was a perfect movie in every sense. It was a great script, wonderful cast, exemplary crew, the best director at his very best, and a pleasure to go to work.
Who would play you in a film?
Robert Duval in his early Godfather days.
Who have you enjoyed working with any why?
Richard Attenborough. He was like a father to me and I trusted him implicitly. We had disagreements but never a cross word in 40 years. He inspired me and made me believe I could achieve more than I thought possible. He was a generous man and always gave me more than expected both publicly and privately