Dickie Attenborough and the Nottm Uni Student

Posted on August 25, 2014 by Admin under Musings

Dickie Attenborough - ShadowlandsI know this is supposed to be a photo blog but I can’t let today pass without a word or two about Richard Attenborough, who died yesterday.  In my days as a film broadcaster and writer at BBC Radio Derby and a little beyond, I interviewed Dickie five times.  Every time, he was charming, articulate, passionate and engaging.  The third time I met Dickie – three years after my second meeting with him – I walked into the interview room and he said: ‘How nice to see you again.’  He meant it, too.  I thought: ‘he must have encountered hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in those three years, and yet he’s still remembered little ol’ me.’  Even more unforgettable, though, was the time I met him at a preview screening of Shadowlands at the Nottingham Odeon.  I met a female student from Nottingham University campus radio carrying a tape machine who told me she was doubtful of getting an interview with Dickie simply because he was such a huge figure.  I had already interviewed him the previous week and told her that if Mr Attenborough knew she wanted an interview, he would surely oblige – he was that kind of man.  I alerted the Odeon manager about the presence of the student and sure enough, following the screening, after we had lined up to shake hands with Dickie, he walked up to the student, took her by the arm and whisked her off to a quiet room.  15 minutes later, she emerged with tears in her eyes and said: ‘He was wonderful… they won’t believe this when I get back to Uni.’  And I bet that student is telling everyone this same story today…

Never be a name dropper, Her Majesty once said to me, but I suppose I ought to mention Robin Williams, too.  I actually got a one-to-one interview with Robin in London following a press screening of Jumanji.  I felt I was conducting not an interview but a performance, an improvised but brilliantly assembled comic symphony.  He had the fastest ‘mind to mouth’ of anyone I have ever come across.  What I also remember were his two minders who looked like burly extras from a Scorsese gangster movie.  As Robin quipped away – before, during and after the interview – they remained stony silent.  I surmised that they had been carefully chosen.  Put it this way, if I had been a minder for Robin Williams, I would probably have died laughing after only a few days.

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