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‘A Very English Scandal:’ Tea, Terriers, Tabloids, Extortion…

"It had to be comic and it had to be dramatic," says director Stephen Frears. "That's good fun."

“Created by the BBC and airing on Amazon starting Friday, A Very English Scandal is based on the book by John Preston that documents the downfall of Jeremy Thorpe (Hugh Grant), the British MP who was the leader of the Liberal Party from 1967 to 1976 before he was accused of conspiracy to commit murder in a case involving his former lover, Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw),” Tim Goodman explains

“What makes A Very English Scandal such a weirdly fascinating romp through history is that [director Stephen] Frears and [screenwriter Russell T.] Davies make a brilliant decision to tell this story as a careening, jaunty tale that is darkly funny throughout but spends its most powerful moments lingering on the despair of gay men during those times (not just Scott and Thorpe)—while very subtly illustrating that Thorpe’s entitlement and upbeat public persona hid the coldness of a sociopath,” Goodman continues. To read the full article, click here. 

“Frears thoroughly captures a particular sociopolitical moment with a keen sense of universal experience,” says Sophia Stewart. “His visual flair and expert pacing propel each episode forward with exhilarating gusto, and his intimate filmmaking style weaves a sensationalist scandal into a profound exploration of the deep-seated tensions at the heart of British society.” To read the full article, click here.

“It had to be comic and it had to be dramatic,” says Frears. “That’s good fun. Well, you’re always balancing two different things. Is it too funny? Is it not funny enough? All of the usual things. But that was the pleasure of it—to get that balance right. 

“I hope the films are very funny and I hope that they’re very dramatic. You want to know what happens next. It is the most ludicrous story. You can’t believe the incompetence.”

Cinematographer Danny Cohen, reports Tim Dams, “sought to bring out the vibrancy and color of the period, rather than the browns and dark oaks of so many political dramas. This was also emphasized in the grade at Goldcrest, which handled postproduction. The Flying Colour Company [contributed] visual effects. 

“The vibrant look in many ways mirrors the drama’s tone,” says producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins from Blueprint Television. “Because it’s a true story, the drama needed one foot on the ground. Stephen very much brings that to it—it is lavish and real and true.” To read the full article, click here.

“Everything is in tension, if not outright conflict,” says Margaret Lyons. “The tone is sometimes serious but sometimes drifts to being a darkly humorous caper… The courtroom scenes… are decorous but then out of control. 

“People who know the plain truth won’t acknowledge it. Admitting to a lie somehow becomes more shameful than continuing one.” To read the full article, click here.