'It is really difficult to get some drama out of a sea squirt,' says Sir David Attenborough, in an inspirational interview by Jonathan Dimbleby at the Natural History Museum this week.
Six hundred people, young and old, travelled from all over Britain to hear Sir David reveal details of his fascinating life. The UK's foremost and best-loved natural history presenter gave anecdotes while the audience watched some of his famous television clips spanning his five decades of broadcasting.
When talking about filming the famous gorilla scene from Life on Earth, Sir David recounted how the cameraman didn't film much of the ten minutes he spent being surrounded, poked and sat upon by a family of the large primates. This was because the cameraman was waiting for Sir David to talk about the importance of the gorilla's opposing thumb, which they use for grabbing food and using tools. 'Its very difficult to talk about the opposing thumb when you have a gorilla's finger in your mouth,' Sir David said.
A question and answer session allowed members of the audience to quiz Sir David about his work. Asked if he had ever been really scared when out filming, he replied 'when our vehicle was charged by a rhinocerous'. When asked if there was something he would like to film but hadn't yet, Sir David's answer was 'a colossal squid'.
At the end of the evening Jonathan Dimbleby asked Sir David about his vision for the David Attenborough Studio, which will be part of Phase Two of the Darwin Centre opening in 2009. Sir David said, 'the Natural History Museum is one of the greatest scientific institutions in the world. The Museum's collections and scientists, teamed with the wonderful archive of footage of the Natural History Unit of the BBC, will engage visitors in the natural world in a way the two institutions could never achieve on their own.'
There was a standing ovation at the end of the evening and 250 guests got the chance to join Jonathan Dimbleby and Sir David at a post-event reception.
'We had great feedback from the evening,' said Emily Bennett, co-ordinator at the Museum. 'All guests enjoyed themselves thoroughly and are very much looking forward to visiting the David Attenborough Studio when it opens.'
All proceeds from the evening went towards the David Attenborough Studio.