How We Met: John Boorman And Pamela Marvin

British film director John Boorman, 65, gained worldwide recognition in 1967 for 'Point Blank', a stylish thriller starring American icon Lee Marvin. Many acclaimed movies followed, among them 'Hell in the Pacific', 'Deliverance', 'Hope and Glory' and 'The General' - which won him Best Director at this year's Cannes film festival. He has just completed a documentary on the life and work of Lee Marvin. Pamela Marvin, 68, worked as a radio producer in the 1960s, and was divorced three times before she married Lee Marvin, her childhood sweetheart, in 1970. They remained together until his death in 1987, after which she wrote the affectionate memoir 'Lee: A Romance'. She now lives in Tucson, Arizona and Woodstock, New York

JOHN BOORMAN: I was flying to Los Angeles from London, leafing through a copy of Time magazine, and came across a little piece that said Lee Marvin had married his childhood sweetheart. And so I turned up at their beach house in Malibu. I walked in and Lee said: "Do you realise I'm on my honeymoon? What the hell are you doing here?" I said: "I've come to find what all this is about." Then I learnt that Lee and Pam had first met in their home town of Woodstock, New York, when she was 15 and he'd just come back from the war.

I thought right away that she was a very warm and giving person. She had this prettiness, a girlish quality which was remarkable considering she was already a grandmother at this point. Then I got to know her family - she already had four children, and Lee had four kids as well. I know that at one point they were buying cars for all these kids and got fleet insurance because there were so many.

I think that marrying Pam was a kind of homecoming for Lee. There was a wonderful ease between them. He'd changed so much since the time I was making pictures with him, when he was living with a woman named Michelle Triola. She was like a gangster's moll - an awful person - and Lee took a long time to escape from her coils. So Pam's arrival was a great relief. Pam was so warm and motherly, and adored Lee. She gave Lee a sense of home, a place where he could be himself. He became much more relaxed, much funnier. In a sense, one of the reasons why he ran off and married Pam was to escape Michelle, who was treacherous and wanted to exert control over him. She tried to poison a lot of his relationships. She told him lies about me, and told my wife that I'd been asking Lee for drugs. She caused a lot of damage, and dragged Lee through the courts to get money out of him.

I was quite an important witness at this "palimony" trial (the first of its kind), which was a very difficult time for Lee and Pam. Michelle Triola's case was that Lee was such a drunk that he couldn't do his work without her ministrations, and that therefore she'd performed the functions of a wife for him. Of course, I was able to testify that she was never around. When Pam was writing her book, she sent me the transcript of the trial, which was just fascinating. I think by including the material in her book Pam has got her revenge on Michelle Triola.

Pam is a wonderful letter-writer, and she always wrote wonderfully vivid letters to me while she was travelling with Lee. That was what cemented our relationship. Pam would always talk to me about problems she was having. Lee had a terrible agent, and Pam and I plotted quite a bit about Lee's career, trying to take care of it. He was very exposed in some ways. His drinking crippled him, but Pam knew how to handle it. She's a very diplomatic person, and she needed to be, being with Lee. He could be quite cruel.

When Lee died Pam was terribly heartbroken. I encouraged her to write a memoir about his life. And I said to her at the time that if she did this, then I'd make a documentary to support it. Ten years writing the book was a way of keeping him alive. When she finished it, I think it was quite traumatic for her.

But Pam's a person of great insight. She's encountered enormous problems in her life, and she's got great resilience. And her rather shy manner is quite misleading - she's very strong, very intelligent. And yet she's self-effacing, especially with men. She's been married several times, and I know nothing about those early marriages. She never really speaks about them. You feel that she's almost demeaned herself in front of men; concealed her intelligence and not expressed it. Perhaps she felt that men didn't like that. But there is a genuine shyness there, too.

I think I've been a loyal friend to her. She knows that she can rely on me if she's really in need of anything. I think Pam sees me as a link to Lee's work. She knows how fond I was of him. For her, I think I've become one of the keepers of the flame.

PAMELA MARVIN: It was in Lee's beach house in Malibu that I first met John. Lee and I were married on 18 October 1970, so by then it must have been November. Lee wouldn't let anyone come and visit, but the first person he allowed in the house after we were married was John Boorman. John had called Lee, and said he was coming over with the script of Deliverance, which he wanted Lee to do. Lee said: "You'll love this man, he's really a great friend." He came in and I felt this great warmth and super-intelligence. I remember his wonderful countenance, with those piercing blue eyes.

John gave Lee the script, and over the next few months he would visit us to discuss it. He brought Marlon Brando over, who was also very interested in being in the movie. Eventually they didn't do it, mainly because Lee's agent was anxious for him to do another movie, Prime Cut, but also because he and Marlon thought they might be too old for the parts. But, of course, John asked Lee and I to come to the premiere in Los Angeles, and we both thought the movie was wonderful. And John and the guys whom he eventually cast in the film - Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds - all lined up in front of Lee to hear what he thought of it.

We visited John and his family in Ireland every time we went anywhere near Europe, usually when we were just starting or finishing a movie. We'd spend lots of time together as a pair of families, and our kids all got on so well together. And of course they would visit us in Tucson, too. John and I are both very fond of children - apart from our love for Lee, I think that's the main thing we've got in common. He's one of the finest fathers I've ever witnessed.

It was John who suggested that I bury Lee in Arlington National Cemetery, which hadn't really occurred to me. Well, nothing really occurred to me when Lee died, I was so shocked. Some people just get on with it, but I guess I was pretty floored. John made his suggestion, and I thought, "Of course!" Lee was a Marine, he was wounded during the war, he had every right to be there.

After the funeral, John would come and visit, to see how I was making out. He took me and the children for our first dinner out after Lee died. It doesn't sound like much, but it was enormously important. Then some time later he suggested that I write my book. It took me about 10 years to write it, and John acted as my editor on it, really. So he's not only been a tremendously loyal, dear, close friend, but he's been a mentor to me.

When I was writing, I sent the entire transcript of the "palimony" trial overnight by FedEx to Los Angeles, where John was spending a couple of days working on a movie. It was thousands of pages. He read everything and made comments. Of course, John had been an important witness in the trial. Michelle Triola claimed that she had been a great help to Lee's career during the time in which he had been working with John on Hell In the Pacific. But John very efficiently proved that not only was she not a help, but that she was a terrible detriment to Lee's career. It wasn't a pleasant experience. Every day we had to hear these outrageous accusations, and then see them blasted all over the newspapers and television.

Whenever things have been difficult, John has been there. You can count on him in a crisis. When Lee was playing Hickey in The Iceman Cometh, he more or less turned into the character. I was very upset, I didn't realise what was happening - Lee was so dark and terrible and cold. He and I were visiting John and his family in Ireland and I just broke down in front of John and told him all about it. Talking to him really put things in perspective. He's extremely down to earth, with none of this Hollywood bullshit or the Beverly Hills business talk. He's just won the director's award at Cannes, he's tremendously busy and he seems to know everyone in the world, but he never appears overstressed - he can be in the middle of making a film and he still finds time to cook you a lovely dinner.

I think that John and I have become Lee's custodians. We both loved him very much, and that's a huge bond. And then John and his wife Isabella named their baby boy Lee. John called me from the hospital and said: "The baby's just been born, and his name is Lee." It was wonderful. Oh my goodness, it was wonderful.

'Point Blank' (15) has been re-released and is showing nationwide. Pamela Marvin's 'Lee: A Romance' (Faber, pounds 8.99) is out now.

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
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
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

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.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us