Just back from a brief break in France to learn that Dickie Attenborough has died. I worked with him on two films, ‘Shadowlands’ and ‘Grey Owl’, and remember him with unusual affection. Unusual because the film business is hard on friendships. I was never close to Dickie, and can’t claim any intimate knowledge of him, but I remain grateful to him for the way he showed that films can be made, and made superbly, without the customary tantrums, brutalities and deceits. He was courteous, warm-hearted and respectful all the time. It’s hard to explain to those outside the business quite how extraordinary this is. Film making seems of its nature to turn people into monsters. I suppose it’s the combination of power, flattery and insecurity; whatever it is, the cocktail is poisonous. Dickie was immune to the poison. He must have been a deeply driven man, no doubt driven by insecurities, as we all are, but he had his demons under control.
I last saw Dickie in Denville Hall, the actor’s home where he spent his final years. He could no longer talk clearly, and I think didn’t recognise me, but his beaming smile greeted me nonetheless, reminding me of the sheer power of goodwill. The tributes that will now follow his death are well earned. We who work in the industry can best honour his life by following his example, and valuing kindness in our professional dealings with each other.