Film maker Don Boyd with leading lady, Anne-Louise Lambert in the film 'Gossip'.

Chronicling Stephen Fry’s film career

Stephen Fry’s new memoir ‘The Fry Chronicles’ telling the story of the rise to fame in the 1980s of one of Britain’s most famous entertainers and public figures proved an instant bestseller. 

In writing the book Fry contacted the University of Exeter to access papers from the archive of one of Britain’s most influential filmmakers, Don Boyd.

The Don Boyd Collection is a hugely valuable resource for researching British Cinema in this period as he has been a significant figure in the film industry over the last forty years. The collection is held in the University’s museum of the moving image, The Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture.  

In 1981 and 1982 Don Boyd gave the very young Stephen Fry, recently graduated from Cambridge, his first film job, asking him to rewrite the script on his production Gossip. This was a project Don was to direct chronicling the adventures of a young female gossip columnist on London’s social scene. ‘Gossip’ promised to be one of the earliest insights into what Fry describes in the book as ‘a new and horrible side to Thatcher’s Britain’ amongst the rich glitterati of the capital. Sadly the film was never completed.

The full story of the film ‘Gossip’ is provided by University of Exeter lecturer in film, Dan North in his edited collection ‘Sights Unseen’. In the book Fry calls Boyd ‘one of the kindest and best of men’ and a ‘talented, idealistic and passionately committed film-maker’.

The only draft of Fry’s script is housed in the University’s Bill Douglas Centre. A copy was sent to Fry, together with a note he had written to Boyd during the process. The University also sent a copy of Dan North’s chapter, so that he could write about this first experience in his film career.

In the book Stephen kindly writes in the acknowledgements that ‘I thank Don Boyd for leading me to the kind and helpful Phil Wickham of The University of Exeter’s The Bill Douglas Centre of the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, which houses a Don Boyd archive where invaluable Gossip material was made available to me’.

Boyd is an honorary professor in film at the University of Exeter and continues to share his extensive knowledge of the film industry with students from Exeter. Phil Wickham said, ‘We are enormously grateful to him for the donation of his papers. Both Don and The Bill Douglas Centre are very pleased to have been able to assist Stephen Fry with his book.‘

Date: 22 October 2010

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