British movie producer Ismail Merchant was remembered at the London premiere of THE WHITE COUNTESS last night (19MAR06). Merchant died during filming for the period drama in China last May (06) aged 68 - and director James Ivory paid tribute to his late business partner, who laid the foundations for the first western film shot entirely in the Asian country. Ivory told EmpireOnline, "When we arrived there we didn't have the kinds of contacts that you have to have to go to a completely foreign culture like China, but gradually it all sort of fell in place. "It was hard going at first, but again that was (Ismail's) doing. We'd still have been there if he hadn't been around! And his air-clearing skills will be missed this evening. "He always knew how to throw a good party, and a premiere should be a good party. He'd have made lots of noise and made people feel good about themselves." Ralph Fiennes and NATASHA RICHARDSON star in The White Countess.