Saturday, 21 January 2012


I was fortunate enough today to go to an interview of Peter Medak's at BAFTA, Los Angeles, given and hosted by John Alan Simon's [who recently directed my play "As I like it" starring his wife Elizabeth Karr,Lisa Zane and Charles Eliasch].  I say fortunate because to listen to old time movie people is always a pleasure.  Medak is famous for  making films such as The Ruling Class with Peter O' Toole, The Changeling, The Krays, Romeo is Bleeding and many  other enticing and extraordinary works of art.  He is a good looking man in tight jeans and a wonderful sense of old world charm, very alive with thrilling anecdotes.  His friends all turned up  in fast cars and the same attractive personalities although they must have been over seventy.  Trendy and up to date they were not even middle aged, this lot make half the world look old and tired.
I met Peter in a noisy restaurant in London in the Summer through my friend Maya Fiennes. We instantly got on, he said he had known my grandfather Sidney Gilliat and the Boulting brothers.  He told me about his first moments in England at Tidworth army camp in Wiltshire five miles from where I had lived as a child.  He arrived uneducated and not able to speak anything but basic English having just escaped from the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.

ANTHONY RICHMOND, Director of Photography
Judd Bernard, Producer
The Conference room at BAFTA

He also told me an incredible story when he was seven, which I wish he had mentioned today.  It was during the war, his housekeeper had served soup for lunch, which they were about to eat, when she noticed the Nazis were loading Jews onto trucks. His Father made the family leave immediately and told them to look down when they left their building.  Peter told me that as he came out of his building a Nazis shot a man in front of him,  Peter kept moving, looking down, they walked until they found a hiding place and eventually moved to the country where he was kept hidden in a village next to the Gestapo.  It felt like several years but it was actually only a few months.  The war ended and he and his family were able to return to their flat in Budapest.  On entering it  he could see into the next door apartment block, walls were broken, all was war damaged except the plates which were in the exact position as when they had left the flat several months earlier, with the soup still in it.  The passion he told this story is such that it has stayed with me.
He had always wanted to make films from an early age, his Aunt, an Opera singer, had given him a camera and some film when he was young and he got the bug immediately.

Today was the same, some of the images shown  will stay with me a long time,  The House of Lords in the Ruling Class which was filmed full of skeletons and cobwebs, with flashbacks to people talking and then another fascinating sequence from The Changeling, where a ball bounced down a flight of stairs will definitely haunt me too.

Peter has claimed that he has walked out of more movies than he has made. he claimed that he made the Ruling Class for 1.2 million dollars with 16 weeks shooting too.  It was also a brilliant play which took several years to make into a film.  He claims that he worked at a time in films when two people got together and talked about an idea, and then later made the it happen.  This is not so easy now.

Peter likes to work with actors from the inside so that they feel safe and do not know that they are being directed.  He says that he has made lots of friends and definitely he is well respected in the fickle world of Hollywood.  An old timer he may be, but he still has a lot of powerful images to show us, and fire still in his engine.

 A wonderful morning escaping from the task of finding my computer charger and putting my dresses away.

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