In Love and War: About The Filmmakers

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RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH (Director/Producer) recently told an interviewer from the Sunday London Times, "I'm not a genius, I'm not an auteur, I'm a craftsman -- but not a bad one." It was a characteristically modest self-assessment from the man who, before going on stage to accept the Director's Guild Award for Gandhi, walked over to Steven Spielberg (a nominee that year for E.T.), embraced him and said, "This isn't right -- this should be yours." Spielberg for years afterward referred to that moment as his "honorary Oscar."

After recalling that close encounter in his introduction to Andy Dougan's book on Attenborough, The Actor's Director, Spielberg concludes his tribute with a revelation which speaks volumes about his regard for Attenborough as a filmmaker. Referring to him as both "an actor's director" and "a director's director," Spielberg recalls: "I remember at one stage when I was simultaneously involved in the shooting of Schindler's List and the post-production of Jurassic Park, I asked Dickie if he would take over the filming of Schindler's List for a few days. He was busy with Shadowlands at the time, so he wasn't able to do it. But I asked him because, of all my colleagues, he is the only person who I think really understood what I was trying to do with Schindler's List."

Modesty notwithstanding, Spielberg is not alone in his high regard for Richard Attenborough. As the numerous Oscars and Oscar nominations won by his films attest, Attenborough is as respected by his colleagues as by the critics, many of whom consider him the legitimate heir of that other British master of the historical epic, David Lean.

As it happens, Attenborough began his acting career in Lean's first film as a director, In Which We Serve (1942), playing a sailor suffering from war nerves. A more memorable turn as Pinkie, the teenage killer in the film version of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock (1947), and a role in the original London production of The Mousetrap soon made him a well-known actor with his own all-female fan club.

In 1959, tired of always being cast as "the moon-faced twit, the quivering idiot on the lower deck," Attenborough teamed up with director Bryan Forbes to produce a series of independent films which helped launch the British New Wave: the labor-union drama The Angry Silence (1960), The L-Shaped Room (1962), and Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964), a black-and-white British Fargo about a kidnapping gone wrong which earned Attenborough's co-star Kim Stanley an Oscar nomination and a New York Critics' Award.

As an actor Attenborough has starred in numerous stage plays and over 60 films. His other memorable film roles include two films with Steve McQueen, The Great Escape (1962) and The Sand Pebbles (1966); Flight of the Phoenix (1965) for Robert Aldrich; The Chess Players (1977) for Satyajit Ray, and a performance many consider his best, as the real-life murderer John Reginald Christie in Richard Fleischer's 10 Rillington Place.

In 1962, Motilal Kothari, a civil servant working with the Indian High Commission in London, telephoned Attenborough to ask if he would be interested in making a film about Mahatma Gandhi. After Attenborough read Louise Fischer's biography of the saintly political leader, making a film about Gandhi (whom he always called "Gandhiji" as a mark of respect) became an obsession, one that took him from acting to directing and lasted 18 years, before Gandhi was finally made in 1982 -- a triumph which Motilal Kothari regrettably did not live to see.

In the intervening years Attenborough had been learning his craft, beginning with his directorial debut, the film version of Joan Littlewood's successful antiwar musical Oh! What A Lovely War (1969), starring a cast of England's finest actors, all of whom were working for scale. Attenborough today attributes the cinematic innovations of that film to inexperience, but another of his famous directorial traits, bulldog persistence, was already in evidence: When he learned that 15,000 holes had to be drilled in Sussex Downs to plant the seemingly endless panorama of crosses revealed in the aerial shot that closes the film, the director stood his ground, and the memorable last shot was filmed as he envisioned it.

Young Winston (1972), Attenborough's first biographical film, was actually an assignment made for producer Carl Foreman. Despite feeling like "a line director" on another man's film, Attenborough fought successfully to cast an unknown named Simon Ward as Churchill, choosing not to act in the film because he wanted to devote his full attention to helping his young star become Winston Churchill on screen.

Attenborough says that after the experience with Foreman he was resolved to be his own boss, but his next two pictures were made for Joe Levine, a showman who gave him the freedom he needed to make two of his most underrated films: A Bridge Too Far (1977) and Magic (1978), both from screenplays by William Goldman.

Robert Redford's $2 million salary overshadowed Attenborough's achievement on A Bridge Too Far, which describes in minute detail one of the most disastrous military operations of World War II, but critic Bruce Williamson called the result "the most humane and intelligent antiwar film since Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory." Magic suffered similarly from inappropriate comparisons with the 1945 Dead of Night, but it allowed Attenborough to guide Anthony Hopkins to an extraordinary performance as a ventriloquist whose personality is being taken over by his dummy.

After Levine reneged on promises to finance Gandhi, Attenborough gave up acting to pursue his dream project. (What proved to be his last film role for fifteen years was in another Graham Greene adaptation, Otto Preminger's The Human Factor.) Once the elusive funding had been found for a project Hollywood considered non-commercial, Attenborough was faced with the challenge of finding an actor to play Gandhi. At his son Michael's suggestion, he tested a then-unknown actor whose father was Indian, Ben Kingsley. Guided by Attenborough, Kingsley proved more than adequate to "carrying" the three-hour spectacle, which was made on location in India and included the biggest crowd scene ever filmed. The film won eight Academy Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor for Kingsley.

Critics questioned Attenborough's choice of a follow-up film to Gandhi, an adaptation of the hit musical A Chorus Line (1985), but the choice would have seemed less bizarre if they had known that musicals are Attenborough's favorite genre. (The astute filmmaker told a journalist in 1994 that the only role which would lure him back to acting was Quasimodo in a musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.)

His next, Cry Freedom, again tackled the social issues dear to Attenborough's heart by portraying the friendship between black anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko (Denzel Washington in his first screen role) and journalist Donald Woods (Kevin Kline). Woods approached Attenborough in 1985 about filming his book about Biko, Asking for Trouble. The film that resulted was the first of Attenborough's biographical studies to devote as much attention to a biographer as to his subject: After Biko's death halfway through the film, Cry Freedom tells how Woods and his family escaped from South Africa as if they were fleeing an Iron Curtain dictatorship. Joining the long list of young actors whose careers Attenborough has launched, Denzel Washington received his first Oscar nomination for his performance in Cry Freedom.

Continuing Attenborough's fascination with the nuts and bolts of truth in biography, Anthony Hopkins played Charlie Chaplin's collaborator on his autobiography, My Story, in Chaplin (1992). The scenes with Hopkins talking to his subject about My Story permitted Attenborough to put that sometimes unreliable document in perspective while recounting 85 years of Chaplin's life, beginning with his Dickensian childhood in London and ending with his political exile in Switzerland.

Feeling that he was born to play Chaplin, Robert Downey, Jr., practically forced Attenborough to give him the part, then spent an unpaid year with a mime expert, learning how to stand, walk and clown like Chaplin, while Attenborough was raising the money for the production. Again Attenborough found himself fighting for his choice of leading man, and again his judgment was vindicated: Downey's performance in Chaplin won him an Oscar nomination.

Attenborough joined forces with Anthony Hopkins a fifth time for Shadowlands (1994), adapted for the screen by William Nicholson from his successful play, which was in turn adapted from his television drama starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom. A companion piece to In Love and War, Shadowlands tells the story of the improbable romance between the English writer C. S. Lewis (Hopkins), a confirmed bachelor in his late fifties, and Joy Gresham (Deborah Winger), a brash, outspoken and much younger divorcee from New York, which ended with her tragic death. A masterpiece of restraint, Shadowlands is the kind of small film Attenborough had never made, and it proved to be his biggest commercial success since Gandhi.

Attenborough recently returned to acting at the behest of Steven Spielberg in Jurassic Park, playing a well-intentioned millionaire whose dinosaur theme park turns into hell on earth, and then in John Hughes' remake of Miracle on 34th Street, as a decidedly edgy Kris Kringle. He will next be seen in the sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World.

Richard Attenborough comes by his passion for politics honestly: his mother and father rescued and gave shelter to Basque children from Spain during the Spanish Civil War and Jewish children from Germany during World War II. Following in their tradition, Attenborough devotes an amazing amount of time to extra-cinematic responsibilities. For years he was chairman of Channel Four, BAFTA, Capital Radio, RADA (where he trained as an actor), the European Script Fund and the British Screen Advisory Council. He is a pro-Chancellor at Sussex University and a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

His favorite cause continues to be the British film industry. When in the eighties he led a group of industry professionals who confronted Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher over the ailing state of British cinema, Thatcher asked wide-eyed why she had never been told about this. Attenborough's reply has become part of his legend in the British Isles: "Darling," he said, "you never asked!" He has continued to carry the battle to Thatcher's successor, John Major.

Having given over a million pounds of his film earnings to various charities, Attenborough is also the only producer-director who regularly assigns part of his profit participation in a film to his crew.

Richard Attenborough was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in 1976 and ennobled as Lord Attenborough of Richmond-on-Thames in 1993, giving him the chance, which he relished, to sit on the bench of the opposition Labour Party in the House of Lords.

DIMITRI VILLARD (Producer) is the son of Henry Villard and the man responsible for bringing In Love and War to New Line Cinema, and to Richard Attenborough. He conceived the storyline for the movie, developed the original screenplay and has been crucially involved in the movie from the outset.

Something of a one-man film industry, he has discovered talent, co-written and produced movies, financed and run pay cable and television distribution companies and co-founded a film sales organization. He is also an advisor to the Beverly Hills-based entertainment and media investment banking firm, Bannon & Co.

A Harvard graduate (he was an editor of the Harvard Lampoon while a student), Villard also attended New York University Film School. He began producing movies in the early Eighties with the science fiction drama Timewalker. Since then his films have included Death of an Angel, Once Bitten (starring Jim Carrey in his debut role), Flight of the Navigator, Purgatory and the cult comedy Easy Wheels.

In Love and War is an intensely personal experience for Villard, based as it is on his late father's memoir Hemingway in Love and War. Henry Villard died in January of 1996 at the age of 95, having been fully involved in the development of the project.

CHRIS KENNY (Supervising Producer) was the line producer on Empire of the Sun for Steven Spielberg, and co-producer on Batman. For some years thereafter he represented Batman producers Peter Guber and Jon Peters as their production executive in London.

In Love and War is his first film with Richard Attenborough.

DIANA HAWKINS (Co-Producer) has been working with Richard Attenborough in a variety of marketing and production capacities since Whistle Down the Wind in 1961, when she became publicity director for his production company. Since then their joint ventures include The League of Gentlemen, Guns at Batasi, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, The L-Shaped Room, Gandhi, A Chorus Line, Cry Freedom, Chaplin (for which she wrote the story) and Shadowlands. She was publicity director on David Lean's A Passage to India.

Writing as Diana Carter she has published several books about filmmaking, three novels and a best-selling children's space fantasy.

SARA RISHER (Executive Producer) began her career working with producer-director Peter Yates and joined New Line Cinema in 1974 to manage all filmmaking activities including development, physical production and post-production.

Prior to becoming Chairman of New Line Productions, Risher was president of production, supervising development and production of over 50 films including such such successful films as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Pump Up the Volume, Hairspray, Menace II Society, Houseparty and Wide Sargasso Sea. She is perhaps best known as the executive responsible for the acquisition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

CLANCY SIGAL (Screenwriter) has also written Maria/Callas, about the tempestuous opera singer, for New Line Cinema. With Michael Elias, he co-wrote The Man In The Maze, a science-fiction drama purchased by Icon for Mel Gibson.

A native of Chicago, Sigal was a London-based BBC correspondent and journalist with The Guardian and The Observer. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son. He has published four novels and was awarded the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship. He is currently finishing a screenplay, What Do Women Want?, based on the love affair between the French feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, and the Chicago writer, Nelson Algren.

ALLAN SCOTT (Screenwriter) began writing for film in the early 1970s. His credits include a series of scripts co-written with Chris Bryant including The Man Who Had Power Over Women, Don't Look Now which was directed by Nicolas Roeg, The Girl from Petrovka, Spiral Staircase, Joseph Andrews, The Cassandra Crossing, The Awakening and Martin's Day. Scott's other credits include D.A.R.Y.L., which he wrote with David Melrose and Jeffery Ellis, and Apprentice to Murder, written with Wesley Moore. Scott's solo writing credits include Castaway, The Witches and Cold Heaven, also directed by Nicolas Roeg.

ANNA HAMILTON PHELAN (Screenwriter) was an actress for 20 years before writing her first screenplay, Mask. Peter Bogdanovich directed the hit movie starring Cher as the mother of Rocky Dennis, a deformed boy whom Phelan met while doing volunteer work in a pediatric ward. (Rusty Dennis is still a friend.)

Universal subsequently hired Phelan to write a screenplay about Diane Fossey, a scientist who had been murdered because of her fight to protect the mountain gorillas of Rwanda from human predators. Going to Rwanda for research, Phelan was the first foreigner to visit Fossey's camp after the murder.

Universal found itself in a race with Warner Bros. to make their Diane Fossey film, and despite her obsessive involvement in the screenplay, which went through fourteen versions, Phelan and Universal won out. The film of her screenplay, Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver, was a hit and earned Phelan an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.

Phelan got to use her acting ability when she infiltrated a white supremacist group in Idaho while writing her screenplay for Into the Homeland, an expose of militant racist groups which aired on HBO in 1987.

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