Exclusive Attenborough interview

Sir David shares the secrets of pioneering film-making. 

Attenborough 60 Years in the Wild publicity image

Sir David shares the secrets of his pioneering film-making, on the sofa with BBC Wildlife's Ben Hoare.


Where does Sir David Attenborough get his phenomenal energy? Did he discover a revitalising plant extract deep in the rainforests of Sierra Leone while filming the first Zoo Quest series? That expedition was 58 years ago and the world’s favourite naturalist, said to be the most travelled person in history, is still hard at work.

“If only I had found something!” he exclaims, when I jokingly suggest this during our conversation at his home in Richmond. His pale blue eyes do the famous twinkle, then he creases up. (Sir David, I discover, laughs a lot.) 

The photographer’s motor drive whirrs appreciatively.

At 86, Sir David has a schedule as busy as that of any Hollywood film star. His life is a constant whirl of filming on location, preparing scripts, voiceover sessions, press launches, charity appearances, speeches and interviews. Not to mention recovering from all that jetlag.

Yet he shows no sign of wanting to retire and pull on his slippers, if indeed he has any. “Oh, I’m not ready to stop yet,” he confirms breezily.


The octogenarian film-maker has often said that his job doesn’t feel like work. It’s just as well: when I catch up with him he is, as usual, juggling several new television projects at once, which promise to be among his best yet.

They include a spectacular, high-definition series about the wildlife of Africa, due to air on BBC One early next year, a follow-up to 2010’s innovative First Life that uses computer animation to explore the emergence of early animals on land, and several series for Sky filmed in 3D.

This autumn, Sir David also celebrates 60 years on the BBC – an astonishing achievement. To mark the anniversary, he is presenting three documentaries in which he looks back at how wildlife film-making and our understanding of the natural world have changed during those six eventful decades.

He has invited me round to talk about the programmes: I can scarcely believe my luck...


You can read the rest of the this interview in our October issue of BBC Wildlife, on sale now!



Human happiness

“A happy ecosystem is the basis for a happy human being. If it goes wrong, everything goes wrong.”


Favourite writers

“As a child I loved Ernest Thompson Seton's books, but I tend not to read fiction now. My favourite writer? EO Wilson.”


Dream projects

“Hummingbirds in 3D would be absolutely marvellous. Print that – then someone might ask me to film it!”


Presenting styles

“In Life on Earth, I didn’t appear more than four or five times in a whole hour-long show. The style these days is quite the reverse. Chris Packham is on screen much more.”


TAKE A LOOK See inside our exciting Attenborough issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine


DON'T MISS IT Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild, a three-part series and the Natural World special programme, Attenborough's Ark, on BBC Two, airing in November. 


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