Don Boyd Papers


Reference: GB 2869 BDC 2
Title: Don Boyd Papers
Dates of Creation: 1968-2000
Held at: University of Exeter
Extent: 474 boxes.
Language of Material: English
Name of Creator: Don Boyd
Level of Description: fonds

Administrative/Biographical History

Don Boyd (1948- ) is a film director, producer and writer. He was born in Nairn, Scotland, 11th August 1948, and raised in Hong Kong and East Africa. In 1970, he graduated from the London Film School and worked his way through a number of television commercials, promotional films and work for the BBC?s popular TV series Tomorrow?s World . He directed his first feature film, Intimate Reflections , in 1975; it was selected as an Outstanding Film of the Year at the London Film Festival later that year.

He followed his debut feature with East of Elephant Rock , filmed on location in Sri Lanka and starring John Hurt, after which he turned his attention to producing a package of films for acclaimed British directors under the Boyd's Co. banner. These included Alan Clarke's hugely controversial borstal drama Scum and Derek Jarman's idiosyncratic update of Shakespeare?s The Tempest . These films were made at a time when production in Britain was severely impoverished, and Boyd's Co. was perceived as a new oasis for young British talent, and Boyd himself was often cited as a great hope for the future revival in the fortunes of the national cinema.

The success of the Boyd's Co. set-up opened up opportunities for Boyd in Hollywood, where he became the producer of Honky Tonk Freeway , a project which he had himself initiated as a low-budget road movie, but which was ultimately to be directed by the British emigre John Schlesinger. The film's budget rose to almost $24,000,000, and its subsequent critical and commercial failure compounded the disaster.

He returned to the UK to devote his time to Boyd's Co., acting as executive producer on Goldcrest's An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (from a screenplay by Beryl Bainbridge) and producer on Scrubbers (directed by the Swedish actress/director Mai Zetterling). In 1982 he became only the third British film producer to be honoured with a retrospective at the National Film Theatre. He had also started production of the screenplay Gossip which he had begun developing in America with the Village Voice columnist Michael Tolkin and his brother Stephen. Having been deceived by a fraudulent funding source, Boyd was forced to shut down the shooting after just three weeks, leaving the film forever unfinished and precipitating a series of legal entanglements that delivered debilitating blows to Boyd's career at a time when a perceived boom in British film production was at its peak.

He returned to production in 1985, overseeing Paul Mayersberg's directorial debut Captive , starring Irina Brook and Oliver Reed, but his most ambitious work was still to come. Aria gathered the talents of Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Bill Bryden, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Franc Roddam, Nic Roeg, Ken Russell, Charles Sturridge and Julien Temple, each of them producing a short film inspired by an operatic aria of their choice ? the end result was the closing film of the 1987 Cannes Film Festival.

Boyd followed Aria by producing another musically focused film, Derek Jarman's War Requiem , starring Laurence Olivier and featuring the music of Benjamin Britten. He also set up, in 1986, Anglo-International Films Ltd., which was principally involved in making rock videos for artists such as The Pet Shop Boys and The Smiths, but he was soon to begin directing his first features since the collapse of Gossip . The first was Goldeneye , a TV biography of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, starring Charles Dance, followed by Twenty-One , co-written with Zoe Heller and starring Patsy Kensit. Twenty-One premiered at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, and was also selected for the Tokyo, Toronto and Deauville Film Festivals. Kleptomania followed in 1993, again starring Kensit and Amy Irving, but the film was troubled by stern disputes over the final cut.

Around this time, Boyd gained a reputation as a fine and prolific TV documentary director; as well as several investigative reports for the BBC and Channel 4, he directed a series of collaborations with Ruby Wax, in which she encountered public figures including Imelda Marcos, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Heidi Fleiss and Pamela Anderson. This earned him a BAFTA nomination for Best Director of a Light Entertainment Series.

In 1996, he co-founded Lexington Films to make a programme of medium-budget films, which included Lucia , another operatic production inspired by Donizetti's 'Lucia di Lammermoor' and Walter Scott's 'The Bride of Lammermoor'. The film starred Boyd's daughter Amanda, and premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 1998. More recently, he directed a personal documentary about his parents for the BBC's Storyville strand, and the gangster drama My Kingdom , an update of King Lear set in Liverpool's underworld and featuring the final performance by the late Richard Harris in a leading role. He continues to work on documentaries and features for cinema and television, and has been made a Visiting Professor of the University of Exeter.

Scope and Content

The collection incorporates a wide range of personal and business papers, most of which are production documents relating to particular films written, produced or directed by Don Boyd. For most of the films in which he has been involved between 1968 and 2000 (including those which were never completed), the collection houses screenplay drafts and script notes, budget documents, correspondence, production schedules, publicity material and press cuttings. For each of the companies he has founded or co-founded (Boyd's Co., Kendon Films, Berwick St. Studios, Anglo-International Films, Lexington Films) there are accounts files, correspondence, invoices and other documents pertaining to various business procedures. There is also a significant amount of personal correspondence, although this is by no means complete, and has been separated from the business correspondence only in cases where the divisions between private and business subjects are clearly discernible.

System of Arrangement

Attempts have been made to preserve some of the order of company papers as they would have been filed at their original offices, but due to the size of the collection and some disruption caused by its storage and transfer, this has not always been possible. Correspondence has not been sifted by subject, but has been kept in the groupings under which it was filed initially. Due to the large size of the collection, it has seemed appropriate to keep them in the same groupings in which they were found. They can be searched and located through an electronic database, where they are listed at three levels of description (box/file/item), usually under the name, company or film title to which they are most relevant.

Custodial History

The collections were held in two London-based storage facilities for several years prior to their donation to the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture in 2000, supplemented by several boxes of papers and personal effects which had been kept at Boyd's home.

Access Conditions

Usual BDC and EUL arrangements apply.

Copyright/Reproduction

Usual BDC and EUL restrictions apply.

Finding Aids

A complete catalogue of the collection has been created as a result of AHRB funding. A full electronic database is now available: please contact the Bill Douglas Centre for further information.

Related Units of Description

None known.

Publication Note

It is not known whether publication has resulted from use of this collection.

Dates of Accumulation

Description compiled by Dan North, Bill Douglas Centre and School of English, 27 June 2004. Revised by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, Special Collections, 22 October 2004 and 3 June 2005. Encoded into EAD, 3 June 2005.