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Memories & testimonies

Most people had heard of Mark Shivas before they met him. For such a distinguished man that was more or less inevitable, and it was as true for us at Headline as for everyone else. This chapter of his life and career began when he met Stewart at a film festival and told him he was thinking about winding down, maybe writing a book between film projects. Set up a film company instead, said Stewart and so Headline began -- the name, like so much else, coming from Mark.

As a producer of feature films and television for both ITV and BBC the list of his credits is as long as your arm, including Quartet the last. He was firing off emails and even taking meetings on that project a few days before he died. Early on there was the film journalism, later his work for BAFTA and somewhere in between he managed to squeeze in being Head of Drama at the BBC, creating BBC Films and being its first head. He was a distinguished man three times over. He knew everybody -- from Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal as babies and as adults, to Saul Zaentz, via Anthony Minghella, Dennis Potter, Ronald Harwood, Alan Bennett, Gillies MacKinnon, Michael Winterbottom, Michael Palin, Frederick Raphael and on and on, hundreds of them. You name them he knew them and more than likely had worked with them. They all respected him, they all liked him and the vast majority admired him.

Distinguished indeed. But the great are not always good, or generous, and rarely are they fun, even more rarely are they self-deprecating. Mark was all of these, a serious player who didn't take himself seriously. On one occasion, in BBC Drama, a young woman asked if he had been there before. He smiled sweetly, shrugged, and said once or twice, and she never guessed. She wouldn't. Mark showed a special delicacy with young people. He understood them, their uncertainties and their hopes. Perhaps remembering his own early years he took time out to encourage, to guide, to recognise, to warn, to laugh with, to celebrate, and he did it for decades. This man was my mentor, said a 40-something film executive, with an unaccustomed tear in her eye. Mark smiled it off. A 60-something film producer emailed Mark was an early supporter of mine. The new Controller of Drama Commissioning at the BBC received a handwritten note of congratulation the day before Mark died. Just a few examples from that other very long list: the people Mark nurtured, there are hundreds of those too. So very many have so much to thank him for. It sounds like an exaggeration but it is the simple truth.

For all this he was no softie. He could get angry and sharp when the occasion demanded. His put-downs, like his notes, were often very much to the point, often funny and usually deserved. A warm man, witty and wise, but with just enough salt in his character to stop him being a saint and make him tremendous company. Those at Headline who were lucky enough to know and work with him over the last few years will remember him all our lives with admiration and affection and delight. We will remember the smile that could surprise him in the middle of a thought and seem somehow to silently possess his whole spirit. It was beautiful to watch. There was no one you wanted to make laugh more.

A lovely man. A great man. A great legacy.

Kevin Hood · October 17, 2008

It was just a year ago Mark took the time to meet my sister and me in Italy for lunch. We had a pleasant and fun afternoon, and reluctantly said our goodbyes, knowing our times with Mark were always too brief.

Joy Shivas · October 15, 2008 2:17am

I had the honour to be his friend for twenty years. A rare man, a spledid soul. I love you Mark.

Fabrizio · October 15, 2008 2:04pm

On my first day at the BBC, I, most junior, got lost in the corridors, wandered into the office of Mark, most senior, important and very busy. He stopped what he was doing, got up and showed me where to go. I've never forgotten it.

Joanna Anderson · October 15, 2008 2:21pm

One of the few people in this shallow industry who never put on false niceties. He said what he thought without ever sugar-coating it and that just made his opinion even more valuable and respected. He was an inspiration and I am honoured to have known him.

Abigail Chandler · October 15, 2008 3:03pm

I feel truly honoured to have worked with Mark at the BBC. He was an inspirational leader, a far more managerially canny and empowering Drama Head than some BBC people ever appreciated and a real gentleman. I thank him for his wisdom, humour, and warmth.

Carol Hodge · October 16, 2008 2:53am

Along with a razor-sharp intelligence and keen wit, Mark had the kindest and most generous heart imaginable. He was a wonderful and inspiring colleague, and a dear friend. He is remembered with much love.

Norma Acland · October 16, 2008 5:52pm

Ive been working on a film with Mark over the last couple of years and always looked forward to his sharp and witty/dry remarks both in and out of meetings. What a gap he will leave. Jill Green. October 16th

jill Green · October 16, 2008 6:00pm

A cousin of Mark's, I met him only a few times and really enjoyed his kindness and quiet humour. I was sad to hear of his passing but happy to know that he was with friends and family. Unfortunately I can't be at the funeral, I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My thoughts are with him and all of you who loved him.

Clare Lighton · October 16, 2008 6:03pm

Pour Mark. Mercí pour tous ces années d'amitié, mercí pour ta bonté, pour les beaux moments passèes et pour être prés dans les moments dificile. Tu seras toujour, toujour, dans ma pensée et dans ma memoire. Sic tibis terra levis Antonio Parra

Antonio Parra · October 16, 2008 6:16pm

An incomparable man. Generous warm-hearted and always inspirational. I sat on the BAFTA film Committee with Mark and also on a couple of juries and was always impressed by his great wisdom and indefatigable energy. I wish I had known him much better and for much longer.

Clare Wise · October 16, 2008 6:33pm

We met at Granada in '66 and throughout the years he has been a dear friend and laughing partner. How fortunate life is for those who knew him.

Jim Orr · October 16, 2008 6:52pm

I met Mark in 1963 when he came to visit the editor of "Scene", a show biz magazine published by Nicholas Louard, and on which I worked as Graphic Designer. We met regularly in the Green Room at the Establishment Club when he came to deliver his column on cinema, and we have been the closest of friends ever since. I will miss him all rest of my life.

Eric Smellie · October 16, 2008 7:20pm

I met Mark only twice, in Milan, where I invited him to lecture to our students of the school of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia for television scriptwriters. I enjoyed sharing talks and thoughts with such a gentle and wise man. I won't forget him.

Milly Buonanno · October 16, 2008 8:01pm

My story is from 1960. A bunch of us adolescent students blagged Oxford Opinion as a magazine of 48 pages four times a term, and realised with a couple of weeks to go that we needed to fill it with arresting features. Those were the days! Richard Gott was political editor, Kevin Crossley-Holland was poetry editor, and a phalaynx fronted by Ian Cameron, with Victor Perkins, Paul Mayersberg , Peter Wollen, and Mark, commandeered 12 pages an issue as their magazine within the magazine, for reviews and projections of movies that followed the lead of Cahiers du Cinema and wrested the agenda from the plot-based Sight and Sound. Suddenly Hawks, Ray and Tashlin ascended the pantheon, ttogether with Welles for different reasons. This coup later morphed into Movie. I remember Mark best. He was clear, radical, exact, helpful, and mature - awesome! At the same time I had no idea of who he was. Five years ago I was walking down Westbourne Grove and Mark cycled towards me, looking then almost exactly as he looked in our student days. 'Geoffrey Cannon' he cried. 'Yes' I said, and he cycled by. I am touched to know now that I was in his address book. He helped to change and develop the British sensibility.

Geoffrey Cannon · October 16, 2008 9:24pm

After I wrote my very first screenplay, and knowing absolutely no one in the industry, i sent it out to any and everyone. Mark was the only one who got back and called me into his office for a chat. He helped me get my foot in the door and i would not be a writer today if it wasn't for his constant support, guidance, warmth and kindness. He was one of a kind. I will miss our lunches, Mark.

Khurram Longi · October 16, 2008 9:58pm

We met on top of a mountain in Prades, near Perpignan in l981. He was guest speaker at the tiny film festival where I was visiting a friend. We were both put up in the same, horrible, spa-hotel, and we spent four days together, howling with laughter and making a friendship that I will miss more than I can say. I loved him very much.

Ellen Bilgore - October 16, 2008 5:25pm · October 16, 2008 10:26pm

A great friend, mentor and hero of astounding generosity, to both me and my partner. Not even my Mum read the 17 drafts of my first feature, but Mark did! I still can't believe his humour, wisdom, love, support and friendship are no more. I hope he knew how loved and admired he was in return. He had so much left to give to the world, so many more stories to tell. We are so very, very sad.

Ian Poitier · October 16, 2008 10:36pm

Mark was my first cousin and we were at Whitgift School together in the post-war years. Given his obvious talents it was no suprise to our family that he found the law unappealing and soon launched on a career in film and TV drama. We were immensely proud of his achievments in that field, and usually only found out about the awards and so on that he received by reading the newspapers - never from him, we practically had to drag the details out of him on his next visit. He always made time for his family, even though we knew it was sometimes very difficult with his busy schedule. He will be sorely missed by all of us.

Quentin Bristow · October 16, 2008 10:37pm

Mark's father and our father were cousins. Unfortunately we did not get together very often over the years living at different ends of the globe, but Mark was always in our thoughts. It was lovely to catch up with him in Italy last year but sad to have said our last goodbys - He will be sadly missed by the NZ Shivas family.

Lesley Buckleigh (nee Shivas) · October 17, 2008 3:19am

I have known Mark since kindergarten and stayed in touch for over sixty years. Unfortunately I live in California and will be unable to attend the service. I am so sad to get this news!

Margaret (Burrows) Weitkamp · October 17, 2008 3:54am

A true gentleman, a classy act, and bloody good fun. Totally incomparable and one of a kind, I consider myself lucky to have known him.

Lindsay Shapero · October 17, 2008 8:58am

I first met Mark when I was 18 and a very junior secretary, with very grand pretensions, working at the BBC. He took me under his wing and without his help and support I would never have made it through the system, first working in production and then progressing to Script Consultant. He was a trusted friend and also, as Head of Drama, a trusted and highly respected boss. Thirty years on from that first meeting in the Television Centre bar with Mark, and I'm a writer and, as ever, he was still there, reading and commenting, on, always with great patience, always with great enthusiasm, and always with that wonderfully dry sense of humour, my own scribblings. There are many working today in TV and film, commissioning executives, producers, script editors, writers, who would not have got where they are without him. He knew when to cut the red tape to get the right person with the right skills into the right place. There are not many who have the courage to do that. Mark also became a respected friend of my family, particularly to my father, John Box, and to my father's friends. We last saw Mark at my own father's Memorial Service three years ago. And we were looking forward so much to seeing him again this coming November at the launch of my father's biography. And next year at the launch of my own novel, another project which he quietly nutured along the way. The world and the industry is a very sad place, a much lesser place, without him. He will be, already is, very, very greatly missed.

SUSAN GANDAR · October 17, 2008 9:59am

Mark's benign and incisive objectivity in matters professional, and his wicked but understated sense of humour after hours were things we needed for much much longer.

Mike Downey · October 17, 2008 10:30am

I had the pleasure of working with Mark on a film project. Rarely does one find such insight, care and attention - all wrapped up with grace and humour. He made it seem so easy! Like others, I shall miss him...

Antony J. Bowman · October 17, 2008 11:52am

Mark & i were friends for 19 years & i shall miss him so much. He was such a gentle & kind man, such a supportive friend, had a fantastic sense of humour & was always great company. He will never be forgotten.

Pip Worlidge · October 17, 2008 12:51pm

I have good memories of merry days when Mark was Head of TV Drama and I was Head of Radio Drama and I particularly recall happy days of much mirth and good living in Italy at various Prix Italias. He is as much missed as he was much loved and respected.

John Tydeman · October 17, 2008 2:19pm

About thirty years ago Mark produced a film for BBC called On Giants Shoulders-- a beautiful, touching and memorable film about a thalidomide child. I had the honor of selling this film in the US, and remember being very nervous about meeting its producer. And so began my long friendship with the charming, witty, talented man we all love. He set such high standards for himself and those around him and, somehow, always reached them and inspired others to do so. There was never a letter, a voicemail or an email that went unanswered. I feel so fortunate to be able to count him as my dear friend.

Sarah Frank · October 17, 2008 4:23pm

I first got to know Mark in the early 1980s, when I, a young reporter on a trade paper, found in him an ever patient, wise, humorous and serious guide. Our paths often crossed thereafter, at film markets, festivals and other industry gatherings, and he was always the same: each time a little older and wiser, sometimes depressed by the difficulty of making films, but ever generous, thoughtful and pleased to share. He was a lovely man.

Terry Ilott · October 17, 2008 5:16pm

He was a gentle and intelligent man, the world will be a poorer place without him.

Christopher Cameron · October 17, 2008 5:27pm

We first met Mark over 30 years ago when he bought the cottage next to our house in Gloucestershire. We have been privileged to know him. His generosity, his kindness and his never ending interest in our expanding family has given us wonderful memories of a charming and true gentleman. The weekends won't be the same without him being here. We shall miss him very much.

Sarah and Jeremy Rind · October 17, 2008 5:51pm

It was a great privilege to know Mark. He was kind and generous and a very good friend. I shall miss him terribly

Judith Goodman · October 17, 2008 7:07pm

Caro Mark, ti scriviamo in italiano perché ti piaceva la nostra lingua e provavi sempre a parlala con noi. Solo adesso ci rendiamo conto che ti conoscevamo pochissimo. Per noi eri il nostro adorabile vicino di casa straniero, e questo ci bastava. Ora che non ci sei più, ci vengono in mente mille domande che avremmo voluto farti ed alle quali, probabilmente, avresti risposto con molta reticenza ed alrettanta gentilezza. Non dimenticheremo mai la serata che abbiamo trascorso con te quando siamo stati tuoi ospiti a Londra. Ci siamo sentiti circondati dal tuo affetto e onorati della tua amicizia. Non siamo riusciti a salutarti come avremmo voluto. Ma, probabilmente, non ci avresti permesso di rattristarci. Eri così: meravigliosamente generoso e pervicacemente riservato. Ti volevamo bene per questo. Non ti potremo mai dimenticare.

Valentina e Simone · October 17, 2008 7:18pm

I worked with Mark for several years and it was such a pleasure to do so. He had a wonderful sense of humour even when pouring over agreements. Quietly modest and softly spoken it was remarkable to see how he touched and inspired so many. He will be greatly missed.

Richard Lever · October 17, 2008 7:34pm

I only knew Mark for a few short years but of course I was in awe of his work long before that. He had produced numerous dramas which I thought exceptional but two that are burned in my brain, ROGUE MALE and JUDE. I sent him a treatment, me unknown, him a great and erudite man. He read it and rang up from Italy the very next day to ask to meet me. When we did meet I knew he was everything I had imagined and more. Since then whenever we met I was impressed by his intelligence, humility, honesty and utter integrity. He was a talent, an enabler of others and a truly good human being - a rare and exceptional individual indeed. He will be truly and deeply missed. Go softly, Mark.

Kate Sinclair · October 17, 2008 10:21pm

I had a small relationship with Mark about ten years ago and was in contact with him a few times since. I was extremely sad and sorry to hear this news. This is just a small note to send my warm sympathies, and to say that Mark was one of the kindest, sanest and warmest people that I met when I carried out an inside study of BBC Drama and Film in the late 90s. He was always unfailingly helpful and honest with me, was never cowed by the BBC's arrogant management style, cut through the crap, was creatively inspirational, and his very existence then within the BBC was a sign that this strange, damaged institution could allow people like Mark of extraordinary quality to work and produce great drama. Even with people he had no special reason to help or be kind to, Mark was a wonderful human being and elicited enormous gratitude.

Georgina Born · October 18, 2008 9:15am

I worked with Mark on a number of projects, including the movie I Capture The Castle. He was, throughout our relationship, both in private an in public, an unfailing font of reason, kindness, dignity and insight. I learned more and took more from him than I ever gave, and will cherish those lessons all my life. But - perhaps strangely , in the light of all that was most inspirational about him - it is his dry droll wit that I shall remember best. That, and his war on my wardrobe of coats. He had reservations about almost all of them: one in particular I barely dared wear in his presence - he called it the Sergio Leone (because it came down to my ankles like a cowboys mac), and feared it would make me trip up on the Tube. And the last time I saw him - I realise now that he was already ill, and seriously so - he fretted that my jacket was too thin, and rang next day to see if I'd caught a cold. Rest in peace, dear friend and mentor . I'll be there next Wednesday (and I'll choose my coat with care xxx).

Heidi Thomas · October 18, 2008 10:51am

Mark's dramas and films were always an inspiration to me when I was younger - to want to write about film and TV initially, and later to work within them. He showed that you could make the strange move from criticism to being a practitioner, and it always seemed to me that he had tremendous integrity in both. I wish I'd talked to him more about his days as a critic and essayist. It felt special to finally work with him, much too briefly, at Headline.

James Saynor · October 18, 2008 12:48pm

I lost a very dear friend in these beautiful days of autumn ...At the very moment I read he went away, I felt how much I should have wished to see him once again ...I will miss our rare and deep meetings and I will miss his something so sparkling in his eyes.

Jean-Philippe Krief · October 19, 2008 9:49am

I first got to know Mark in the early 90's when we both worked for the BBC, he in a rather more exalted and powerful position than I. Yet he showed so much kindness and encouragement to this unknown supplicant from Wales. The other thing that struck me immediately was that he talked a good deal less than his peers on the 6th floor. He listened. He genuinely wanted to know what you thought about things - and what you were passionate about. Fifteen years later we met again wearing different hats, when I began developing and then writing a TV series for Headline - and he was just the same sweet man. A few weeks ago he wrote to me, having read the first two scripts, in such warm and encouraging terms. Needless to say, he absolutely got it. His was a good opinion worth having. A lovely man.

Michael Chaplin · October 19, 2008 11:02am

Thankyou Mark, for special Italian suppers, warm hugs, and for ' What if it's Raining'.

Ann Whittaker · October 19, 2008 2:46pm

I feel very lucky that Mark's kindness, charm and grace illuminated my life. I shall miss him.....

Paul Dosaj · October 19, 2008 5:29pm

I met Mark in the early Eighties in Africa, and we kept in touch over the years, in spite of being in different fields. His authenticity and integrity struck me right away. I so loved his dry wit, intelligence and modesty. I am so sad that he has gone. Bless you Mark.

Sarah Medway · October 19, 2008 10:01pm

Mark and I corresponded from time to time over the past dozen years or so while I was compiling family tree information. Mark was highly regarded by his distant family in New Zealand. My wife Amanda (nee Shivas), son Jeremy and I finally met with Mark in September 2006, when we were in London, and I very much enjoyed our short time together. I also enjoyed the emails from Mark, usually envious of his recent trips to exotic destinations! haere ra; Mark

Ken Orr · October 20, 2008 8:06am

I saw Mark the first time ever, here in Rome at Villa Medici where he held a speech on the audiovisual in Europe. He was very funny but the translation was so awful that many did not get his jokes, to his slight disappointment: he had a great, dry sense of humor. Once we were in Bath and I noticed that there were a lot of elderly people around and I asked him what was the main activity in town and he said: "dying.". After seeing him in Italy I called him up from a phone booth in London and he agreed to having me come see him at his house for a chat. He became my mentor, by letting me shadow him at BBC Films in 1995, during that difficult phase of his career when he was co-heading with Charles Faber. I learned so much from Mark and in the most privileged way possible. He used to deal with producers in a way which was always attentive, sharp and elegant. He was very generous and kind to me. We kept in touch ever since and throughout all these years he has given me constant advise and support. I am so glad Mark was in my life.

Luca Macciocca · October 20, 2008 11:47am

A wonderful, wonderful sweet man whose friendship and support meant a great deal to me - and I know also to others. I will miss you, Mark.

Chris Barwick · October 20, 2008 1:29pm

I was Mark's Assistant when he was Head of BBC Drama in the late 1980s. He mentored me and gave me my first break in the tv/film industry which set me on the road to my BAFTA. I have since become a criminal barrister but am now back writing again. Therefore, Mark always had a special status as a person in my eyes because he believed in me. I always worshipped him a bit and he was the only person whose loss of good opinion would absolutely mortify me.

Asmaa Pirzada · October 20, 2008 2:24pm

Mark was part of the very fabric of the industry and I cannot believe he has gone. In what can sometimes be an aggressive and self- seeking environment , Mark was always wise, fair , calm, and a real gentleman. He achieved so much. He will be missed by so many people.

Jill Tandy · October 20, 2008 2:24pm

Although I did not know Mark well I had the pleasure of spending a couple of years with him on BAFTA committees and juries and having the odd meeting and social drink. He was always the voice of reason and had a certain sang froid when it came to the hysteria of endless committee decisions.

Clare Wise · October 20, 2008 2:25pm

I shall miss him in my heart and spirit. He was very kind to me and my love for him will not diminish because he is gone.

Jim Orr · October 20, 2008 2:25pm

Over the years we had got to know him – and we had grown to love him coming here – we will of course – (as all his working colleagues and personal friends alike) miss him terribly.

Sally Clarke · October 20, 2008 2:25pm

I knew Mark since the early 60´s, when we were both young film critics. We met at festivals, mainly in Cannes and Venice. When he started Movie with Ian and Paul and Victor, I collaborated a couple of times in the magazine and later on also in some of the Movie books. We were all anti-establishment and angry young film buffs. Then I met with Mark several times in London, and once also in Stockholm where Mark came for a visit. Our paths went into different directions for many years, but I followed his career as a film producer while I myself started as a scriptwriter and director. Then we met again, here and there, by chance, and I so enjoyed his company and his intelligence and his views on what we both adored to work with: film. Last time we met was in Cannes this year. Just by chance, in the main street one evening. I had no idea Mark was in Cannes, and I hadn´t been there for 25 years. But chance is sometimes quite a good guide! And we could continue our talks about film - and about friendship. For me, the continuation of friendship has always been a guarantee for the continuation of life. Now, this continuation with Mark has been broken, and this loss is sad and undescribable.

Stig Björkman · October 20, 2008 2:26pm

He was a lovely man and a towering beacon of light in the film industry.

Bill Stephens · October 20, 2008 2:26pm

Mark ran BBC Films through an exceptionally creative period. Many of today's writers, producers, directors and actors got started in these often surprising and innovative television films. He was the best kind of executive producer, someone who properly understood the film making process and knew how to get the best out of people without needing to control or interfere. I myself made four films with Mark - The Grass Arena, Small Faces, Regeneration and Hideous Kinky. We will all miss him. Hopefully his influence will continue through those who were lucky enough to work with him.

Gillies MacKinnon · October 20, 2008 2:26pm

Mark was my boss at Drama Films, BBC some years ago and I saw him earlier this year and we had a memorable lunch with another old colleague. I had absolutely no idea he was ill and I'm sure that was his intention. He was as usual witty, urbane, knowledgeable, kind and excellent company. We have exchanged some emails since then and I was so pleased to note how well Quartet was coming along which he seemed to be enjoying. How cruel that he will not now see the finished film. I shall remember him always as a man of talent, taste and humour.

Jackie Warner · October 20, 2008 2:26pm

I was very sorry to hear the sad news about Mark and I just to send my condolences and express my sympathy. Mark was an exceptional person: thoughtful, kind and gifted. He was a wonderful colleague, supportive, loyal and enormously talented. Even though we had different interests, we got on extremely well and his contributions to BBC Television during my time there were significant and more than that, ground-breaking. He was a great leader of a team and I always enjoyed his company and valued very much his presence, his immense contributions to drama and the gentle way he went about his work. .

Paul Fox · October 20, 2008 2:27pm

I knew Mark from my years working for the BBC and most recently on 'Cambridge Spies'....he will be remembered for his humility, wit and intelligence.

Chris Gill · October 20, 2008 2:27pm

Mark was one of the most significant people in my life: a mentor to me as a producer, and a very dear friend whom I knew was always there for me when I needed advice, help, or just friendship. I shall miss him very much.

Leslee Udwin · October 20, 2008 2:28pm

I knew Mark Shivas for almost thirty years but I realise now that I didn’t really know him at all. Private and reticent, qualities unusual in a film and television producer, he was, in my professional life, unquestioningly the most concealed person I have met. Not I am sure because he had any dark secrets to hide. It was simply that he shunned personal publicity or saw no need for it, and seemed determined to avoid talking about himself in any revealing way. Slight and quietly spoken, he gave the impression of being either a little weary or, more often than not, secretly amused by life. Yet, and this is hard to reconcile, he exuded confidence both in his own abilities and whatever project he happened to be overseeing. It is no use me now saying that I regret not asking him more about himself, his background, his family. I don’t think I could have winkled out of him anything of any consequence. We first me in the early 1970s when he was asked to produce and I to write a film about Maria Callas. The details are hazy but I remember flying with him to New York on Concorde and going to see a Broadway musical that evening. We both fell asleep in the theatre. A few days later, we were the guests of the Executive Producer at his house on the beach in Malibu watching a fireworks display to celebrate the 4th of July. The film was never made. Mark and I lost touch but one kept reading his name attached to prestigious and splendid productions mostly for the BBC. A little over a year ago, Tom Courtenay telephoned me and asked if I thought it a good idea to make a film of my play, Quartet, about four elderly, retired opera singers. Tom had seen the play in London and thought he would be good casting for the tenor and believed Albert Finney would be ideal as the extrovert baritone. And what about Maggie Smith for the grande dame soprano? Fired by Tom’s enthusiasm, I discussed a possible way forward with my agent, Judy Daish. She suggested that we should approach Mark, whom she had known for forty years. He was immediately enthusiastic – but no, that may be too strong a word to describe his reaction. More accurate to say he was cautiously encouraging, and even that may be a little strong. He said he would do his best to raise the necessary funds in order to pay for the development of the screenplay. We heard nothing from him for some time. He worked, I presume, in his typically clandestine way and gave no progress reports until, at last, he announced that BBC Films were interested. I then set about writing the screenplay. Mark telephoned once, I think, during the writing period to ask if I could give him a possible delivery date. I said the work was taking longer than I thought. I can’t remember what his reaction was to that. Certainly no pressure, no urging. In due course, I delivered the screenplay. It was the only time Mark betrayed modest pleasure although, I have been told later, that he was genuinely excited but his responses were never unnecessarily exuberant. Undoubtedly he was encouraging. The BBC, and the actors, too, were enthusiastic. We were now to draw up a list of directors and the film is scheduled to begin shooting next year. In June, he came down to visit me in West Sussex. We spent a pleasant morning together. He seemed well, and keen to get down to the nitty-gritty of producing Quartet. He refused lunch and departed. That was the last time I saw him. A few weeks ago he telephoned to say he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He gave the news in a flat, unemotional voice, no drama, no self-pity, just the fact. The tumour was a secondary growth, he said, a result of a skin cancer that had been successfully dealt with a couple of years previously. Then the news that there was nothing to be done for him. Last Saturday he died. Sadness resides in the futile hope that had he lived to make the film, we would have got to know each other better. He wanted so much, I believe, to work with the cream of English actors, and to do what he did best: to make it possible for the film to be made in the best of circumstances. My fervent wish is that, when we make the film, we don’t let him down.

Ronald Harwood · October 20, 2008 2:28pm

I shall always remember Mark as the gentlest of souls with the driest of humour.

Tony Grisoni · October 20, 2008 2:28pm

I am so sorry and very sad to here this news. I so enjoyed working with Mark and admired him greatly. He gave me a great opportunity in my life and this will never be forgotten.

Tony Virgo · October 20, 2008 2:29pm

In the nature of things, our relationship was slightly more professional than personal but it was always good to see him, whatever the context. He had a quality of quiet integrity that's almost disappeared from our industry today. Indeed, I'm not sure we even used the word industry twenty years ago. It still saddens me that we never made the Rennie Mackintosh film - I'm sure we'd have made a lovely piece of work. But Mark's remarkable legacy is there for anyone who cares to look. This comes with affection and good thoughts from both of us to you and to those closest to a very special man.

Alan & Shirley Plater · October 20, 2008 2:29pm

Just to say how hugely sad I was to hear about Mark. God, how we'll miss his mordant humour and clear sightedness, his perfect pitch and taste.

Shelagh Stephenson · October 20, 2008 2:29pm

Mark and I went back to the late 70's, early 80's when I was working for Polygram. I think I looked him up on one of my first trips to London at the suggestion of Haidee Granger. I was totally new to international co-production and Mark was wonderful - very patient with the novice before him, and incredibly helpful. I don't think we ever did any formal business between us, but he would always make time for some tea or a meal whenever I was in town. I stopped working officially in 1984, when I left Warner Bros. to remarry, but we stayed in touch through Xmas cards every year. I did not know that he had been ill, and wish that I'd had a chance to let him know how fond I was of him and be of support during his illness.

Liz Carp · October 20, 2008 2:29pm

I first met Mark, I think, on the set of A Private Function, although it is possible that our paths crossed even before that while he was at the BBC. He was always courteous, informed, cultured and humane. A lovely, lovely man, who, when I was a humble trade journalist, took great pains to explain to me how the business worked.

Terry Ilott · October 20, 2008 2:30pm

In retrospect in relation to helping my career I only now realise how unobtrusive yet influential Mark was.I worked with Mark for 5 years at the BBC and thereafter would always see him around in all the usual film haunts. He was a wonderful smart funny human being and incredibly talented. I shall miss him.

Sheryl Crown · October 20, 2008 2:30pm

I was in touch with Mark by email just a few weeks ago, and he was as gracious and helpful as ever, and I had no idea he was so ill. When we worked together at the BBC, Mark was always generous and helpful - a real gentleman at all times!

Andrea Calderwood · October 20, 2008 2:30pm

I had many enjoyable times with Mark, sometimes to do with work and sometimes not. He was a promoter of talent and instilled one with confidence and until now had been a great survivor.

Tristram Powell · October 20, 2008 2:30pm

I was absolutely devastated to hear the news. Mark was a shining beam of integrity in our chosen profession and I am very grateful to have worked with him and to have known him.

Simon Curtis · October 20, 2008 2:31pm

I'm so terribly sorry to hear this. Mark was a mentor, friend and inspiration to me from the very beginning.

Andy Paterson · October 20, 2008 2:31pm

Mark has been a presence all through my working life - one of the very few good people - and I do mean good - in every respect: he had such immaculate taste - he was shrewd - he was funny, I'm smiling now - and he had that greatest of gifts: he enabled others to produce their best work. Such sad news - and such a gentle, fine man for one who was so razor-sharp. They really don't make them like Mark any longer - and more's the pity.

Mick Ford · October 20, 2008 2:31pm

I served with Mark on the 2004 BAFTA jury and from the very first moment I met him I was struck by his incredible generosity and calmness. It is so rare to come across someone so experienced and successful that still retains a sense of humility and willingness to help others. I'm sure he will be deeply missed by his family, but I'm also sure that the example and standards he set as an individual will live on in the many people he inspired - myself included.

Lee Santana · October 20, 2008 3:21pm

What a wonderful man and what an extraordinary legacy. He is a major part of the BBC's drama story and a major inspiration to everyone who works here still. The day before his death I received a wonderful handwritten letter congratulating me on a new job. His advice was simple and brilliant. Have fun. Thanks Mark for this, and thanks for everything you have given to us all. You will be much missed.

Ben Stephenson and all at BBC Drama · October 20, 2008 4:08pm

I was truly shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Mark’s passing last week. We first met in the late 1960’s whilst we both worked at the BBC in Drama Plays department and we met again when he returned to the BBC as Head of Drama and Head of Films. He was a tremendous boss and a great and truly loyal and generous friend who kept in touch even though we had long departed the BBC portals. I knew that Mark had become ill about three years ago but he never complained or explained how serious it might be (typically Mark, in the best possible sense – a private and beautiful human being). Every time we met, I asked him how he was he would say he was fine. The last time we had dinner was at the end of July 2008, with Lee, Jane, Kathleen and Clovis. We all had a very enjoyable and happy evening and Mark was as always extremely good company. I will miss you dear Mark and cannot help shedding tears every time I think of the happy times we shared together, both as colleagues and as friends. A sad, sad day... I will miss your cards, dry wit, loyalty, integrity and especially you...

Geoffrey Paget · October 20, 2008 4:45pm

I first met Mark while working for Jim Henson and the Muppets. Thirty years later, and across the pond, he was still my friend--a smart, wickedly funny, lovely man, who once roasted the most delicious chicken I have ever consumed. (With a slight smile on his face he refused to divulge his seasonings...) Mark's professionalism, integrity, and creative contributions to film and television will always be remembered as will his respect for talent and his caring for friends and loved ones. I am so very lucky to have shared so many adventures with Mark over the past 30 years........I will miss you, Mark....you will always be remembered with love.

Lynn Klugman · October 20, 2008 5:44pm

Mark was my father's cousin and what a wonderful relative he was! Elegant, wry, witty, understated and unfailingly kind, I enjoyed him immensely. I wish only that I had known him better. A true gentleman with enormous creative spark and a gentle spirit. . A lovely man indeed. I will miss you Mark. England will not be the same without you to visit.

Krista Bristow · October 21, 2008 4:03am

Mark was a dear friend and a wonderful person - he was one of the first people I got to know reasonably well when I started as a journalist in the business in 1977, and remained a friend and colleague for the next 30 years. I will miss him - and the business will be poorer for his absence.

Colin Vaines · October 21, 2008 10:35am

I wrote The Price for Mark which were a couple of the two most productive (and difficult!) years of my life. From the synopsis to the final cut he was one of the most sensitive and unflappable producers I have ever worked with. In a long and complicated series he knew exactly when to encourage me and keep me going, and exactly when to put a finger on a point in the story which wasn't working, or make a telling suggestion. In Dublin I remember there were no offices at first at RTE and he worked tirelessly, virtually from a briefcase during preproduction. He handled the Irish way of doing things at that time with a hint of steel inside his gentle manner, as when instead of a BBC car pool he was told: "Ah, well now Mark... we have a man in Roscommon who deals with that sort of thing..." I remember Mark's great pleasure in it being such a success- we were a BAFTA runner up. He took particular pleasure because it was one of Channel 4's first shows - perhaps the first series - and he set the tone for a combination of a serious story which could have popular appeal - we got eight million viewers, giving the main channels a run for their money. He steered it with such a steady hand through a nail-biting shoot. Scenes supposedly in the north had to be shot near Dublin. When we filmed the IRA kidnap scene a Guardia patrol car swooped on us, thinking we were for real - and it took all Mark's diplomacy not to have us disrupted, let alone pulled in! Although we hadn't worked together for some time we met a number of times at Headline to talk about projects. I shall miss him and I feel for you in your great loss.

Peter Ransley · October 21, 2008 10:42am

Professionally, I owe Mark everything. I knew him, I loved him, for forty years. He gave me two great jobs, at different times, and then did what he was so brilliant at – leaving you alone. But, you didn’t sink or swim with Mark because he was always there for you in the background. His instincts were infallible. As his script editor he startled me one day by walking in with a slim volume and saying ‘I think we’ll make this – see what you think.’ An hour later, having read it, I told Mark he must be mad. I said ‘Two people, in different countries, who write each other letters about their favourite books and never meet. Are we radio all of a sudden?’ We made it, of course, because Mark was the boss and ’84 Charing Cross Road’ went on to be a successful stage play and a fine movie. But Mark, on behalf of the BBC, got there first. His sang froid was incredible. I had to tell him one day that the male director of a film we were making had done an impromptu striptease at a pub the previous evening and was now a guest of Her Majesty. He glanced up from The Guardian for a moment and said ‘Well you better get him out then. We can’t have the crew doing nothing, can we?’ Best of all, though, was the wit and the fun and the generosity. He could laugh at himself. He recalled meeting David Frost for the first time, who said ‘Ah, Mark, congratulations on … (incredibly long pause) … so many things’. He loved movies (much more than television if the truth be told!) His knowledge was encyclopaedic and his fund of stories endless: Mark asked Gregory Peck why he had scrawled NAR in the margin of his script and was told ‘No acting required’. A director and I once dragged Mark to a fringe theatre production – not an activity of choice for him. In the interval I casually mentioned that ‘The Triumph of the Will’ was on TV that night and he was gone. And now he really has. A dear, dear friend, who tried so very hard to keep us all honest. I miss him so much.

Richard Broke · October 21, 2008 1:04pm

I last saw Mark at the beginning of August. After he had inquired about myself and my wife, I eventually asked him about himself. I knew of his illness but when he told me, calmly, that he was about to begin chemo I blanched. Mark was kind of course and offered the information considerately, as though it were somehow I and not he, who was the one to be consoled. We parted after our lunch with our usual hug. No. Not usual. Mark held me with an eloquent and gentle warmth that seemed even more special than the friendliness of our customary farewells. I couldn't be more grateful to him for that now. It was as though he were ensuring that I would not forget the moment, and I indeed I won't. Nor will I forget Mark when he appeared on Granada TV (while I was still at school) inspiring my passion for film. I will remember him too when he produced the first film on which I ever worked, Clive Donner's SHE FELL AMONG THIEVES, and of course I will remember him when he facilitated and executive produced my own first film. He has been a singular friend to myself and my wife, visiting us here in the US, always getting together with me when I was in England, and despite his busy schedule arriving to wish Barbara well the first time she showed her collection in London. I would not now be teaching the best students in the world here at the AFI Conservatory in LA without Mark's generous words of support. And I would not now be missing so immeasurably a friend whose integrity, humanity, wisdom, warmth and astonishing abilities I was so, so blessed to have encountered.

Peter Markham with Barbara Tfank · October 21, 2008 2:49pm

Our cousin, Mark was everything everyone else has said of him in so many kind tributes. Yet we, as his close family, knew so little of his successes. We knew he globe trotted a lot for Bafta events. We had admired Six Wives, Glittering Prizes, On Giants Shoulders and so many others. He said practically nothing about his many awards and hardly ever spoke about his work. We exchanged cards and visited him at home occasionally, as he visited us sometimes. We never ever new of his dire circumstances towards the end. Clearly he was still busily getting on with life and and particularly with films and friends. He was far too busy to think about himself. He thought a great deal about others as his many friends have recorded here. The last time we saw him was at my mother's funeral. She was present at his birth and brought him into the world one might say. What a wonderful life. We shall all miss you so much.

Noel, Jennie and family · October 21, 2008 9:40pm

Ten years ago I'd directed just one short film, and there was little reason for anyone to support me - let alone someone as experienced as Mark. His advice and encouragement meant so much to me. I've now just directed my first feature, and am gutted that I never really took the time to say thank you to him for encouraging me to keep plugging away. Thank you Mark.

Phil Traill · October 21, 2008 10:25pm

As our fathers' cousin Mark was a much loved and respected member of our family .We are all extremely proud of his fabulous and unparalleled achievements.We were deeply touched with the knowledge that Mark had found true happiness with his soul mate Karun.May you rest in peace . Philip,John and Joe Bristow

Anonymous · October 24, 2008 10:54am

I will always remember Mark as a very wise second father and deeply loyal friend who I met on a film festival occasion in Vietri (Salerno - Italy) when I acted as his interpreter. Since then we have stayed so good friends. May you eternally rest in peace.

Mino Tessuto - Naples - October 24, 2008 · October 24, 2008 4:09pm

It was with great sadness that I heard the news of Mark's death. As a film journalist with The Irish Times newspaper, I had the pleasure of his company many times. Mark and I stayed at the same hotel in Cannes down the years during the film festival. I will greatly miss his wit and erudition over our many enjoyable breakfasts there, as recently as May this year.

Michael Dwyer · October 24, 2008 11:59pm

Mark walked into our office in New York to discuss a possible coproduction of WAR IN VAL D'ORCIA.- that did not happen but what happened was a long and wonderful friendship with this exceptional man.

Janice Manley · October 25, 2008 8:00pm

Oh Mark. I wish I had read more into the last couple of emails you sent me. Looking at them now - "it would be warming to see you" - I wish I had been more alert to the difference in timbre. I put it down to your sensitivity to my loss earlier in the year. I add my voice to the salutes to your decency, intelligence and grace. Ant, in whose career you played no small part , used to talk about leaving a good trail. And what a trail you have left, dear Mark. You were, you are, nothing short of a national treasure. I cherish your friendship, flatter myself to call it love, and wish, oh I wish, I had heard, and heeded, that gentle call for warmth.

Dominic Minghella · October 27, 2008 11:58am

When I met Mark a few years ago, in the office where we both were based, I was frankly rather intimidated - here was someone who I respected so much, whose films and television had made me love the industry. I needn’t have worried - Mark was wonderfully unassuming. I’ll always remember how he wanted to know what everyone thought about the latest film or last night’s TV or a play. He asked for, and listened to, opinions from everyone - it didn’t matter if you were the runner or the MD - Mark made you feel like what you thought actually mattered. He never hesitated to question me when he disagreed (he usually did) and I loved those debates (he always won). I wish I had known him better and longer.

Catherine Oldfield · October 27, 2008 9:45pm

Mark was a very special and unique individual and he will be much missed by us all. He gave me one of the best early starts in my career, I have admired him for years and I shall always be grateful to him.

Jane Tranter · October 28, 2008 2:42pm

I worked with Mark in 1984 on The Price, writing the score. It was a great privilege meeting him then, and getting to know him a little bit in the years following. He was quietly understated about everything, and was supportive of me in my so-called serious music projects. He seemed to have a wise, distanced overview of life's ups and downs. I hope he knew fully how much pleasure his work gave to people.

David Earl · November 10, 2008 12:28pm

Mark entered my life far too late, and left all of ours far too early.

Sacha Bennett · November 10, 2008 8:51pm

I only knew Mark for 3 years, way back in1969, when he first joined the BBC drama department. I was a 19yr old secretary on "Play for Today" but shared an office with his secretary for a time - and he became very special. Full of warmth and empathy and always with a jest or wry comment and that smile of his. When I was ill he wrote two letters to me in hospital telling me all the latest about filming on "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" and am glad to say I still have them. He even read an (awful) play I'd written and instead of passing it on the the script unit - handed it back to me with his own kind, encouraging comments attached. I'm older and wiser now and know very few busy producers would have done the same. I only saw him once after I left and even wonder if he'd remember me - but I'll never forget - always there will be a special place in my heart for him.

Sue (then) Mudie · November 11, 2008 6:06pm

mark,with barry davis, gave me my first job.then he recommended me for another by anthony minghella.then another by anthony minghella.i had never seen truly madly deeply before this year,until mark rang to ask if i would accompany him to a 'tribute to anthony' screening of it this june.he was so charming.he had looked after me.a generous,subtle and loving man.he must have known he was on the off then. his way of saying goodbye.its nov16th and i have only just learnt of his passing.my love to karun.

michael maloney · November 18, 2008 12:03am

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