MEMORY LANE: Aunt knew best for Cookson film director

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AS FAR as Hartlepool-born film director Norman Stone was concerned, aunty knew best.

When the Emmy award winner was approached to dramatise Catherine Cookson’s novel The Gambling Man, he didn’t clear it with focus groups, script seminars or even his agent – he asked his aunt Irene.

Irene, still living in the town and the family expert on the world’s most prolific author, gave him the lowdown and Norman was hooked.

“What I particularly liked about The Gambling Man was that it had a hard edge to it,” the former Lister Street School pupil told the Mail’s Bernice Saltzer.

“It’s a mixture of On The Waterfront and The Third Man with a lot of Cookson thrown in.

“It’s a cracking yarn, set in the North-east, which could easily be confused with the wild west,” added Norman of The Gambling Man, which starred Robson Green and Bernard Hill.

Norman had won international acclaim for his version of another Catherine Cookson novel, The Black Velvet Gown, winning an Emmy and the Grand Award at the New York Festival, but was wary of doing more works by the South Shields author.

“I was asked to do some of the others but I was always involved with something else,” he said.

“And I try not to repeat myself. But when this one came up it was different so I decided to do it.”

Norman was keen to talk about waht he hoped was his next project, the true life story of an eskimo called Minik who was taken from his home to America.

It was when he was in New York picking up his Emmy for The Black Velvet Gown he got he chance to do some research for the story, but was surprised by the reaction of staff at the Museum of Natural History.

“It was as if I’d hit the woman in the face with a wet fish,” he said.

“She wanted to know why I wanted to know about Minik, which was obviously some kind of secret.”

Another planned future project was an updated version of Don Quixote set in the North-east, but although Norman is still active as a director and producer, neither this nor the Minik biopic appear to have reached the screen yet.

Email andrew.levett@jpress.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.