Dodi Al Fayed
A message from Mohamed Al Fayed
"Dodi was born when I was 21 years old. I raised him myself – sadly, his mother and I divorced when he was little – but as you can imagine, it was quite unusual for a father to be a single parent in the 1960s. So, we were very close and he was more like a brother to me.
"You are kind enough, in your comments to this website, and with your letters to me, to express your sympathy and support for the tragedy that took him away from me in 1997. I thought therefore that it would appropriate to include some facts about his life here, on this website. There has been so much written about him since the crash, and the truth has often been distorted. What follows here, is what Dodi was really like. I miss him very dearly."
The Biography of Dodi Al Fayed
Dodi was born on 15 April 1955 in Alexandria, Egypt. His real name was Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Maneim Fayed. It means column or pillar, as in “Pillar of Faith”. When he was little he couldn’t say his name properly. It came out as Dodi. And so, Dodi it stayed.
Although his parents divorced and he lived with his father, he remained close to his mother, and her untimely death from cancer at a comparatively young age was a great blow to Dodi.
Beginnings of a Film Career
Dodi was just a teenager when Cubby Broccoli, the legendary producer of the James Bond films, went to Sardinia to shoot the adventure in which a rogue oil tanker opens its bow doors and swallows up three submarines. Mohamed Al Fayed, who owned the Genavco shipping company, had just the oil tanker Cubby needed. Admittedly, its bows did not actually open. But special effects can do wonderful things.
Dodi loved being on the set of the film. On the set, he met and formed a lifelong friendship with Cubby’s daughter, Barbara, also a teenager at the time.
Dodi got together the people and the financial backing to make his first film, Breaking Glass. Released in 1980, the film’s uncompromising look at the rock generation of young people in a bleak Britain, won critical praise but was not wildly successful at the box office. Since then, Breaking Glass has been acclaimed as a minor classic that anticipated Cool Britannia.
Chariots of Fire
What Dodi did next was of immense value to British cinema. A script had been knocking around for years at a production company called Goldcrest. The title on the cover was Chariots of Fire.
Dodi took the script to his father. He persuaded Mohamed Al Fayed to put up the money to make the film. He did not need to do much persuading. As soon as Mohamed Al Fayed read the script, the story of one man who will not compromise his conscience but still wins an Olympic Gold Medal and another man who overcomes anti-semitism to triumph in the 100 metres, he knew it would be a huge success.
It was a risk. At the time, Hollywood was making nothing but action films or teenage comedies. But the Fayeds’ faith proved well-founded. Chariots of Fire is the only entirely British film ever to be awarded four Academy Awards. It is entirely British, apart from the Egyptian finance, of course. The producer David Puttnam, now Lord Puttnam, said that the film would never have been made without the Fayeds’ commitment to the project.
Dodi set up his own production company, Allied Stars. He played a major part in the production of FX, Murder by Illusion, Parts 1 and 2.
Dodi was then associate producer of Hook, Stephen Spielberg’s modern re-working of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan story (cast members Bob Hoskins, Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman pictured at the film's launch party).
Dodi’s next production, The Scarlet Letter, was more successful in the UK than in America, where Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th Century novel, on which the film was based, is a set book for most high school students. The ending of the story was changed to reflect a modern approach to adultery, but many Americans couldn’t accept the alteration.
Dodi then turned his attention to the story of Peter Pan. He wanted to make a new, live-action version of the classic children's tale. Dodi was intent on telling the traditional story, with no up-dated gimmicks.
His father, Mohamed Al Fayed, had held the rights to the story when Hook was made. Mohamed obtained a $1 million donation from Spielberg to Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children, the owner in perpetuity of the copyright of J.M. Barrie’s story, before the first frame was shot.
The first step was for Dodi to negotiate an extension of the rights granted by the hospital to his father. He was in the process of doing that when he was killed.
Dodi and Diana
Diana, Princess of Wales was shopping in Turnbull & Asser, the exclusive shirt-maker and haberdasher in Jermyn Street, just of Piccadilly in London.
The company is owned by Mohamed Al Fayed and Dodi was on the board of directors. Diana was being served by T&A Managing Director, Kenneth Williams. He told her that there was a board meeting going on upstairs.
“Really?” said Diana. “Can I come and see what goes on?”
Ken brought her up, and introduced her to Dodi. She sat and took part in the meeting, looking at the new fabrics and patterns.
Her sons were quite small at the time – it was about 20 years ago. They would also often see each other at film premieres, and also when Dodi played polo at the Guards Polo Club, when Mohamed Al Fayed sponsored the Harrods Trophy (The Al Fayeds with Dodi, Diana and a young Prince William pictured at the Windsor Horse Show).
Of course, it wasn’t until the summer before she died that they began a relationship, but it was one that came out of a true friendship and a respect for each other. That is part of the reason why they fell in love so quickly, and so deeply.
Following the death of the Princess, the first permanent memorial that was created in her name was a children’s playground in Hyde Park. The playground is built like a pirate ship. Its theme is Peter Pan.
Diana and Dodi lived on either side of the park, almost within sight of each other. The Peter Pan Playground is half way between them.