‘Tarzan mar­ried the wrong Jane’

Pri­ma­tol­o­gist Jane Goodall has been the sub­ject of more than 40 films. Ahead of the lat­est, she talks to Amelia Abra­ham about be­ing a cover girl and how she went from ‘dream­ing a man’s dreams’ to liv­ing her own

The Guardian - G2 - - Women -

Grow­ing up in Britain dur­ing the sec­ond world war, Jane Goodall was of­ten told her dreams were just that – fan­tasy, un­re­al­is­tic, un­achiev­able: “I had read Tarzan and fallen in love, although he mar­ried the wrong Jane, the wretched man,” she jokes. “I wanted to live with wild an­i­mals and write books about them. But peo­ple would say: ‘How can you do that? Africa is far away, we don’t know much about it. You don’t have any money. You’re just a girl.’”

Now, at 83, the cel­e­brated Bri­tish pri­ma­tol­o­gist tours the world giv­ing lec­tures on what she has learned over five decades of chimp study in Tan­za­nia.

An­gelina Jolie, Colin Firth and Judd Apa­tow are vo­cal fans. Michael Jack­son, she says, wrote Heal the World about

‘I wanted to live with an­i­mals and write about them. But peo­ple would say: How can you? You’re just a girl’

her. Goodall just wants to get on with the job of bet­ter pro­tect­ing our planet from the ef­fects of cli­mate change, but now her sched­ule has been in­ter­rupted by Jane, a film about her life

(of which there are now more than 40). She sounds mildly an­noyed when she tells me she re­cently had to pause her ac­tivism to travel to the Hol­ly­wood pre­miere of the doc­u­men­tary, which is directed by Brett Mor­gen and scored by Philip Glass. “Brett and Philip did such a good job,” she con­cedes, “I feel I need to sup­port peo­ple who care that much.”

In the film, Goodall’s own pas­sion for the chimps is cap­tured on 16mm by her for­mer hus­band, the late wildlife film-maker Hugo van Law­ick, and care­fully re­stored and edited from hun­dreds of hours of film. It opens with footage of Jane rid­ing a boat out to Gombe Stream na­tional park in

1960, the voiceover ex­plain­ing she had al­ways “dreamed a man’s dreams ... dreams of ad­ven­ture”. It was in

1957, when she had fin­ished school and com­pleted a sec­re­tar­ial course, that Goodall plucked up the courage to call Dr Louis Leakey, a well-known pa­le­oan­thro­pol­o­gist. “I said: ‘I’d love to come and talk to you about an­i­mals’ – a bit pa­thetic – but, any­way, he agreed to meet me.” By 26, and with no for­mal sci­en­tific ed­u­ca­tion as yet, Leakey sent her to Tan­za­nia to ob­serve and record the be­hav­iour of chim­panzees. “Leakey didn’t tell me at the time, but he wanted some­body whose mind was ‘un­fet­tered by the re­duc­tion­ist sci­en­tific the­ory of the time’,” she smiles.

Goodall de­scribes the most im­por­tant qual­ity in the jun­gle as “pa­tience”.

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