How We Met: Alan Parker & Gray Jolliffe

Alan Parker, 56, is a film director, writer and producer whose many film include `The Commitments' and `Evita'. His latest film, `Angela's Ashes', will be released in the autumn. He recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors' Guild of Great Britain, and is chairman of the British Film Institute. He lives in London

Gray Jolliffe, 62, cartoonist, started his career as an advertising copywriter. He has written many books, including `Apathy Made Easy' and the very successful `Wicked Willy' series. In 1997 he received the Cartoonist of the Year award in 1997. He is married with three children and lives in Oxfordshire

ALAN PARKER: Gray and I met at a small advertising agency, actually it was on the third floor of the News of the World building off Fleet Street. The agency was called Maxwell Clarke but Gray called it Maxwell Who? because it was so un-famous that when you told anyone where you worked they'd say, "Maxwell Who?"

I had just left school and was working as a junior dogsbody and Gray was a "visualiser" (they weren't called art directors then). I used to take the proofs of the ads around the agency to be signed off by each department, and Gray and the other people in the studio were far and away the most interesting and affable in the place.

Right from the beginning I was in awe of him and his extraordinary artistic ability. I used to stand for ages just watching him draw. He remains the cleverest and most all-round creative person I've ever met. A lot of people claim to be creative in my world, but Gray eclipses them all. The spare simplicity of his cartoons disguises an extraordinary ability to draw.

The agency was a pretty dour place, but Gray was so friendly; wherever he was you could hear laughter. Basically, Gray loved anybody who laughed at his jokes. It's difficult to find anyone who has a bad word to say about him. He's nice to absolutely everyone - quite the opposite of me.

Gray took me under his wing and got me a job as junior copywriter. I was in heaven. I was given a small cubicle right next to Gray's room and we would churn out a dozen ads a day. Mostly they weren't very good, but we were extraordinarily prolific. I'd write the copy and Gray would do a cartoon.

He's seven years older than me but was, and remains, much younger. I took the weight of the world on my shoulders at a very young age, while Gray has never stopped being an anarchic adolescent.

He was always keen to help me be more worldly. I remember he thought it would help me in life if I were a bit taller, so he spent ages making me a beautiful pair of stilts out of empty Cow Gum tins and had a collection box on top of the studio guillotine saying "Help Make Al a Male Model Appeal". I think he's always thought of me as driven, energetic, and argumentative but anyone would appear so compared to someone who is so laid back. The only time he gets angry is when his Magic Markers dry up.

I remember the first New Year's Eve when Gray and his wife Nikki invited me to dinner. It was the first home I visited where there was wine on the table and you had more than one knife and fork. I was still living at home in a council flat in Islington and was only just learning to call my dinner "lunch" and my tea "dinner". Gray opened my eyes to these things and to almost everything else, but never in a snobby way.

When I went for a job as a copywriter at one of the hotshot New York agencies that had just opened in London, I got it by showing the portfolio of the ads I'd done with Gray. From then on, things went quite well regarding careers, so Gray became my lucky talisman. We've spent New Year's Eve together for 32 years now: whenever I've been away filming, I've always flown back to England to spend it with Gray. He's one of those friends for life. I've heard his jokes and stories a zillion times but he still makes me laugh. He's very special and, as you get older, you realise you don't meet many people like that in a lifetime.

GRAY JOLLIFFE: Ever since I first met him in 1964, Alan has always worn baggy grey trousers held up by red braces, setting a style 20 years ahead of his time. We reckoned that, simply by jumping, he could turn right around inside those trousers without taking them off.

Al was a trainee account exec and I was a "creative", not that there was anything much to create. Al and I became friends mainly because we had a lot of laughs - we had this rapport and a tendency towards insubordination - or perhaps it was because we were so different. He was a baggily dressed bundle of energy and ambition, and I was a skinny tube of neither. But we were both impressed by the new US agencies and we wrote to them furiously, begging for jobs. We sent formal letters, silly mailings, bribes ... we tried everything and in the end it paid off.

Al's first proper copywriting job was at a trendy new American agency, which, through some lucky misunderstanding, offered him pounds 1,500 a year when he had suggested "15", meaning pounds 15 a week.

Al is an intellectual, despite his working class background, and recently astounded a television chat-show host by using the word "genre". He's also candid and forthright. He's secure, confident and always right. There are some who disagree, but they get killed early in the plot. He is sometimes cantankerous and arrogant, qualities I greatly admire. It's very important for me to be liked, but Al suffers no such handicap. He doesn't give a toss as long as the job gets done.

As far as I know, I am the only living fool Al suffers gladly. We never really get into major arguments or fights since we've always had a mutual respect - although we take the piss out of each other when those little opportunities occur.

His job is so complicated it makes my head hurt to think about it. At some point Al blossomed into an "auteur", which I think means having total control of a film. He blasted off into outer space and suddenly his face was in all the papers and on TV and I felt awfully proud to be his old buddy. I would drop his name big-time at every possible opportunity. Still do.

Our social circles overlap considerably and many of our closest friends are mutual. All our kids know each other and get on well. We always spend New Year's Eve together, either in London or LA, and I don't think we've missed one in over 30 years. It's a kind of a good luck thing for both of us. We're not superstitious, but it seems to work - fingers crossed.

Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tv Review: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series began tonight with a feature-length special
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee