Anything for a Quiet Life by Jack Hawkins (Elm Tree Books, Hamish Hamilton, London , 1973) , pp. 131/132
There are few films that I cannot look back on without finding some reason for pleasure, or pride, or at least amusement, but there is one strong exception - "Zulu." Financially, it was a great success, and nobody can deny that it was good entertainment, but as an actor I felt let down. Indeed, in many respects, I believe I was cheated out of a good performance.
The film told the story of Rorke's Drift in Africa, where a hundred British soldiers fought off 3,000 Zulu warriors. I was offered the part of a Swiss [sic] Lutheran missionary, Otto Wit [sic], which was an unusual one for me to play in a war film, for Wit [sic] was a pacifist who attempted to prevent the wholesale slaughter of the warriors. [Not sure where that idea came from!] Largely because it was so unlike all the parts I was well known for, it appealed to me, and before we went to South Africa on location I discussed the role, and the way I thought it should be played, in great detail with the producer, Cy Endfield.
What I did not know then was that Cy was a great prestidigitator, a man who, in the kindest interpretation of the word, is a skilled conjuror. Had I realized this I might have been rather more careful but, as it was, I believed that my interpretation of the role was being taken seriously, and so I played it with this conviction.
During my scenes, Cy had arranged a number of covering shots which, for example, showed various other characters laughing at me; in other words, sending me up as a misguided buffoon. The performance that appeared on the screen bore no relationship whatever to the performance I gave in front of the cameras. When I saw it on the first night, I was so annoyed that I got out from my seat and walked out of the cinema - the only time I have ever walked out on any premiere.
However, thinking of my friends, Stanley Baker and Michael Caine - and of my astonished wife, left alone in the front row of the circle - I recovered my good humour sufficiently to collect her and take her on to the traditional first night party. All my protests achieved was that Dee [his wife Doreen] thought I must have suddenly been taken ill, and everyone else - if they thought anything at all - believed I'd simply gone to the loo!"