Kate Blackwell (monologue): "Bloody fool! What does he knows about me? Nothing. Good God! They’re treating me like a saint. Never mind what I have done. It’s only the future that counts now and he's (her great grandson Robert) standing right here besides me." Filmed on location in Kenya around November and December 1983, Pinewood Studios in England, New York, Paris and Nice, the 9-hour 1984 TV mini-series, 'Master of the Game' covered the 100 years between 1883 and 1983 of the Kruger-Brent empire. Kate Blackwell ruled for 70 of those 100 years.
Dyan Cannon, then 46 years old, played a woman who ran a multinational corporation starting from the age of 17 to 90 years old, "I read the book and didn’t want to do it. She's horrible." Sidney Sheldon's 'Master of the Game' was the No. 1 best-selling fiction in September 1982. "It's a good story, but not great literature," Ian Charleson observed. "It's not Anna Karenina, but I was bored with doing all Chekhov and Ibsen … I like to do good stories. And who could turn down a job in Kenya?"
Ian Charleson played a poor Scotsman "whose rugged style and determination foretell the future of several generations in the Blackwell dynasty." The 3-part mini-series seemed to be "a different show each night" because "2 directors and 3 writers split the work" over the 9 hours. 'Master of the Game' Part I was the 3rd most popular program of the week.
Part II attracted 40% share of the audience and a rating of 27.7% and Part III which tied with Part I of 'Lace', attracted 42% share and a 28.2% rating (roughly 23.6 million households were counted watching.) Cherie Lunghi remarked, "I get the feeling that in America the mini-series is a means to an end, the end being ratings and money. In England, it’s still the product that counts." Director Jerry London reportedly saw her in 'Master of the Game' offered Cherie a part in 'Ellis Island'.
"To make a film, I think, is going to become increasingly more of a luxury," Ian expressed. "They seem to be dying out. In England, nobody goes to the movies. It's the lowest cinema-going public in the world. Other countries in Europe have indigenous film industries – the French, the Italians. Americans have good films. The British don’t. They don’t go out a lot. I think that has possibly to do with the fact that their standard of TV is so high. There’s no incentive to go out to the movies."
Jon Voight told Dick Kleiner of 'Newspaper Enterprise Association' in 1985, "Making a movie is like painting a picture. Various people supply various colors. Actors may supply greens, writers may supply reds, directors may supply blues. You need all the colors to make a vibrant picture. And you need all the talents to make a vibrant motion picture, too.
"A good script, a director who can take it and do things with it, actors who can make it come alive. That's why, before I sign a contract to make a movie, I must talk to the director and make sure we see eye to eye on what we are trying to do with the script. I will get, maybe, 5 scripts a year that are even the least bit interesting. Of those, there are very few – maybe one or 2 – that I feel I am right for. So it's hard to find something I want to do, that I feel I can or should do."
Kate Blackwell (monologue): " … My little family. My dear little family. Tony (son) who was once so full of hope and promise; Eve (granddaughter) who could have own the world but look at her now. My sweet Alexandra (another granddaughter), so affectionate, so kind, and such a disappointment, putting her family and her own happiness ahead of the company.
"Thank you God for Robert (great grandson) the only hope I have left. We are a family. We are a company. I will never allow an outsider to simply step in and take over what is mine, what is ours. How could anyone ever believe that? If they know me at all they would know that this family comes before anything else. My children. My children's children. They are all that I have left to live for and I will never cease to breathe on this earth until I am certain that one of them becomes a part of what I am and what I stand for."
Dyan told the Associated Press, "One day I'd be 17 and the next 80. Some days I was 3 ages in one day. It was the biggest challenge of my life. People say, wait a minute, how could a Sidney Sheldon book be a big challenge? He writes big entertainment. I heard it might become a mini-series and tried to read the book. I put it down halfway through and said I didn't want anything to do with Kate Blackwell. I was ready to do a big film when they called about 'Master of the Game.'
"One network had turned it down, saying you can't build 9 hours around a woman who's not sympathetic. That's what made it a challenge for me and why I decided to do it. She was a manipulative person and I hate manipulation in people. It’s the antithesis of creativity. I can't stand that but I found other qualities about her that I liked. The stick-to-itiveness and her style. She was like a female J.R.
"People who do bad things never think they’re bad. This was a great role because women don’t get to do these kinds of things very often on television. And after I got into it I began to enjoy her naughtiness. I played her to be true to her character, but you also have to show her humanity. You can’t paint her just black, and we have a tendency to do that in our movies – make people either black or white."
After 'Master of the Game' wrapped, Dyan told Rick Sherwood, "I climbed mountains, I crossed creeks. I couldn’t get far enough away from civilization. I’d just spent 4 weeks working 12-to-18 hours a day, 6 days a week. I worked in New York, London and Paris. The only location site I didn't go to was Kenya, They sent a double because it was for long shots."
Of playing Kate at the age of 90, "I spent 5 hours in the make-up chair. That drove me nuts. Every hour I'd have to turn on the rock music and jump up and down on a trampoline to burn off some energy … I'm so spirited and full of energy it was difficult to take her down." Dyan also told 'Inter Press Service', "Kate Blackwell has as many sides to her as a diamond. She's ambitious and power-hungry yet in her own way she is loving and caring. She is not a sympathetic character yet. Now and again you feel a twinge of sympathy for her, even when she is at her most scheming."
Ian told Charles Witbeck, "We weren't allowed to film in South Africa for many reasons. We shot a half-hour out of Nairobi, in the Rift Valley, moving from a modern city to the wildness in a few minutes, past giraffes, elephants and Massai warriors with their elongated ears. It was beautiful, but each day brought a new horror. Bees attacked me since I was (covered with a sugar-based, fake blood lying) across burning sands on my stomach, guard dogs jumped on me, all for the sake of greed."
Commentators pointed out, "The message remains unchanged throughout history – greed can be a devastating passion (and) vengeance must be one of the most powerful dramatic motives. It virtually kidnaps the viewer's attention in Part I." In one scene, Kate told Robert, "Your Granny loves you very much Robert. Your Granny wants the very best for you. You have so much to learn about people, about the world and about life. You can control your destiny you know? … It's very much like a game. It's like a game and it's well worth the playing if you could just learn to play it like a master."