Saturday, 1 July 2017

Film critic Barry Norman dies aged 83

I was very sad to hear this morning of the passing of Film critic Barry Norman, he was 83. Norman, who died in his sleep on Friday night was a big admirer of Clint Eastwood and had interviewed him on numerous occasions. The critic who hosted the BBC "Film…" show between 1972 and 1998 was also a local resident here in Hertfordshire. Aside from his TV work, Norman also wrote for the Daily Mail and The Guardian newspapers. 
A statement from his daughters, Samantha and Emma, called him "remarkable", adding: "He had a great life, a wonderful marriage and an enviable career." His literary agent, Curtis Brown, described him as "the defining voice of film criticism and insightful interviewing of screen legends from both sides of the camera."
As a kid growing up, watching Barry Norman’s Film… programme was essential viewing. When he left the show it never really felt the same. He could (on occasions) have a cutting edge to him, even a hint of sarcasm, but he was certainly entertaining.

Thank you for the education, RIP Sir.

I thought I would take this opportunity to reproduce this story that he gave to The Guardian on Oct 2nd 2013 and tied in with his book, See You in the Morning published by Doubleday.
The film critic Barry Norman recalls a meeting with Clint Eastwood in Dallas in 1978.
This is a photograph of Clint Eastwood and me in a hotel room in Dallas in 1978. The meeting came about because Clint specifically asked me to attend a publicity gig for Every Which Way But Loose because he’d been impressed by my frankness in an earlier interview.
On that occasion, I had been among a group of journalists who were flown to New York by Warner Brothers to interview Clint, whom I had never met before, about a film called The Gauntlet. In the movie, Clint goes to Las Vegas to rescue the actress Sondra Locke from the Mafia and brings her back overland to Phoenix so that she can testify against them in a trial. 

They are pursued by scores of bad guys, Clint fires thousands of bullets, and the only reason they escape is because not one of the mob can shoot straight.
When I was asked what I thought of the film, I said it was very entertaining, but quite preposterous. Clint looked astonished, so I explained my reasoning – the business about the bad guys not being able to shoot straight – which he accepted. But apparently after I left, he turned to the studio honchos and said, 'That guy said the movie was preposterous!’ And they said, 'Oh gee, Clint. He’s a critic, what does he know?’
However, the following year at a press junket in Dallas he specifically asked for me, and after the interview invited me and my producer on Film 78 to have lunch with him and Sondra, who was also his co-star in Every Which Way But Loose. I was flattered but also impressed because this seemed to indicate that unlike most movie stars he didn’t want to surround himself with sycophants.

Another thing I remember about Clint was that we were wearing identical jeans. I’d bought mine at a cheap and cheerful American department store and I thought, 'This is great. He shops like me. If he sees something he likes, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Armani or M&S.’
The lovely thing about him as a director is that he keeps it simple. He doesn’t attempt fancy tricks and tries to get everything in the first shot. He only says, 'We’ll go again’ if it’s absolutely necessary. He brings his films in on budget and on time. No messing about.
I must have interviewed him at least seven times and I’ve always come away dissatisfied. He’s charming, but will never go into any great revelatory depth. He’s a modest man and a terrible guy to interview. But he’s unquestionably the elder statesman of Hollywood. 

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