Film critic Norman in Suffolk

YOU would have a thought a career that has spanned 50 years and involved meeting the cream of film stars in the most exotic places would be enough for any man.

YOU would have a thought a career that has spanned 50 years and involved meeting the cream of film stars in the most exotic places would be enough for any man.

But as Barry Norman approaches his 70th birthday, he is left with one burning ambition away from the glamour and glitz he has so often frequented.

He explained: "Something I would like to have, although it is unlikely now, is a best selling novel – that is something I would have liked more than anything else.

"I have always earned my living by writing ever since I left school."


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Mr Norman was speaking in the middle of a 35-date tour of British theatres talking about his life meeting the great and not so good faces of world cinema.

Speaking prior to his visit to Haverhill later this month, Norman said he was pleased with how the tour was going.

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He said: "The most important part of the exercise is that the audience appears to be enjoying it.

"It is something I have never done before. I was only going to do a few dates and see how it went but, most flatteringly, people were getting in touch asking me to do more and more."

Being the face of the BBC's prestigious film programme for more than 25 years, you would think any sign of nerves were a thing of the past. But Norman draws inspiration from one of the greatest actors of all time.

He revealed: "The actor I admire most and the greatest I have ever seen, Laurence Olivier, was often sick before he went on stage and I am always encouraged by that.

"So far I have not actually been sick and I hope I never will but being nervous is a good thing.

"If anyone in the theatre doesn't get nervous, I think they are in trouble."

An Audience with Barry Norman - a spin-off from his fascinating memoirs and why not? - is broken up into anecdotal narrative about his life and a question and answer session.

Though both tour and book are named after the film critic's apparent catchphrase, he is quick to point out it was something he never actually said.

In fact, it was comedian Rory Bremner who first muttered the immortal lines while impersonating Norman and the words stuck – much to his annoyance.

The tour and Norman's hopes for a best seller – he has already written a number of books - are a far cry from his work in front of the camera which earnt him the reputation as Britain's most respected film critic before taking up a similar role for Sky television for three years.

But he revealed to the EADT he has turned his back on presenting saying: "I have no great desire for television anymore – I think 30 years is enough.

"I am very happy not to be involved in television on a weekly basis – I wouldn't like to go through that grind again."

Though Norman is not completely ruling out a move back in front of the camera – he admits he could be tempted – you get the impression it would have to be for something particularly appealing.

Having attended countless film festivals and award ceremonies, Norman has interviewed almost every big Hollywood name one can think of.

But not all have found flavour as he explained: "I have a huge admiration for Robert De Niro as a screen actor but he was rubbish to interview – he was just not interested.

"Bruce Willis has also gone down in my estimation ever since audiences laughed at scenes from Armageddon at the Cannes Film Festival. He showed no sense of humour or humility and he was very arrogant."

More desirable interviewees came in the shape of legendary directors Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorcese and English actor Anthony Hopkins.

Norman said: "I don't see any reason why you should be nervous or star-struck when meeting these people – they don't walk on water.

"They may be prettier and they are very lucky in that the camera loves them. But they have career and relationship worries just like everyone else."

And favourite films? This is the impossible question for Norman and one, which appears to irritate him.

Citizen Kane and Singin in the Rain are obvious favourites but he is quick to dispel any notion that he is stuck in a bygone era of film.

Citing modern day classics like Gladiator and Gangs of New York, Norman says: "I am not hooked on old films and I don't believe, as a lot of people do, they don't make them like that anymore.

"I don't have a list of favourite films as it depends on what mood I am in.

"And you never know what will be a good film, I had my doubts about Pulp Fiction and I was absolutely blown away when I saw it. That is the lovely thing about cinema – it is so unexpected."

Given his upbringing in film – his father was a well-known director – it was unsurprising his career path led him to the movie world.

More surprising was the twist and turns that led him to the BBC film series after being made redundant from the Daily Mail in 1971.

Mr Norman describes this decision – which also spelt the end for many colleagues in an incident now famously dubbed The Night of the Long Envelopes – as the best thing that could have happened to him as soon after he joined the Beeb.

Having sat through more than 12,000 films, Norman has a unique insight into what separates Gremlins from The Godfather.

He said: "A good film has to have a good story, script, dialogue, cast and a good director. But a great film has to have that something else, that magic no one knows what it is.

"There were many reasons why a film like Casablanca should not have been good but it has a kind of magic attached to it."

Norman has never lost this sense of childlike magic from the cinema – it was this which attracted him as a youngster.

He added: "I still find some kind of magic when I go the cinema, it is what makes me go back. And I will continue to go back until I see the perfect movie, a film that makes me happy whatever mood I am in. That will never happy though."

You can catch Norman at the Haverhill Arts Centre on June 26 at 8pm. Tickets are available from the box office on 01440 714140.

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