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.
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.
Some of the TWM cast and crew in Tuscany
David Watkin: A caricature of himself
Tea with Mussolini filming in Florence
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.
Filming in Tuscany
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…”
San Gimignano – the day the liberation and Scots Guard scene was filmed.
David pictured reading at home…