Producer Chinn scoops Oscar for Man on Wire

By Leon Symons, February 26, 2009
On the Chinn: Philippe Petit with his Oscar watched by  director James Marsh (left) and producer Simon Chinn

On the Chinn: Philippe Petit with his Oscar watched by director James Marsh (left) and producer Simon Chinn

The son of one of Anglo-Jewry’s longest-serving leaders has won an Oscar with his first documentary.

Simon Chinn, son of Sir Trevor and Lady Chinn, took the best documentary category at the annual awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday night for the film he produced, Man On Wire.

The film is about a 1974 incident dubbed the “artistic crime of the century”, when Frenchman Philippe Petit walked a tightrope stretched between the Twin Towers, then the world’s tallest buildings.

The Oscar was the culmination of a string of awards the documentary has won since it was first shown at last year’s Sundance film festival in America, where it won the audience and jury awards, and the best British film award at the Baftas just a couple of weeks ago.

Mr Chinn, 39, said: “The ceremony was incredibly tense and nerve-wracking leading up to the announcement. Our biggest concern was that we would fluff our lines and screw up our acceptance speech, but we didn’t. It was a great thrill to receive the award.”

His wife Lara and three-month-old son Jonah were in Los Angeles with him. He also has a 13-year-old son, Haroun, from a previous relationship.

Mr Chinn explained that he had heard Mr Petit’s story on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs four years ago. The Frenchman had written a book about his experience.

Mr Chinn, who had previously worked on television documentary films, spent several months negotiating an option to make the film.

“We were ecstatic just to be accepted at the Sundance Festival and then we won two awards. To have gone from there to here is unbelievable,” said Mr Chinn.

His father, Sir Trevor Chinn said: “We are absolutely delighted and couldn’t be more proud of my younger son. We woke up and watched it. He came on at about 3.15 in the morning our time. There was no champagne because I had to get back to sleep so that I could get up later to go to work.

“The Bafta was an amazing award because it didn’t have a documentary section and Man On Wire beat films like Mamma Mia!, which was fantastic.”

Sir Trevor said he had spoken to Simon “and he was absolutely thrilled”.

Last updated: 2:45pm, February 26 2009