‘Remarkable’ film critic Barry Norman dies at 83

Journalist who presented BBC show for 26 years was known for diplomatic approach

The film critic Barry Norman has died at the age of 83. Norman presented a much loved film show from 1972-1998 on the BBC. Video: BBC

 

The film critic Barry Norman has died at the age of 83. The journalist and former BBC presenter died in his sleep on Friday night.

A statement from his daughters, Samantha and Emma, described him as “remarkable” and added: “He had a great life, a wonderful marriage and an enviable career.”

His literary agent Curtis Brown said he was “the defining voice of film criticism and insightful interviewing of screen legends from both sides of the camera”.

Norman began presenting the BBC’s Film programme in 1972 and continued until 1998 when he decamped to Sky, and was replaced by Jonathan Ross.

The world of film surrounded Norman from childhood. His father, Leslie, was a producer and director who worked on The Cruel Sea and Dunkirk, while his mother, Elizabeth, was employed in the cutting room at Ealing Studios.

Norman began as a gossip columnist for the Daily Mail, before taking over as film critic.

He was eventually made redundant and began writing film reviews for the Guardian, before landing his role on the BBC film review show, where he would stay for the next 26 years.

Norman became known for his diplomatic approach and friendly demeanour as an onscreen critic, always dressed in a trusty jumper, and refused to be awed by the glamour of Hollywood and the A-listers he interviewed.

Robert De Niro famously stormed out of an interview when Norman mentioned in passing that the actor had lobbied hard for the Tom Hanks role in Big. “I almost came to blows with De Niro,”

Norman said later. “He got up my nose, I got up his nose, he stormed out of the room and I chased after him. We both snarled at each other and I thought I’d better let it go. He was a lot younger than me and a lot fitter than me. I could have been in deep trouble.”

Norman also had spats with Mel Gibson and John Wayne, the latter of whom, he said, had “lurched out of his chair with the obvious intention of thumping me” after the pair disagreed on the subject of the Vietnam war.

Speaking in 2001, Norman described how time had changed since he first began as a television critic.

“When I started nearly 30 years ago, people were asked to go on television because it was felt that they could bring some sort of knowledge to what they were discussing, and because they could speak in complete sentences, which is getting increasingly rare,” he told the Guardian.

“I think the difference now is that people go on television because they want to be celebrities and that seems to be an empty ambition. I do like to feel I’ve contributed something, as well as just sitting there.”

Norman also made several documentary series for the BBC, including Hollywood Greats, British Greats and Talking Pictures. He was also the co-host of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

He married novelist Diana Norman in 1957 and the pair had two daughters. Diana died of heart failure in 2011 at the age of 77.

The Guardian