Biography | Diaries | if.... | Interviews | Resume
David Sherwin was born February 24, 1942. He has a sister,
Sue, and his father A.N. Sherwin-White was an Oxford Classics Don who wrote
"Roman Citizenship" as well as two other books on Roman history and
Pliny and edited two more. His mother is also a Don and he disappointed them both
by failing out of school.
David and his friend John Howlett were attending school at Oxford and decided they wanted to write movies and the most popular films of the day were westerns. They go see all the westerns playing, but don't come up with any news ideas. Suddenly Sherwin realizes the only way to go is with experience - their school days at Tonbridge. The stage is set and writing starts on May 5, 1960. Four days later he has Gilda, his girlfriend, type up five copies of the script called Crusaders and sends them off. A couple callbacks later he learns that he has a writing career ahead of him, but that Crusaders should never be made.
His first job is at the TV times in 1960, but the writing of Crusaders gets him another job. In June of that year he landed a writing gig with Perkins Diesels making industrial films. He goes away on jobs for them for almost two years until the company is bought out in 1962. During that summer his girlfriend allows him to stay with her, but she is also involved with someone else. In 1963 he hears from his idol Nicholas Ray, the director who made Rebel Without a Cause. He has read Crusaders and he likes it, but thinks it shouldn't be made by him because he is an American. He offers him a job instead, but Sherwin never gets it because Ray has a nervous breakdown.
In 1965 he falls in love again with Val. The relationship is doomed because she doesn't want marriage or children, but he does. On July 10, 1966 he meets Lindsay Anderson for the first time through a mutual friend Seth Holt as they want to make Crusaders, so begins a relationship that lasts 28 years. The two will work together polishing the film for the next year and the script is finally finished on May 15, 1967. They try to sell it again and after some ups and downs the film is finally bought by Paramount in October. The next month Val has an affair and he goes after the prettiest secretary in his agent's office, Gay.
The first day of shooting on if… is on January 29, 1968. It was a long journey to say the least getting his first project to fruition - almost seven and a half years from concept to filming. It would be almost another year before it was shown. Around this time he gets a dog named Bertie who would be like an if.... mascot.
On November 23, 1968 he married his girlfriend Gay. So begins a relationship so destructive it almost kills him. On March 6, 1969 he and Malcolm McDowell arrive in the US for the first time to promote if.… When he wins the British Writer's Guild award for best screenplay five days later the phone starts to ring. This would fulfill his dream of getting to Hollywood and begin and endless stream of projects that would never reach completion.
On May 27, 1969 if…. wins Best Film at the Cannes film festival allowing him to continue to stay on top. By December the first signs of his marriage being on the rocks surface. He starts fighting with Gay because he doesn't know where so goes when she is out. He wants a stay at home wife, but she says he is a dictator and talk of divorce starts. They blame their London apartment and move to a bigger place on three acres in the Dean Forest. The next year he buys himself a Porsche 911 and a Citroen Dyane so Lindsay won't find out. Lindsay never learned to drive so David uses the Dyane for driving Lindsay around which he always does when they work together.
The summer of 1970 sees David's first rewrite job that pans out. It is for John Schlesinger's Sunday Bloody Sunday which he works on during filming. Afterwards he starts working with Malcolm on working his story Coffee Man. This will eventually become O Lucky Man!
On May 25, 1971 he found out his wife was cheating on him and the next week she has left him. Five days later he has a secretary, Therese, from Australia that he really connects with. After another five days Gay finds out and comes back home, but leaves soon after. Soon after he moves out with Therese and her ex-boyfriend Ric from Australia decides he's coming to England to marry her. By July the three of them are living together. Not long after Ric decides he doesn't want Therese and goes back to his girlfriend Meredith in Australia. But, before long he is sick of her and calls Therese telling her he will kill himself if she doesn't come back to him. She goes. David gets lonely and calls his wife to come over. She does, but she is with her boyfriend. A fight ensues when the boyfriend tries to come in the house with her and he knocks David out and he wakes up in the hospital.
The cycle continues the next month when Therese calls to say she is coming back to him when the time is right because she doesn't love Ric, but doesn't want him to hurt himself. She arrives in October, but when Gay comes to see him at his Christmas party he goes back to her place and jumps into bed with her. He comes back five minutes later and Therese is already packing to leave.
The next day, Christmas, David tries to kill himself and wakes up in the hospital with no memory of doing so. He is put in a mental hospital under protest because he is supposed to be writing O Lucky Man! They tell him he might be in there for six months, but on January first he sneaks out. In March Gay returns to him once again.
Three weeks later filming begins on O Lucky Man! and in May he takes Gay to Tunisia for two weeks on a second honeymoon. This angers Lindsay who is directing because he needs him there for rewrites. In July he takes Lindsay's mother to the hospital and she informs him his wife is pregnant. He is quite shocked because she never told him. On March 23, 1973 she gives birth to their son Luke.
In May it is off to Cannes again, this time for OLM! It doesn't win and thus begins the downward spiral. For the next five years none of his projects will get made into films. When one finally does it is 1978's Venom AKA "Jaws on Land". The finished piece bears no resemblance to his script.
By July of 1974 Gay is talking of divorce and threatening him. Soon after Jon Voight calls and wants him to write Robin Hood for him and come out to Hollywood. He gladly accepts and at the airport on August 1 Gay tells him not to take their bags on the plane with him because she is taking their son and leaving him. David is too tired to argue and leaves her. Four days later he returns to find out that Gay has truly left him with orders not to look for him.
In need of help, two weeks later he is introduced to Ginny who will help him with the three scripts he is working on. In September she moves in. She is as sexy as can be, but he has sworn off women after the disastrous relationships he has gone through. Their relationship does remain strictly platonic until Christmas time. To make his life even worse Gay only allows him to have time with Luke once a year at Christmas. She threatens David with taking Luke away forever and having her new man gain custody.
David and Ginny go to Hollywood to work with Jon Voight on his dream of a Robin Hood script. Nothing goes right and after a few months of listening to Jon's insanity of what Robin Hood should be they get themselves intentionally fired so they can still collect the money. Returning to England they move in together at the house in the forest and Ginny loves it there. She now tells him they will get married and have a child. The next day two of her friends come to visit from Italy and she leaves with them, never to return.
Next he is supposed to work on a film with Martin Scorsese, but it falls through because he is too worn out after making Taxi Driver. Right after that David is once again committed. He decides to call Monika Escott out of the blue and invite her to the opening of Lindsay's play The Seagull in five weeks. She accepts. They met when she was the publicist on OLM! He gets out of the hospital and goes to live with a friend. The date with Monika goes off as planned and leads into a relationship. The following spring she moves in with him at his house in The Falls.
They live in happiness and by January 1977 she is pregnant. In March he goes to New York to work on a project for Nureyev. In the Summer he works on Venom. On August 25 he finally marries Monika and on September 23 his daughter Skye is born.
In April 1978 disaster, called Gay, strikes again. She files a warrant against him under the "Married Women's Property Act". He has to sell the house and furniture and give her half the money. Now his family is homeless without enough to buy a new place. This forces him to take the family off to Hollywood as he finishes up the script for Venom. They are stuck living in a small hotel room together with very little money for expenses. He turns to drinking and one night tries to kill his wife while sleepwalking. Both drinking and sleepwalking will haunt him for many years.
A month later they hire a nanny to help out and finally move to a better hotel. Paranoia then starts to set in. David thinks someone has stole their passport, people are watching him, everyone is a spy and he knows too much and they might not let him leave Hollywood alive. David convinces his boss he doesn't need to be there to write Venom and he agrees. In June they head back to England and Monika has him taken to a doctor, he is diagnosed as manic depressive, given drugs, but finishes Venom on time.
The sale of the house finally goes through and now they have the money to finally buy another house nearby which isn't finished and there is no phone. The closest one is across the park where they live. The next year is spent working on projects that never go anywhere including a screenplay about his relationship with Gay that he decides will work better as a novel that still reamins unpublished.
In December of 1979 Lindsay calls him and announces he has signed a two-picture deal with him as a writer. The first film will be a about a hospital that will be like a microcosm of everything that is going on in England. The project starts out as Memorial Hospital, then turns into Britannia Hospital to make it more epic. The pay is great and it is a chance to finally work with Lindsay again. Like all the other projects there are ups and downs. David quits, but comes back. Fox drops the project amidst turmoil and Lindsay has to take other work. During 1980 Rachel Roberts who was in OLM! Goes through depression and Lindsay and David are powerless to help her even though they want her in the film. Soon after she commits suicide.
Finally in March 1981 EMI agrees to make the film with the condition that shooting must begin in August. David is also hired to write a diary of the shooting and a documentary of the filming is also to be shot. Neither project ever sees the light of day. The film is finished in November and premiers at Cannes in May 1982. It doesn't win and the British press hates it. In June the film is pulled after less than a month. In May 1983 it opens to rave reviews in the US which leads to another job for David writing "Wet Gold". This would be his last film to be completed. Soon after his dog Bertie dies, it is the end of an era. Other projects come and go and "Wet Gold" finally premiers in October 1983 on TV to rave reviews, even making the cover of TV Guide.
1984 would be the start of working on the sequel to if…. entitled "if…. 2 Reunion". The idea is for it to be a sequel like no other, coming back to the same characters and actors and how they have gotten on after 25 years. David would work on the script on and off for the next decade, right up to Lindsay's death. At one point Fox bought it and paid for it, but once again the project fell through. The rest of the 1980s were pretty dismal with more failed projects. One bright spot was that David learned he could go on welfare between projects and that kept the money coming in so the family wouldn't starve.
This goes well until 1989 when he is denied welfare. He launches a campaign against the government by writing an article about it that gives him national attention. Friends like Malcolm help him out with money and the newspaper puts him on retainer so he can earn some money whether he writes from them or not because they admire him. The government at first relents paying him, then changes their minds and a week after the article appears the give him the money. His friend Mark who is Head of Films at the BBC tells him he wants to make a film based on his article and his experience. He comes up with the title "When the Garden Gnomes Begin to Bleed." He works with Lindsay on the script and Malcolm wants to play David in it, but when they show it to Mark he hates it. The film is never made.
1990 sees problems with his daughter in private school that make her suicidal. When they finally get her out and into public school things are much happier. More projects come and go. He works on if…. 2 and then starts to type up his diaries that go back 1960 in hopes of seeing them published someday.
In 1992 he finished the script for Monster Butler, which Malcolm loves and wants to star in. Malcolm promises David his salary of $200,000 from his next role to buy the script so they can make it. David is thrilled to finally get out of debt, but Malcolm's role falls through. Everything else then falls through and even with Malcolm and Gary Oldman committed to Monster Butler they still can't get a studio to buy it. David's drinking gets worse and Monika threatens to leave him.
He goes out to LA to work on another script and winds up being there during the riots. It starts to look very bad for him as the riots pick up to where near he is staying, but he comes through it all unharmed. In September he works with Lindsay on a film called "Is that All There is?" which is about Lindsay's life and even appears in it as himself.
In October 1993 the contract is singed for if….2, but by April 1994 the American money backs out claiming it is too European. The next month he slipped into a drunken depression which required an Alcoholics Anonymous type intervention. It was successful and by May 24 he is finally free of drink. Over the summer he corresponds back and forth with his friend Mike in LA who he has written a script with. Mike has the right idea by going to the US as the British film industry has been dead for quite sometime. He too finds success illusive and is living there in poverty.
On August 22 Lindsay Anderson passes away. All of David's dreams of working with him to completion on the projects they have been working on are destroyed. He spends the rest of the year trying to get "Chasing Dragons" off the ground with Mike. It doesn't happen.
In 1996 David finally publishes excerpts from his thousands of pages of diaries as "Going Mad in Hollywood and Life with Lindsay Anderson." It is the first book released to pay tribute to the great man and is a fascinating look at his life and the insanity that is Hollywood. It went out of print a year later and is almost non-existent in the US. It has become a bit of a collectible.
David still lives sober in England with his wife still hoping to get that next project off the ground. Malcolm and he have started talking about the the "Going Mad" movie with Malcolm set to play Lindsay and possibly Paul Bettany playing Sherwin. In February 2002 if… finally got its gala premiere after 34 years and David was there to give a speech. His life has been one of much struggle with project after project of his getting killed, which must have taken it's toll on him. He hasn't been feeling too well in the last the last year, but he is a survivor and I wish him the best and look forward to someday seeing Monster Butler, Garden Gnomes and Going Mad all with Malcolm. He continues to write and will be doing so for as long as possible and has a few other projects which may get produced soon.
David Sherwin's Diary of writing the script for O Lucky Man!
Sherwin's intro to the film from the 2002 premiere.
This is an extraordinary premiere, because 35 years ago
if.... never had
a premiere. It was only by a series of miracles and eight years hard work that
if.... was made in the first place, shown at all, and exists today.
Paramount who by some strange fluke had financed the film, hated the finished version and decided never to release it. But they had an expensive flop playing at the Plaza, Jane Fonda in Barbarella. The head of Paramount, Charles Bludhorne, said 'take off Jane Fonda, put on this rubbish if.... Christmas is only a week away, a bad time for the box office, if.... will flop and then we can put in Chuck Heston in a real film.' Well on the 17th December 1968, the evening after if.... had opened unannounced at the Paramount Plaza there were queues of young people stretching almost to Buckingham Palace. Word of mouth. The film was created by many people with lady luck giving all the help she could.
The story of if.... begins in May 1960 in the Corn Market, Oxford. My school friend John Howlett and I had one dream, to escape class-conscious Britain and go to Hollywood. Our script had to be so brilliant they would beg us to direct. Week after week, we'd seen seven films a day, over and over, from Tokyo Story and Potemkin to The Gunfight at the OK Coral and we were stuck. Total writer's block. All scripts had been done. Then, I don't know how, inspiration hit me like lightening; I stopped John, 'Remember the words of William Wordsworth, 'poetry is experience recollected in tranquility' and the only experience we've got is our school, that Nazi camp, Tonbridge.' 'God, you're right!' said John, 'and its never been done, the torture, the keen types, the buggery'.
The great Ealing rebel, Seth Holt, loved the script and agreed to find a great director for the film, however long it took. It took years. Then one day, 10th July, 1966, I was shooting an industrial film in the middle of a sodden wheat field in pouring rain. I was supposed to be creating a simple scene of an angelic little girl dancing through sunlit wheat. I had been waiting for sunshine in the rain for three weeks. Rain, rain, rain.
I received an urgent message from the hotel. It was Seth Holt on the line, he told me he had found the perfect director, Lindsay Anderson, and he liked the script. I cursed this bloody Lindsay Anderson and moaned to Seth that I'd got to spend the rest of my life in the rain until the sun shone. 'Forget sunshine,' growled Seth, 'we're meeting Lindsay in the Pillars of Hercules pub in Soho. Tonight! 8pm sharp. Be there.' In the pub, Lindsay's first words are, 'Well your script is very bad.' 'No, it's brilliant.' I reply. He raised his eyebrows quizzically, 'Oh is it? Good.' Then he tells me that the script needs to be completely re-written from the beginning, and my imagination freed from every constraint. 'Yes, poetry is the key.' I said, 'and the epic' he replied. With this mutual flash of understanding, our destinies change".
Camera Journal #1 Winter 2002
The bulk of his projects have never been made into films, such is the business.
|1960||Crusaders (if….)||Writer||Movie completed in 1968|
|60-62||Perkins Diesels Documentaries||Writer||Completed industrial films|
|1963||55 Days in Peking||Personal assistant||Film Never Happens|
|1966||Flour Piece||Stills photographer||Completed|
|1967||Carpet Sweeper Commercial||Actor||Directed by Lindsay|
|1969||Castle on the Hill||Writer||Completed N/A|
|1969||First Love||Writer||Not completed|
|1970||Sunday Bloody Sunday||Co-writer||Completed + filmed|
|1972||O Lucky Man!||Writer||Completed + filmed 1973|
|1973||Assassin of the Children||Writer||Completed N/A|
|1974||Killing of Koven||Co-writer||Not completed|
|1974||Dangerfield Safari||Co-writer||Not completed|
|1975||Robin Hood w/Jon Voight||Co-writer||Not completed|
|1975||Voyage of the Damned||Rewrites||Turned Down|
|1975||Shelley Musical w/Scorsese||Writer||Not completed|
|1976||The Dream||Writer||Not completed|
|1976||Freedom and Death||Writer||Not completed|
|1977||To See America||Writer||Not completed|
|1978||Venom||Writer||Rewritten + filmed|
|1978||The Great Advertisement for Marriage||Writer||Screenplay, then novel N/A|
|1978||Snow Queen||Writer||Not completed|
|1979||The Crash of '79||Writer||Not completed|
|1979||9 ˝ Weeks||Writer||Turned Down|
|1981||Britannia Hospital||Writer||Completed + filmed 1982|
|1982||Little Prince||Writer||Not completed|
|1983||President of Pakistan||Writer||Not completed|
|1983||Wet Gold||Writer||Completed + Filmed for TV|
|1984||if…. 2 Reunion||Writer||Completed in 1994 N/A|
|1986||The Boy who Followed Ripley||Writer||Not completed|
|1990||When Garden Gnomes Begin to Bleed||Writer||Completed N/A|
|1990||Love and Madness on the Richter Scale||Writer||Completed N/A|
|1990||The Private Death of Joseph Stalin||Writer||Not completed|
|1992||Monster Butler||Writer||Completed - Bought by MM|
|1992||Chasing Dragons||Co-writer||Completed N/A|
|1992||Is That All There Is?||Plays Himself||Completed + Filmed|
|1996||Going Mad in Hollywood||Writer||Published Book in UK|
|200?||Going Mad in Hollywood||Writer||Movie Version in Production|
This page © 2002-08 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net