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Stars pay tribute following death of Waterbeach filmmaker David Leland, 82

Film director David Leland, from Waterbeach, has been remembered by stars Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson following his death,

The tributes flowed in for the writer and director following his death aged 82 after a career spanning five decades.

Director David Leland Picture: Casarotto Ramsay & Associates
Director David Leland Picture: Casarotto Ramsay & Associates

He was “held tight by his loving family” as he passed away on Christmas Eve, his agent confirmed.

A statement from Casarotto Ramsay & Associates said Mr Leland gave James Bond star Brosnan his “first opportunity to act on stage” in the British premiere of a Tennessee Williams production at The Roundhouse, which Leland directed.

“David Leland holds a mighty place in my heart,” Brosnan said.

“He gave me my break as an actor in Tennessee Williams’ play The Red Devil Battery Sign. I was just out of Drama Centre where David was also an alumni.

“It was the thrill of my young lifetime to be cast as McCabe, working with David and Tennessee. David will forever be an essential part of my story and of all who knew and loved him.”

Mr Leland’s later directorial credits include The Big Man in 1990, starring Liam Neeson, Sir Billy Connolly and Hugh Grant.

“David was a dream to work with,” Neeson said. “He was a real collaborator; he genuinely loved and admired actors. We formed a close bond.

“I loved his mischievous sense of humour. You are always in my heart old friend. See you down the road.”

During an illustrious career, Mr Leland wrote two hit films about British madam Cynthia Payne, the first was titled Personal Services and starred Dame Julie Walters.

The second, Wish You Were Here, marked Mr Leland’s directorial debut and won a Bafta for best original screenplay in 1988 as well as the Fipresci prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Mr Leland initially trained as an actor at the Central School of Speech and Drama, and appeared in multiple projects before moving into stage management at the Crucible theatre.

A career in screenwriting and directing in both film and TV ensued, with credits including Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa starring Sir Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins – which won an Academy Award nomination – and Made in Britain starring Tim Roth.

Roth said: “David was there at the very beginning of this crazy adventure. He changed my life, and I love him for it. I’ll keep him with me always.”

He also starred as the puppeteer in Terry Gilliam’s 1981 epic fantasy Time Bandits.

Gilliam said: “The loss of David is very sad. As a friend, and as a writer/director, he was always solidly grounded, invariably sensitive and ruthlessly honest.

“His 1987 film, Wish You Were Here, is still one of my all-time favourite British films.”

Mr Leland went on to direct films including The Land Girls with Rachel Weisz as well as returning to the stage to direct musical A Tribute to The Blues Brothers – which played in the West End and toured for 10 years across the UK and Australia.

Meanwhile, in TV Mr Leland won an Emmy award for outstanding directing for an episode of HBO’s Band of Brothers and was both a director and writer for The Borgias.

The son of Mr and Mrs JT Leland, of Waterbeach, he was educated at Soham Grammar School, and after leaving school served an apprenticeship as an electrician.

He then trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and then at the Drama Centre, both in London.

He is survived by his wife Sabrina, his four daughters and six grandchildren “all of whom he loved almost as much as Arsenal Football Club”.

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