Q&A SIr David Attenborough

Sir David on his new Disney film, Chimpanzee


Why did you choose to make a film about Chimpanzees?

I worked on a TV documentary before where we filmed just chimps and they were hunting monkeys at that time and we knew they’d make good stars for the big screen and could tell a 75-minute story.

Is this a film for adults or kids?

Well if there’s one animal in the entire world which human beings, and particularly children can identify with it’s chimps, because we share so many of the emotions – of joy, of sorrow, or playfulness, or anger. You can see them doing it the same way a child, or you or me would do it. The identification with a chimp is immediate, and you wouldn’t get that if you were making a film about a dog for example.

How hard was it filming in a rainforest?

It was so exhausting. We basically said to the camera team, do two days and take a day off. We couldn’t do more than six weeks in total. It was gruelling.

What was the worst thing about filming in the rainforest?

The rain! I must say, one of the comic things, the rain came pouring down just as we were getting a lovely shot of the chimps in the tree and it was cold and miserable. So I was sat there with my arms crossed, rocking back and fourth and I looked up and there was a chimp in exactly the same position as me! We exchanged glances.

Did you sleep in the trees when you were filming so high up?

Sort of. Our camp had open sides so it was more like just a roof over the jungle being held up with poles. Now if you don’t have any walls like us, when it rains all the other animals come in looking for shelter as well! So we had snakes and scorpions and ants trudging in when it rained.

Did Disney insist on a happy ending for a film like this?

Disney came to us saying they’d like to make a wildlife movie and we had to provide a script of sorts, even though we could never anticipate what would actually happen. But over the course of three years we set out to make the film without really knowing how it would turn out

Where’s your favourite place on earth?

Richmond in Surrey, actually. It’s true. But if you want to go somewhere nice on holiday where it’s not too hot and not too cold, where there’s a chance you’ll understand the language I’d go somewhere like France or Italy out of choice.