In the first of a new series Nick Scheele, chairman of Jaguar, talks to Rhymer Rigby about films, books and music that inspire him.
'It could almost have been written by Shakespeare,' enthuses Nick Scheele. We are, of course, talking about the westerner's western, The Magnificent Seven. The film - in which Mexican villagers hire seven American gunmen to protect them from marauding bad guys - is justly famed for its action sequences. And Scheele's personal favourite is a scene in which James Coburn is sleeping by a railroad track, armed only with a knife. When challenged by a gun-toting bandit, Coburn manages to better his assailant despite inferior weaponry. That particular stand-off, declares Scheele, is 'up there with Steve McQueen's Great Escape scene - a stunning, memorable scene'. So, does he identify with anyone in the film - the leader, Yul Brynner, perhaps? 'No, no - I just think it's a great expression of the human dilemma. Should you go all out and take action or should you take what is ultimately the best way in the film and settle back into the soil and nurture the family and society?'
Society is a theme which recurs in Scheele's favourite non-fiction book, A Social History of England. 'I think to understand the culture, the people, you've got to understand how people lived and housed themselves - this book probably does it better than any other.' And, this passion is one with a clear business application: 'I read up on the countries we sell a lot in - you've got to understand the cultural and social history that created the people.' Back home, history gives Scheele cause to lament his countrymen's attitude towards industry. 'The proprietors of the industrial revolution came away from the land, created these great industrial empires and went straight back to the land.' Scheele believes that the national love affair with a bucolic idyll has left a country in which an industrial career is 'not quite the done thing'. Indeed, only in Brunel's heyday did Britain come close to treating its industrial heroes with due respect.
Today's Brunels are lucky to get airtime on Tomorrow's World with its 'starey-eyed, madcap presenters'.
It is unsurprising, then, that Scheele's fictional favourites are the Hornblower books which combine the action of a western with one of Scheele's favourite eras, the turn of the 19th century. His enthusiasm for the eponymous hero is evident: 'I think there are lessons from Hornblower, about his personal relationships and his leadership style.' Rather than flog the sailors under him, he inspires discipline by force of personality. 'So the men love and adore him and will do anything for him. He knows where his strengths lie.'
Finally, to music: here again, Scheele nominates two choices. The first, Pachelbel's Canon, is something that would fit comfortably on a vinyl single. Despite this, 'It's the perfect expression of baroque. I'd probably relate it to styling in cars, actually: you've got to have proportion; it's got to look perfect from every angle and the Canon is just perfect to listen to.' Scheele also plumps for Handel's Messiah: 'I just find it just stunning - it never palls. I am delighted when December comes round - I can play the Messiah at home almost constantly.' And it is at home that all his enthusiasms are given free range: 'You know', he laughs, 'last night I asked my wife to write down my favourite books, film and music, and she was 100% correct. So, she's obviously bored to death by The Magnificent Seven.'.