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Andrew Marr's History Of The World
Andrew Marr tackles his most ambitious and epic project as he tells the story of civilisation over the past 70,000 years in his eight-part series Andrew Marr’s History Of The World. It’s a journey that’s seen man go from a nomadic existence in Africa to a high tech society that’s created artificial intelligence. Andrew tells TV Choice more…
What are you trying to achieve with Andrew Marr’s History Of The World?
I became interested in history as a kid with picture books and so on, illustrated books. But in schools today, and for a long time now, nobody says, ‘OK we’ll start at the beginning and go to the end.’ We get little bits of this and that, and I think a lot of people feel at sea. I guess this is supposed to be a compass.
As well as visiting historical sites, the series also uses dramatic reconstructions and computer graphics, doesn’t it?
If you don’t go for, 'Mr Presenter strides around endlessly in front of dusty piles of bricks pointing at them and talking', then you have to put something on television. Art programmes have lots of art to look at. But I was thinking of those books that first got me interested in history — great big encyclopaedias — and they were all illustrated and had vivid bright pictures. To be honest, that’s what drew me in first. Television is a picture medium and so I think the drama, as it were, is our brightly coloured pictures, which are there to engage people and give them something to look and smile at, because sometimes we have fun with the drama.
So it’s fun, good to look at, and is a relief from the 'Here’s another wall' school of television history. Apart from that, it’s just a question of getting to the places where stuff happened.
Is there anything different or ground-breaking about the series?
I don’t think there’s been a total world history like this on the BBC or indeed any other television in the UK before. I might be wrong.
In terms of the overall message and what it is saying, I think the unmistakeable story through this is that our technical ability has just leapt ahead. It’s now moving at warp speed. We end up with stories about artificial intelligence and all of that. There are now around seven billion of us on the planet, which is an astonishing fact given how much energy we all use and so on. Our ability to control our own greed and deal with issues like fairness to the next generation and the generation beyond that — that really hasn’t advanced very much, or not nearly far and fast enough to catch up with the technical advances. So I conclude by saying we’re a clever ape in a spot of bother.
What was your favourite part to film?
I had a wonderful time in Mali, in this mud town with the biggest mud building in the world, which was part of the centre of this huge empire. That was just really remote. I’d never been anywhere like that before. In Peru, down in the Nazca desert, that’s an astonishing place. I’d never have seen that. And out in the wilds of Mongolia where you really feel like you are in a different world. Those were all exciting.
Andrew Marr's History Of The World took 17 months to film. How did you find juggling that with all your other work commitments?
I came very close to completely overdoing it. I was absolutely on my knees with exhaustion by the end. I was really shattered. I’d taken on too much physically.
So you get to put your feet up now for a rest?
There are other things. I’m off to do a film about Obama. There will be one, two, three-off films. I don’t think I will ever do anything like this again, on this scale.
Are you happy with the result?
There are always more things that I want to include. I never feel happy about anything I’ve done. I’m nervous at the moment because people haven’t seen it. I don’t know how they are going to react. It’s something different and a bit of a gamble for everyone concerned. But I think with the wonderful team around me, and given the task we were given — the history of the world in eight hours — I think we’ve given it our best shot. I feel pretty proud that we have done it as well as we can.