« Desert Island Discs

Helen Fielding, author

2020-07-05 | 🔗
Helen Fielding, writer and journalist, is best known for creating Bridget Jones, who first appeared in a newspaper column in the Independent in 1995, in the form of a diary detailing the single 30-something’s exploits in London as she tried to make sense of life and love. The column soon acquired a wider following, and Helen turned Bridget’s story into a best-selling book the following year. Born in 1958, Helen grew up in Yorkshire with an older sister and two younger brothers. Her father was a manager at the textile mill next door to where they lived. She read English at Oxford where she became friends with Richard Curtis and Rowan Atkinson. After graduating, she became a BBC trainee, travelling to Africa for Comic Relief. She later made documentaries for Thames TV before moving into print journalism. To date, Helen has written four Bridget Jones novels, three of which have been turned into feature films starring Renée Zellweger. She spent a decade in Los Angeles at the start of the new millennium and had two children with Kevin Curran, who was a scriptwriter for The Simpsons. She now lives in London. DISC ONE: Fly Me to the Moon by Julie London DISC TWO: The Windmills of Your Mind by Noel Harrison DISC THREE: It Must Be Love by Madness DISC FOUR: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30, composed by Sergei Rachmaninov, conducted by Valery Gergiev and performed by Denis Matsuev (piano) and Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra DISC FIVE: La Isla Bonita by Madonna DISC SIX: I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor DISC SEVEN: I’ve Got the World on a String by Frank Sinatra DISC EIGHT: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by Stan Getz & The Oscar Peterson Trio BOOK CHOICE: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen LUXURY ITEM: A magical tree CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: It Must Be Love by Madness Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Pvc sounds music, radio broadcasts, hallo unlearned event, and this is the desert island discs. Podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert. Island rights reasons. The music is water down the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. my castaway this week is the novelist Helen fielding twenty five years ago she penned a fictional diary in the independent newspaper, exploring the inner life and out in misadventures of an
happily single thirty, something and so bridget Jones. One of britain's most memorable and successful comic heroines was born. The weekly newspaper columns became a book and brigitte jones is diary, was described by the guardian as one of the ten novels that best defined the twentieth century. three more novels and blockbuster films would follow long before the age of social media brigitte was gripped by self doubt and state his anxiety, though her metrics were calories in units of alcohol rather than likes and follows. Thankfully, the characters ability to make readers laugh has of dissent during his hearing securities, something her creator considers crucial. The second for siblings, brought up in yorkshire, Helen love of storytelling began when she was a child, saw her reading They should oxford and took her journalism working in tv at first before moving into print. She says I, grew up with a real mixture of dark and light and work ethic and glamour, and that's informed. My life Helen feel
welcome to desert island discs allows its there should to be here. Thank you. So much well. Thank you very much for joining us from your home window in the studio. So twenty five years on since bridge arrived on the scene, brigitte has endured new redesign. Finding there all the time. I wonder what your feelings are about. Brigitte Jones today, I'd feel very grateful to brigitte for what she's done for my life, I'm I feel very pleased That's in particular, young girls are still enjoying the book. I think what happened with bridget really was the tie, wrote it so himself consciously thoughts. I wasn't thinking about how it would be received and therefore that freed me ups be very honest about what
it's like being a human being, really am, I think, its thoughts that has resonated. I think the social circumstances surrounding brigitte then are different from now. I think it wouldn't have been possible to rises in that way now how things have changed? Happily, why do you think it would have been possible? What what's changed? I took my kids to see a screen if the movie I haven't, seen it for years and years, and I I was staggered- you couldn't write that now the level of sexism bridget was dealing with the hand on the boatman, so many of the scenes which should fit she knew. Let's have it sorted boobs I mean in the end she turned round and stuck it to them, but it was just patent. also of her life, and it was quite shocking for me to see how things have changed since then Helen, we're gonna, hear your tracks
Today, how hard was it to get really difficult for star? I love self help books. So my first list was the sort of musical self help book beginning with climb every mountain, but then I tried to do a toad and stick to records. That made me think of specific moments, or people or times, while with that in mind, Letty or first shall we. This is disk number one. This is flawed. Me, too. The moon. I was brought up in a mill town how they they made the cloth, donkey jackets for minors and steel workers, and it was all quite victorian way such chapel in dark, but my parents were really good. Fun might apple storm appeal and mama must put tens of food,
Isn't it like tins of spam and things all year and then, when it comes to summer, we used to get all fancy and go off to the continent and she's quite old now, and she loves listening to old records, and when I played this one her face just lit up, So this is my first. I also think it be lovely for me to dance rapped on the island. Lie major now. Let me go, let me see what spring his leg. Ah my dismay I was
Julie, london and fly me to the moon. Taking you back to read your childhood Helen fielding. So you go up in mali and west yorkshire, the second of four children, your dad, my there was a male manage, a tell me a little bit more basin. Well. You said most lovely man he's a really good ma am very, very kind, very clever very musical, terribly funny Northern humour was a big thing in our house. It was also less dawson and more common, wise and really the essence of the choke was bringing the pretentious down to earth really, and my dad's spend a lot of time with me to play snoop with me and tell me all about him in his later years, in the entertainment, business and moving to l a and all those good lessons about honesty and work relationships, I think were really useful and our house was quite noisy in every place. Musical instruments. What did you plan the violin costly in the Fiona underpin?
so terrible religious violence and trumpets and my dad got an organ. But it was a very happy family They were glamorous as well my mum and dad my mum was really beautiful and they used to get all dressed up and go up to the new folk club and my mom was really keen on food guess she had been incorporated chairs that should be a cookery teacher and she used to love making fancy food while the light breaches smother sort of beat with fruit and then serve it in a hostess trolley. She was quite scotty. Like me, she set the kitchen on fire three times till my dad bought her a deep fat fryer this quite lots of chaos, so good fun and glomeris, and your dad with this quite rye, northern sense of humour. Will you good at making him laugh? Yes, like my since fewer need is a lovely gentle, teaser manual
very handy in practical, my daughter's, while he built a house that we lifted as for they built it not that long after the war- and it was full of hiding places in case the enemy kay. And it had a seller with a generate so that you could hide it, but he was always acting bits onto the house. No practical person. It sounds like a gift for a job with a big imagination, I mean those always both at the moment of those always room the imagination I had this set of plastic animals and I used to play with those on this fireplace in the hall and make up stories for them now. So it was a house where there was room to be who you wanted to be really, I was locked up his room and I painted it dark purple in as I got it, my ten years. I was doing a lot writing of terrible poems and sources the snakes. the cat stevenson, Leonard Cohen,
Well, your ambition to write came early. Yes, it was always something that I felt. I knew how to do. I knew my way around with words, for some reason just felt easy, it's time for disc number, two, what can be Ok well, this is the windmills off your mind by no harrison, and it is what is the earnest introspective records? I was very keen on ass, a teenager, but I distinctly remember my tat. I can run where he was when he listened to this. I remember the wallpaper which I think they thought was: fancy was black with tropical fish on it. I need to sort with songs really funny because he said it was a pretentious ram. Playing on the word round- need never heard a large. A collection of cliches, particularly the world, is like an apple whirling, silently in space, and they also sought It was like the machinations of my own mind, which was applying a great deal of thought to the wrong things. Smile like away
within a we'll. Never ending other can never any real snowboard the mountain, so, let's turn running rings around Pakistan's sweeping ass, the men incidents like learning, silently in space circles, in the windmills in him, like a ton noah listen and the wind mills of your mind, Helen fielding, effigy describe life, is eighteen and seventys. Molly is being about work, ethic and glamour, and I want to start with the glamour. Obviously, where did one fine dance about point? We are used to dress up for law among these matters. Want around with bad mischief and things like that, and we spell out to night clubs in leeds and at one time horrifying lily went to night. Could my parents were their awful, sometimes just like part
in church halls and things like that, but he seemed glamorous to us what about the hard work? He had a secret ambition to go to oxford. Did it seem like an achievable goal, but when I was little I was very clever school, and in I used to do really well and then it sort of went off the boil a bit. I used to be quite plain. I had winged glasses and sticking out teeth plots and then, when I was about fifteen, I got rid of the glasses and got contact lenses and my teeth were straight and then I dyed my hair blonde and then I can distracted from my studies for quite a period of time, but I did really want to go to oxford and then, when they were asking everyone to apply. Didn't ask me to school because had sought flexing slight bit So then I outsiders really gonna works. I spent a whole summer working, you made it.
It's an ounce college in oxford and nineteen. Seventy six boat, a party one happy at first. Why not blow was unhappy. I was proud to be there, but I found it quite intense, given that we come from such jollity ellie and also coming from the north. I wasn't really prepared justin seems like dinner, was lunch time. So the first time I to trust me for drinks. Before dinner, I turned up the one thousand one hundred and forty five and then when I was invited to dinner party, I went in a long dress and every was just in jeans having spaghetti service. just meant like that. But I found some friends and then I had this idea that I was going to be an actress and I got a part in a play called metal blues by sam shepard playing marlene dietrich in fishnet tights.
Singing falling in love again and doing a dance with a chair and at the end of this performance, this hush boy came to his head. I would like to be your boyfriend nasa. it was richard Curtis. He invited me out for lunch and there is a whole load of these boys all living together in the house, and they were just really funny, said they realized really sophisticated till my mouth and this your tracks and came out. There were good people and still are in really funny think it's a perfect model This music was gonna, be oh, yes, this is, it must be loved by madness It just reminds me of that lovely time. In my twenties, when I lifted bristol but for local news down there and then living camden town, the picture house, with lots of people and just really all the times of friendship I freely into it.
Dad Why? less, and it must be love. So how? fielding had fallen in with friends that you would keep for life, richard courtesy or couple for time and ruin atkinson, and they took you with them up to edinburgh to take how any review! How did it go quite badly? I wasn't really very good, detecting and oh my pulse. taking away from you up by one apart from misguided. The mute chambermaid and I ended up just being in grimm's. Fairytales is very sad
so that was really the end of my acting create was blighted, they cost, says for very quickly. The gun grew to include people like rick mail and aid, edmonson, the cambridge people and I wasn't really. I was always slightly part, but not part of it, because when I left college then I went to bristol to work for the bbc, Yes, you are making films nationwide and play school, which hints at a very rich brave will. Then I'm I've moved to play school after nationwide, and that was a really great job he got to Choose which window to zoom in through you also films for comic relief, which of course was created by richard Curtis on Ethiopia. Sit on mozambique while impacted that work have on you. I think my twenties was quite an interesting time because it was very, but also it was a time when my father died. When asked about twenty four and.
Life became more serious for me and I became more interested in issues if you like, I remember not unite for when those of famine in ethiopia, Malo and those some extraordinary footage that came from the by Mohammed, I mean the common man and then my cooper put on. an extraordinarily beautifully written commentary out the light coming through at dawn and lacking a performance of biblical proportions. So yes, I did did go out the start that and then but silence play schooling, light, entertainment, nora. I then decide I wanted to, become a serious journalist which of course I never managed I've always ended up in the shallow end, but I decided I was going to make a documentary Those story about locust swarm in the sudan blotting out the sun, the teeth of the wind. They were cold and I managed to get
stevie to sacramento story, but then, when I got there, the look is it a flow of Chad and I remember The producer coming out and marched him along the banks of the river nile sang. Seldom has a story collapse so dramatically, but then went down instead to do the same. Sudan war- and that was pretty dramatic. We camped on the border of can you in the sudan and then as really cross, because the crew set off without me to go into view junk around the rebel leader and they left behind, because I a girl and then they didn't come back I knew something gone wrong went better and then something made me at three o clock in the morning gets up and get dressed and half an hour later they arrived and they driven over land. Mine and a soldier been killed, the produce had been killed so.
It was very dark, and, after that I really felt I got a little bit close today. The dangers the rainy season a bit- it wasn't it. Found my mom? Yes, your mom, who lost dont around that time. Quite unexpectedly. Yes, it was an accident, so it was very hard and when they have been thinking about a lotta sleep too in this epidemic is how important it is to be able to say goodbye someone when they die, and I wasn't able to do that with my tat. they could break the some more music. This is your fourth disk today. This is.
Dark and complicated, and I really like it and I think, when most difficult piano pieces there is to play so I've I offer listen to. This is just a really good piece of music. If you're in a certain mood ooh the
the part of the first movement of rachmaninoff, piano, concerto, number three played by Donnie smith, soon, the american ski theatre orchestra conducted by the Larry gig. If so, how fielding. Yet you found a place at the
independent newspaper after going from job to job for while in print journalism- and it was a pretty cool place to be in the mid nineties. How would you describe it. It was very cool. It was very exciting working for the independent independence. On Sunday I've been really trying to get into journalism for a while. It wasn't easy, but Was a time whenever it was wanting columns and anti mafia charlie, led by trust me to write a colourless myself richly, and I said no but I'll make a character up. I'm nothing It was the time when the image of the single girl in authorities had not caught up with the reality of it didn't. I said, would go up and see my parents and somebody would say, oh how she loved life and when are we going to get you married off and all that sort of thing you know I think most comedy comes out of quite dark things and it was. It was hard and I think it still is hard for girls in their thirties,
so brigitte was born twenty two february nineteen. Ninety five with that now I call she raised graph yeah avert seasonal, louis with the cigarette in the wine glass. You we're writing. Anonymously was undistributed at the beginning. It was interesting that said you know, the the comedy of bridges is underpinned by sadness by darkness. What were you going through? That's her for the you ask me that, because I always deflected any questions about myself. release too pretty. I was denied that she had anything to do with me, but of course she was very close to me in some ways, but not in others. I was a single girl in london and and I was having lots of fun. I had a group of friends very much like brigitte, my girlfriends, my gay friends, my married friends. I used to have dinners and try and cook, and I had several different boyfriends, who were very gorgeous some amazing, the number of people that lake
claimed to be daniel, marc, including kissed on that some. I am quite a private person, so it was quite startling that this little thing that I'd written suddenly became a big thing, but they match in If you'd like to write your behind the curtain, things of your life, the you in particular people to know about or feeling stupid about then suddenly finding its of all the thing: I've been trying to do my serious book course celeb about celebrities and famine and much of this. This thing that came from left to feel became the the popular thing and what doesn't like wow on one level it's the most brilliant thing that could have happened. For me personally, it was
it'll, confusing that I suddenly had this alter ego that was sort of me and not me. People used to expect me to behave like brigitte and still do and- and I very often do, but it was kind of liberating as well, because it gives you the ability to laugh at yourself and also realize it. It's not just you thinking these things, not just you question you sell for comparing yourself Helena's and to hear your next track was going to be. I suppose a big theme in my life has been travel and I was thinking when I think about the desert island. I remembered. Oh, I have been stuck on a desert island with my friend emma and we were in honduras and we met these two dogs structures and they took stifling. Then they said that take us to the original robinson crusoe island, and they got fishermen to take us on a boat and then a storm came and the fishermen.
didn't come back, so we had to spend the night on the island in the rain event sleeping on cardboard, under a sort of and you had. This song reminds me of the particular night women stuck on the island for also just the freedom of travel. I love so much of the sudden nature, the others. things are really important to me. So this is what is happening, to buy madonna. With these, and they don't
and let s lap anita, so Helen building. We talked about the people who loved bridges and connected with her. Sadly, not every body took to us so well. What did you make of their feminist critique of the book at the time, so that e writing is brigitte? Jones was setting the course back here. as others have said, that you offered a defeatist view of when hoods. What was your reaction back then? I was hoped stun like a great tree in the face of criticism, but of course it always gets week, some human being bonds. Having said that, I did deliberately put the line and protect jones. There is nothing so unattractive to a man. Is strident feminism. I think in the knowledge that it might know some people and I think the time brigitte actually said that being a feminist to the capital F was another thing that she felt. She wasn't very good that and nothing was.
Right now is that feminism is sort of lost its capital F, and I think the fact that the book was written with the pot of janus. and so we had a happy ending in a romantic ending with a bit of a red herring, because Pritchett does not straightforwardly just want a man. You said that feminism as changed. Now it's different these days, your feminism different. Now I think it's a struggle, it's still a struggle, but I find it so difficult. We know. What is interesting is that it is hard to talk about, and I think a lot of people find it hard to talk about an hard to define and describe yeah an ice. Come. It's something you have to be very careful talking about. That's the thing have to be very careful what you say now you know anything I say about feminism. so aware of those women,
you know, I'm alone, parent, with two kids, with all the privilege that I half those women. You know with kids on their own, no money in a thought, sweat, It really is, and I think it's a bit of a red herring to get hung up about bridget. Nothing. The way that bridge operates is the way that your friends operate. When you see your friends at the the day for classifying you did not go in and say I've been such established. You going so got never believe what ought to be today and then you support each other well on that note it's time for some music, I couldn't Go to a desert island without including this classic. This scheme, the site, try to so many brilliant nice with my girlfriends with far too much why it's very overblown is completely Phyllis, and I will danced round on the island britannia
little shorts and road escapes and its I will speak. Right the We again and I will survive that is going to sound great on the desert, island tellin feeling so the film version
jones is diary, was released in two thousand and one and boasted the irresistible combination of hugh grant is daniel cleaver for colin, as marked darcy and renee cell worker as brigitte, and, of course the screenplay was was by you by richard courtesan andrew davies, how hard Was it to turn the book into a film? It was one of those in principally passionate chaotic ethical, creative processes with a lot of people who knew each other very well and were very fond of each other. We all thought it was going to be a disaster. Those one point where one of the rough cuts you said it was like a third world document, and we were also is working on it. People in cutting rooms. I was sort of shooting markets in my house and putting music on two things. It's raining men on to the fight seen ever was suggesting things, but every vote
it can be exhausted, and then the first screening in new york, which I tragically was not at everybody laughed and it was miraculous and it suddenly was light. It was brilliant. You left the uk. Ninety ninety nine and met kevin, your partner kevin current at the time, and he was a script right on the simpsons. You met while promoting your book and you go on to have two children to get If you lived in l a what did you make of hollywood when you first set up home there, it was a fantastic thing that happened with bridget and, of course, I'd always had this thing from being little. If, if I was a writer, I could have swimming pool, and I realize that for the price of the two bedroom flat in london. I could actually have a house with a swimming pool and I met cabin and we will if, in the dream, had an open top call as fancies carry fish shows, just most interesting great. listen to know. In hollywood christine you all the best
three inches varies toots about how to navigate. It is time for the next steps Helen. What's he gonna be? This is the moment when I finally got the pool. After all, those years of trying to write and I thought, I'm just so lucky and its I've got the world on a string by frank sinatra, the Got it on a string, sit nano rain got this tree around my face. What what I got a song. The world on a string, frank sinatra, Helen fielding, you talk,
earlier about the death of your father, and in the past few years you ve lost kevin, your children's father and you good friend carry fisher as well when dealing with huge losses like that's what helps Of the sons really corny, but to me that don't go away, I'm not very death in terms of graves and things like that they're still there in my mind and in spirit. and yes, it is it's part of the right we're all on and you nothin could join the epidemic of. I felt very keenly. I think so much lost surround, brings your own losses, button, makes you feel all those people that that sadness and pain.
Life has stopped notes, life has its light, notes and I am. I think I quite good at surviving and fight in the joy and the fun as well as feeling the things that you feel you spent twenty five years intertwined with bridget's. How much of each of you changed Think that's an interesting question. I think in the books She's still essentially the same, but in that in that later, but she's a person. Lived a life and with all that goes with it am. I think me too, you know I'm still fully thoughts going round and round the windows of your mind and still loving my family, my kids, my friends and, I think, have to help to develop a resilience, and
We have learned to be contented. This has been a very strange time to live through and I think will be much more appreciative of the basics. sounds like the cliches. My dad would laugh at for one more disk, then what are we gonna hear? Well, This is my cocktail song. Its bewitched bothered and bewildered stung gets in the oscar petersen trio, and I suppose you, though, the trial inflation that I like to remember them I have actually even though been a straightforward, smut married life, it's been a very romantic life and I think on the island, I'd like to have a cocktail hour and perhaps make a little black dress out of the pirate flag. For also this reminds me of when the kids were little
I was so happy tat. My children and I love thing. A mom, I'm not lived every stage a bit. The babies in the total is another. Teenagers are so brilliant funny and ice too fast them and then put them in front of the fire in towels and play nice music to them. In this One of the things I used to them I do that hmm, in the It is I hmm
in the the rich there too, and bewildered stun gets anti oscar petersen trio so and feeling it's time to cast you away to your desert island. We're gonna, give you the books, keep me company. They complete works of shakespeare on the bible to take with you plus, of course, a book of your own. What would you like to choose? Where is very, very difficult? like choosing the songs, but I think I'll go with pride and prejudice picks. It is the perfect novel,
he can also have a luxury items. Make your stay on the island. More enjoyable know Mr Darcy. I assume, sadly not okay. Well, this is slightly cheating, but I'm going to have a magic tree, which is a fruit Streep also has chocolate orange and the sap is chilled white, burgundy wine, you get top marks for creativity and, finally, if you had to save just one of the ape discs Helen, which would you go for, it will be, it must be love the most important thing. Helen fielding. Thank you very much for sharing your desert island discs with us. Thank you. The believe Helen sipping, a white burgundy and eating a chocolate orange. That's just time to remind you that both you, grunt and Colin Firth been packed away. He would one thousand nine hundred and ninety five and in two thousand and five so lowly interviewed colin. She asked him when he first got the acting,
about five years old pantomime? Infant school is someone ethics and I was jack frost and it was a pair of silver sat in paints, a blue satin, sash and portentously a billowing white shirt mainly hit. I was I I don't know I've been as big a hit since and that's when I got the bug. That's where I saw where the love and attention lies. You remember recognising at our god. Yes, there was nothing else it gave me that sort of praise that level of approval. Yes, I didn't take kindly to being sent to school to being sent into this rather cold environment, where you're, given lots of ill or instructions, nobody loves you. You know
it's sort of on your own. I couldn't believe that I had to go back again the next day. I can remember that I thought my first day of school was over. Thank god! That's over now I can get on with my childhood and it was a horrible shock day to suddenly the environment of school warmed up around me. But you liked the idea of storytelling as well. Didn't you liked the business of narrative? It's been absolutely what's driven me through life. I think, even if you write a diary of what you did that day, suddenly your day looks different because it has narrative form it has a kind of ending to it. It's quite childlike that in a sense they listen to that enjoyment. To that suspension of disbelief, it's entirely childlike and I think that the skills an actor has to have are childlike. I think, unless you have that you can't do it Colin Firth and you can find both Colin and here's editions of desert island discs and over two thousand mortals
can t on BBC sands. Next time my gas will be. The secretary general of nato, yen, stolen book do join us, then, the the hello don't hand of rye jumps out another freedom. We present the curious cases of relevant, frightens me and certainly day and every week what we do. We take a listener question an everyday missed. If you will and we try and investigate it using the can. Bind powers of science books and occasionally the internet. Sometimes we just look it up
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Transcript generated on 2022-06-06.