It started at a party at Franco Zeffirelli’s home…

Filming Tea with Mussolini

I met David at a party at Franco Zeffirelli’s home in Rome. My son had been cast to play Franco Zeffirelli in Tea With Mussolini (TWM) and I was to be his chaperone (required by law as he was under 18 years of age). We were told about David and his genius for lighting (Wendy lights included) before meeting him, so I was a bit tongue tied when we were introduced. Somehow, books came up (can you imagine a conversation with David that lasted more than 5 minutes, without books coming up?). Baird (son, mentioned previously) told David that he had given me the collected works of Jane Austen for my birthday the month before. That did it – Baird and I were now David’s new best friends – he was so happy to know that there would be readers on the set.

Tea with Mussolini - Lighting Baird

A few years ago, David telephoned me, completely tickled. It seems he had been to the doctor and told to sit and wait in the waiting area. Being David he became absorbed in something other than the waiting. He heard his name being called by the nurse and went up to the desk. At the desk were a mother and young daughter also claiming to have been called up. It seems the young girl’s name was “Wendy” and that’s who was called. David claimed he didn’t know whether to explain or offer some other excuse.

When TWM was filming in Florence, David told us to come over to his hotel to meet up with him one afternoon. We checked with the concierge and asked for David Watkin. The concierge informed us that there was a Francis David Watkin staying there but no David Watkin. And Mr. Francis Watkin was swimming in the hotel’s roof top pool. David stopped his swimming about to greet us and I told him that we now knew his TRUE first name. His response, “Oh Fuck!” and he submerged himself. It was always my threat to make the name public when I needed to bribe him.

TWM crew

Some of the TWM cast and crew in Tuscany

TWM David Watkin asleep

David Watkin: A caricature of himself

TWM Filmset

Tea with Mussolini filming in Florence

TWM Lago

David at work filming TWM at Lago di Vico. David talks about this filming setup in ‘Was Clara Schumann a Fag Hag?’. He borrowed the information he used in the book (with permission) from Baird’s University entrance essay.

TWM Lago

TWM Tuscany

Filming in Tuscany

TWM Uffizi Gallery

David at work in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. David took Marget into one of the rooms he’d lit and asked if she’d “like to see a Giotto, lit properly for once…”

TWM Uffizi Gallery

TWM Scots Guard

San Gimignano – the day the liberation and Scots Guard scene was filmed.

David Reading

David pictured reading at home…

  2 Replies to “It started at a party at Franco Zeffirelli’s home…”

  1. Jane Stoggles
    28/02/2009 at 11:30 am

    Hi, Rachel & Chris,
    This is a WONDERFUL website – thanks so much.
    David’s life continues to inspire me

  2. mindaugas lavreckij
    16/05/2009 at 9:25 pm

    Rachel and Chris

    i don´t know if you remembar me (escort boy)
    this website is the best thing someone could do for DAVID ,hi WAS and IS a GREAT MAN as i ever met in my life

    thanks you so much!!!

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