‘Atonement’ director Joe Wright on the influence of David Lean

As a child, on Saturday afternoon TV I first saw Dr Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia and Oliver Twist, and then I was shown Brief Encounter by my favourite surrogate grandmother, the first person I knew to have a VHS machine. I felt Lean was there for me with these magical, glamorous, beautiful worlds populated with poetic men and dreamy women and great heroic gestures. Through my teens I was more into Lynch and Scorsese, but as I became more interested in the art of film-making Lean came back.

In my mid-twenties I read Kevin Brownlow’s biography of Lean and became obsessed. I took it on holiday with me to Goa, and my girlfriend said she hadn’t realised she was coming on holiday with me and Lean. In the end, I just stayed in the hotel room and read it, and one day she came in to find me weeping my eyes out. I told her: “David Lean’s just died!”

I never studied film – I’m dyslexic, as was Lean – so I couldn’t learn from books. Instead I sat down and watched his films, and they taught me film grammar.

(The Times UK)


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