Blake Edwards has made more than 50 films in nearly 60 years, and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.
"Retirement?" He raises an eyebrow. "I don’t know what that is."
Edwards, maker of "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" and "Days of Wine and Roses," was at Harkins Centerpoint Theatre in Tempe on Thursday to take part in Arizona State University’s fundraising gala, celebrating his work and supporting the establishment of an ASU film studies center.
The university also is giving Edwards an honorary doctoral degree tonight at an ASU symphony orchestra concert.
Edwards is a longtime friend of Peter Lehman, recently named director of ASU’s new Center for Film and Media Research. The two met in 1979. Lehman, former president of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies, and writer William Luhr have co-authored two books about Edwards’ work, and they’re working on a biography.
Filmmaking was in Edwards’ blood. He is the son of Jack McEdward, who was a top production manager in Hollywood, and the grandson of J. Gordon Edwards, a silent screen director. As a boy, Edwards was drawn to filmmaking when he was living behind Fox studios. His curiosity led him to climb the fence at his home and wander through the filmmaking site.
"I’d sneak around the various sets and imagine all sorts of wonderful fairy tales," said Edwards, now 83.
But he didn’t feel passionate about films until he started writing.
Edwards’ most famous films include the "Pink Panther" movies, "The Great Race," and "10." But one of his favorites that seems forgotten by many is: "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?"
The 1966 film is set in World War II. Two Americans are ordered to lead their troops to invade a Sicilian village. The townspeople offer no resistance, as long as they can hold their annual festival. Confusion ensues after the Americans join the party.
The film flopped at the box office and was hen-pecked by critics. Edwards, though, believes it was one of the best movies he ever created. His wife, actress Julie Andrews, recently dug up a thumbs-up review by The New Yorker.
"It sort of redeemed me," Edwards says.
Edwards says he may teach at the ASU’s new Center for Film and Media Research— the culmination of a six-year push by Lehman to offer a bachelor of arts in film.
The degree has two areas of concentration: One in film and media studies and the second in production. ASU officials said they hope to add a graduate studies program.
"A Musical Tribute to Blake Edwards" begins at 7:30 p.m. today at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe. It features soprano Monica Mancini, daughter of Henry Mancini, who often wrote scores for Edwards’ films. The event is free and open to the public.