It’s the voice you notice first. In person, David Attenborough speaks in the same awestruck hush he has used in dozens of nature documentaries, a crisp half whisper that is often mimicked but seldom matched. Ninety-two years of use may have softened its edges, but still it carries the command of authority. Sitting in his home in the Richmond neighborhood of west London for one in a series of conversations, I feel compelled to drink a second cup of tea when he offers. It somehow seems wrong to say no. In his native U.K., Attenborough is held in the kind of esteem usually reserved for royalty. Over decades–first as a television executive, then as a wildlife filmmaker and recently as a kind of elder statesman for the planet–he has achieved near beatific status. He was knighted by the Queen in 1985 and is usually referred to as Sir David. As he walked into the Royal Botanic Gardens for TIME’s portrait shoot on the day of our interview, the mere sight of him caused members of the public and staff alike to break into goofy smiles. Video Player is loading. Current Time 0:00 / Duration 0:00 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% […]

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