Barry Norman is a legend of the British film industry. The 80-year-old is best known for presenting the BBC’s ‘Film’ programme, which he started doing in 1972. He finally left in 1998.
As well as reviewing thousands of movies, he’s also met some of the biggest stars and directors on the planet. But which ones does he remember most and why? We’d thought we’d ask him to tell us. Why not, eh?
Jamie Lee Curtis
The first time I met Jamie Lee Curtis was in a New York hotel suite in the 1980s. I entered the sitting-room calling, “Hello?”
From the bedroom she said, “I’m in here. I’m naked.”
“Right,” I said, “I’ll come in then.”
“Noooo!” she squealed.
When she finally emerged she was wearing a fluffy dressing gown and slippers with rabbits’ heads on the instep, staring up her skirt. I said I reckoned those rabbits had the best view in the room – a remark that today would get me arrested for sexual harassment – but she didn’t seem at all displeased.
The next time we met was in my hotel suite in Hollywood and she left her hair clip in my bathroom. But if from that you infer that we had some sort of intimate relationship I’m sorry to say that you’re wrong.
When Martin Scorsese directed ‘Cape Fear’ I spent months trying to arrange an interview with him. Eventually the dragon lady who guards him in his New York office gave the go-ahead.
“But you have one hour,” she said. “That’s all.”
I said an hour was fine and so we met. It was the easiest interview I’ve ever done. Scorsese is a true movie nut – you just wind him up, tell him you’re not remotely interested in his personal life, just his movies and let him go. That’s how it was that day. After a riveting hour the dragon lady looked in.
“Marty, there’s a call for you.”
“No, no,” he said, “it’s okay.”
She left and he and I talked on for the best part of another hour. But that’s Scorsese - when an American magazine once asked him to name the ten best, most influential films he had ever seen the reporter had to stop him when he got to 125. True story - I know because Scorsese told me so.
It’s pretty much a given that if you are interviewing Hollywood stars, producers and directors they will always keep you waiting. I truly believe they do this out of self-doubt - to prove to themselves even more than you that they are more important than you are. Well, fine, I had no problem with that. But I was astonished when Michelle Pfeiffer turned up not only early (almost unheard of) but also alone (equally unheard of). This interview was in a Beverly Hills hotel and because it was a confined space and there was only one camera we had to sit close together. And I’m here to tell you that sitting for an hour or so with your legs brushing gently against Michelle Pfeiffer’s is not at all a bad way to earn a living.
Another star who surprised me by arriving early was George Clooney. I’d gone to the Warner Brothers’ studio in Burbank to talk to him about the forthcoming ‘Batman and Robin’, which you may remember was so bad that it practically ended his career even before it really started. Ten minutes before Clooney was due to turn up I told my crew I had to go to the loo.
“You can’t,” they said, “he’ll be here any time now”.
“No he won’t,” I said, “he’ll be late. They’re always late – you know that.”
So I went to the loo and when I emerged there was Clooney, again early and unescorted, talking to my crew. I hurried towards him, hand outstretched.
“Good to see you,” I said.
He looked at me suspiciously.
“Have you washed your hands?” he said and I knew right away that this guy was okay. And indeed so he is.
Photos: Press Association/Rex