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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 09:50 GMT
Altman honoured in Berlin
Altman is tipped for an Oscar for Gosford Park
Altman is tipped for an Oscar for Gosford Park
Maverick film-maker Robert Altman has received a lifetime achievement award at the Berlin film festival.

The veteran director has made more than 30 movies in his career including smash hits M*A*S*H and The Player.

Altman is being tipped for an Oscar nomination for his current hit movie Gosford Park.

The murder-mystery period piece stars some of the biggest names in British cinema, including Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Emily Watson and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Altman, 77 next month, said watching bad movies taught him everything he knows.

'Magic'

He said: "I would see a film I thought was dreadful and I'd say "I want to be sure I never do anything like that.

"So the directors who influence me the most, I don't know their names."

He believes the secret to great film-making is allowing good actors the freedom to develop their own characters, and also to allow a certain "magic" to develop from the cast's chemistry.

Dame Maggie Smith stars in Gosford Park
Dame Maggie Smith stars in Gosford Park
He said: "You start with a two-dimensional plan and fill that with actors and partners.

"They take that into the third dimension and occasionally, into the fourth, that's that thing that makes the film work and nobody knows why."

Altman admitted his lifetime achievement award may have come too early for him.

He said: "It's a great honour, but I hope it doesn't mean - 'lifetime'. I have plans."

Big break

Altman was born in Kansas in 1925.

After serving in World War II, he left the military life and found his interest in films.

His big break came when he began directing Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Combat and Bonanza on television.

This led to a flurry of television work, until he was offered the script for MASH in 1969.

The black comedy about medics serving US troops during the Korean War, earned Altman an Oscar nomination and a place in Hollywood.

He has said about his movies: "The films are like my children: I shamelessly love them all."

Altman will begin filming his new movie, Voltage, based on the novel The Shortage of Engineers, in New York in May.

See also:

21 Jan 02 | Oscars 2002
Altman: Maverick film-maker
24 Jan 01 | Entertainment
UK film honours Robert Altman
22 Jan 99 | Entertainment
Altman film opens Sundance
02 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Last of the 'Hollywood Ten' dies
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