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Waris Hussein (born 9 December 1938[1] as Waris Habibullah) directed An Unearthly Child, the first Doctor Who television story broadcast. He also directed episodes 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 of Marco Polo.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Waris Hussein was born in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India.[2][3] He moved to London with his parents when he was nine. He attended Cambridge.

After his time at Cambridge, he studied stage design at Slade School of Fine Art[3] and then worked as a trainee at the BBC, where his mother, Attia Hussein, was a newsreader and dramatic star. When he became a director, he was the first Asian BBC Drama director. According to Waris, he had to put up with a lot of "innuendo and gossip" about how he got to do what he was doing[3]. As a result of this, Hussein pushed himself harder in his directorial work and maintained his determination.

He was crucial to the casting of William Hartnell as the Doctor. He felt Hartnell had the eccentric and powerful quality required for the part. Waris was one of the group that went for lunch with him to try to convince him to accept the role. When he first met Hartnell, he felt terrible because he thought Hartnell was "a very opinionated man — that is, prejudiced"[3], and he felt he was looked down upon because he was an Asian "kid", although none of this was spoken between them. First impressions notwithstanding, Hussein eventually got on very well with Hartnell.

Waris was a very close friend of Diane Cilento (former wife of Sean Connery) and met Connery just after Dr. No had been released.

He was the director of the pilot episode, which was very different from the final version. After Sydney Newman saw the pilot, he took Waris and producer Verity Lambert to dinner, told them he thought it was terrible and gave them another chance at the episode. They made An Unearthly Child together. Waris tried to forget the pilot, as he thought it was so terrible that people would fall asleep while watching it.

His next Doctor Who association was with the story Marco Polo, for which he directed six of the seven episodes (John Crockett directed episode 4 to give Hussein a break). He claimed he had a strange imagination and, in one of the scenes, wanted to have a dwarf on an actor's shoulder. In the end, a spider monkey was used.

In An Adventure in Space and Time, Hussein was played by Sacha Dhawan. In this documentary, it was said that he left to direct A Passage to India, when in fact he directed The Indian Tales of Rudyard Kipling.

Other credits[edit | edit source]

Hussein directed the theatrical films Henry VIII and His Six Wives (1972), The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972), the television movies Daphne Laureola (1978), Little Gloria... Happy at Last (1982), Princess Daisy (1983), The Winter of Our Discontent (1983), Copacabana (1985), The Shell Seekers (1989), The Face on the Milk Carton (1995) and Her Best Friend's Husband (2002), among others. He has also written the television movies Days in the Trees (1967) and St. Joan (1968). Before he moved behind the camera, Hussein had one acting credit, appearing in an episode of Corrigan Blake in 1962.

Hussein continues to direct and produce in the UK, the USA and in his native India.

External links[edit | edit source]

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

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