Monday, August 25, 2014

Sir Richard Attenborough

If someone asked me what my favorite job was in all of my eclectic life, I wouldn't have to think twice about it.  Producing the Premiere of the film Gandhi. No contest. From our very first meeting  which was on an elevator at Columbia Pictures.  I was there so "Dickie" ( which is what his friends called him and I still consider myself one), could interview me about going to India to produce an official opening of the film and one or two press screenings.

I was on the elevator and when it stopped, Dickie was standing there. So I said, "you know I've been riding on this elevator for hours so I could pretend our meeting would be an accident. I'm Iris your new best friend."  He got on the elevator and gave me a big hug -- which he did frequently, and we started to laugh.  The laughter continued for the three months I was involved in the project.

The whole assignment was totally ridiculous. Specifically, we were hired to produce an opening in India, Washington D.C, and Atlanta.  Oh, and some VIP screenings at the American Film Industry.  I saw the film so many times I thought I wrote it. Anyway, Living in the Raj Hotel in New Delhi with Sir Richard was hilarious.  At that time, klieg lights were a fantasy. Electricity on the street was non existent. The President who was attending the film insisted on having tea during the show -- not at intermission. Taking care of Danny Kaye was impossible. Moving an entire community out of the parking lot of the movie theater where we were having the screening was inexcusable, And Attending a dinner with Indira Gandhi was incredibly inconvenient. Everything that happened would have made the whole thing a nightmare, but it wasn’t, because Dickie had a sense of humor about everything, absolutely everything. So we smiled and laughed until it hurt. The goodbyes were tearful. And when "Gandhi" and Dickie won the Oscars, we all felt that we were part of the win.  And Dickie being ever the most gracious gentleman who ever lived, thanked us with an invite to be a part of his life.

That didn't happen of course, but a few years later, when he was directing "a Chorus Line" in New York, I was going to be in the city so I called to say I'd love to drop by to say hello.  He never hesitated, "of course darling", he said. “I can't wait for our reunion."

My drop by turned into an entire afternoon. He stopped the rehearsal to introduce me to the entire cast. After each scene he asked me if I liked it. And at the end of the day we had a drink and a lovely goodbye. That was the last time I saw him.  His life was pretty busy. But he was unforgettable in so many ways. He was generous, funny, adorable and loving.  I was so fortunate to have met and worked with him on this incredible project.

He had a long and productive life. Anyone who ever met him, worked with him, or admired his work will miss him. My most vivid memory of him was at Constitution Hall for the after film reception in DC., at his suggestion we danced down the center staircase like Fred and Ginger and once again laughed until it hurt. Working with Dickie  was the most fun I ever had.
Rest in peace Sir Richard. You will forever remain remarkable.   We're just sayin'.... Iris

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