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‘Much Ado About Dying’ Director On Great Shakespearean Actor No One Knows

As David Newlyn Gale reached his mid-80s, he lived in his own home, but not in the most resplendent conditions. He cohabitated with an untold number of mice in a hoarder’s horror of detritus, a place chocked with tins of food that probably fell off store shelves around World War II.

Gale’s legs were swollen and reddened by eczema, and he could best be described as only semi-ambulatory. Despite the challenges of his circumstances, the former stage actor and teacher took tremendous joy in life, erupting into song or quoting Shakespeare continually. But he could also be a bit of a drama queen – frequently convinced he was nearing his last breath.

This unforgettable man stars in Much Ado About Dying, directed by Simon Chambers, David’s (one must say) longsuffering nephew. The director is our guest on the latest episode of Deadline’s Doc Talk podcast, discussing his film that won the top prize for directing at IDFA and Best Documentary at the Merlinka Festival in Belgrade, Serbia, as well as other awards.

Chambers was working on a documentary in India when his uncle pleaded with him to return to London to oversee his care — convinced he was on death’s door. Well, that door proved to be down at the end of a much longer hallway than Chambers had anticipated. Their often hysterically funny interactions make for one of the most entertaining – and moving – nonfiction films in a long time.

Some of the humor comes from Chambers’ deadpan narration, such as his description of his uncle’s legs — cooked by omnipresent space heaters — as resembling kabobs. 

The director shares how he managed to make a film that is described in the credits as “nonfunded and no budget.” That’s inspiring for anyone who’s ever thought of telling a true story in cinematic form.

Doc Talk is co-hosted by Oscar winner John Ridley (12 Years a SlaveShirley) and Deadline’s Documentary Editor Matt Carey. The pod is a production of Deadline and Ridley’s Nō Studios.

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