And were you with Sir Denis when The Jewel in the Crown came?
I certainly was. He was very put out to discover that I’d read the novels before he had, because it was a massive piece of reading. And, unlike the way it was done on television, it’s all in timescales, going back and forth. Quite a difficult read.
He really did want to put that on the screen, and he produced these great pieces of paper, which were rolls of old wallpaper, and laid out the chronology, and would have them pinned on the office wall so that we could see how it was going to be.
Then he started talking to people involved — Ken Taylor, I think, and others — and then Christopher Morahan came in. And it really took off. It was the kind of thing that probably wouldn’t happen today, because it was a project on a very personal level, from one person who wanted to do it.
It went to the programme committee of course, and they all knew it was going to cost a bomb, but they didn’t think: is it going to pay for itself? Are we going to get the advertising? All the things that are now the bottom line. ‘We want to make this. We’re going to make it and put it out.’ And I think that was a wonderful decision.
I’d always got the impression that Sir Denis had read this book many, many years before and always loved it, so that’s not really the case?
Well, he had read it before he started to do that. This is nit-picking, but I had actually read it before he had, because I read it when I was very young. It was lovely, because then we were talking about it and we both knew what was going on in the books. It was an amazing time. But when the crew went out to India, we were in constant touch, but how one wishes there had been mobile phones, because it was all telex and this antiquated machinery. Having to type everything out and send it on this ghastly machine, so that they would pick it up however many hours later — I’m afraid I can’t remember how many hours ahead India is!
Then we’d wait for phone calls, and phone calls were so difficult because you’d have to try and get them in the hotels. It was a nightmare, really.
And did you get to go out at any point?
No. The greatest disappointment of my life, I think, because two of my very good friends were working on it as PAs, and I kept in touch with them by letter, would you believe. I used to write them a weekly bulletin from the TV centre. Amazing, when you think what you can do now!
So Sir Denis had read the book, and thought it was wonderful.
But he had realised, I think, that the way it was written — the flashbacks and the forwards and everything else — would be too confusing, so that’s how they picked out the bones of the storyline and carried it on in a fairly logical, chronological order, which worked.