You ask the questions: Ken Russell

(Such as, Ken Russell: is it true that you always wanted to be a ballet dancer?)
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The film director Ken Russell, 72, grew up in Southampton. After serving in the forces, he took up freelance photography. In 1958 Russell began directing for the BBC, but after eight years he became a freelance film director. His films include Elgar and The Planets for television and Women in Love, The Lair of the White Worm and The Devils for cinema. He was responsible for the televised series of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1993. Russell has just written his first novel, Mike and Gaby's Space Gospel, which is published by Little Brown. He has been married three times and has eight children, but now lives alone in Hampshire.

In one sentence, who are you?

Jenny Brown, Islington

According to my passport I am Russell, Ken, British citizen born in Southampton on 03 Jul 27 expiring on 06 Jan/03.

What's it like to be an enfant terrible at 72?

Gavin H Wright, Surrey

It feels perfectly normal - having just reached my second childhood.

Is it true that you always wanted to be a ballet dancer?

Jane Chalmers, Petworth

Only after I failed to break into films as a young man. I then studied classical ballet for five years under the tutelage of Maestro Nicolai Sergeyev, of the Imperial Maryinsky, St Petersburg. On graduation I went straight into the third row of the chorus of Annie Get Your Gun.

Why are you so obsessed with space? Do you believe in aliens?

Harry Cooper, Milton Keynes

Because it is so hard to find. But now that I have found my "own space" at last, that particular obsession is over. And, yes, I do believe in aliens - they're all working in Fleet Street.

You make exotic erotic films, and many of the women you direct are variously undressed. Is this work easier with relative unknowns or with famous actresses, such as Amanda Donohoe?

Nicholas E Gough, Swindon, Wiltshire

As yet I have never directed relative unknowns, "variously" undressed - at least, not in films.

However, I have shared a bed with Amanda Donohoe, but not while she was in it.

Are there autobiographical references in your novel?

Frankie Janus, Marble Arch, London W1

Yes. Oliver Reed used to call me "Jesus"!

Where are you most relaxed, and how do you unwind?

Dr Jill Davids, by e-mail

Sitting by my lake in the country on a sunny day, listening to the birds and watching dragonflies. I unwind by walking in the New Forest, enjoying music on my headset.

Are eight children enough - or would you like more? And what sort of dad are you?

Kelly Jarvis, Hoxton

Who said I stopped at eight? I am the sort of dad who cooks his children slap-up meals when they come to visit - and then does the washing-up after they've gone, though they always offer.

Which of your projects are you most proud of?

Matt Baxter, by e-mail

My ongoing family.

Do you use any special tricks to make naked women look good (and get them in the mood for sex scenes?)

Cary Jones, Cardiff

I'm not sure whether you are asking me personally, or in a professional capacity.

Whom do you really admire (and whom do you detest?)

Ian Robert, Chelmsford

I really admire the late Sir Huw Wheldon. He started the arts programme Monitor on BBC TV and engaged me to make a series of documentaries on my favourite artists, including Elgar. Apart from the fact that he launched me on my career, I found him inspirational.

(I detest all the hatchet-hacks on the Daily Mail).

If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

Rachel Hayden, Nottingham


What is your greatest fear?

Melanie Smith, Clapham

A good review - it would give me heart failure.

What funny story about your life do you tell your grandkids (if you've got any)?

James Alexander, Stoke Newington

Do you mean, if I've got any funny stories, or any grandchildren? As it happens I have three grandchildren and no funny stories. None I could repeat to a child, anyway.

What is it about wide-angled lenses?

Mark Baker, Brighton

Wide-angled lenses are like journalists - prone to distort the truth.

Which Hollywood actor would you most like to work with, and why?

Fiona Hempel, by e-mail

Mike Myers - because he could play all the parts and I would have no problem in raising the finance.

When you look back at your life so far, what do you think?

Barry Havers, Buckingham


Do you believe that to have a successful career, you must sacrifice your personal life?

Natalie Porter, Kettering

No! But it helps.

Will you be filming the forth- coming Tommy sequel?

Susie Rothwell, Hove

I sincerely hope not!

Can you sum up your advice to young people, in a few words?

Sophie Sale, Bristol

Go for it!

Next Week

Actor and Writer Stephen Fry, followed by TV Chef and Restaurateur Ed Baines

SEND YOUR questions to: You Ask the Questions, Features, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL (fax: 0171-293 2182, e-mail: yourquestions, by noon on Friday. The question we like best will win the sender a bottle of champagne.