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26/05/2005

Merchant remembered as 'great' independent film producer

Tributes were pouring in today from the film world following the death of legendary film producer Ismail Merchant on Wednesday.
Merchant, 68, passed away after a brief illness in a London hospital where he was overseeing the final postproduction work on his latest film, 'The White Countess', which stars Ralph Fiennes.
Among those paying tribute were Sir Anthony Hopkins (Howards End), Ralph Fiennes (The White Countess), and film producer Lord Puttnam.
Generally credited as the business partner, though a director in his own right, in the early 1960's Ismail Merchant teamed up with American-born director James Ivory, and German-born writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to form Merchant Ivory Productions, a company that he ran for 44 years.
The star of two Oscar winning Merchant Ivory production's ' A Room With A View' and 'Howard's End' Sir Anthony Hopkins said he was saddened by the death of Merchant who he said was a "great man" and a "true pioneer".
Paying tribute to Merchant, film producer Lord Puttnam said he was " a unique man" who had carved his own niche and that he had been a "true independent film producer in Britain."
Ralph Fiennes described Merchant as a "brave and individual producer."
Indian-born Merchant, who was famed for his portrayal of affluent pre-war British society in many of his films, once commented that he disliked the term "costume dramas" as he considered that this belittled the company's films which he said also told "a good story".
Merchant Ivory Productions helped launch the careers of some leading British actors, including Helena Bonham Carter. The company's films collected a brace of awards including six Oscars and two BAFTAS.
It is understood that Merchant died suddenly following a history of stomach problems in the past year.
(SP)
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