Derek Granger on the truth behind the Brideshead script

Did you write the script?

Yes. We had to ditch the (John) Mortimer script. We ditched that at the very beginning. But it was a very difficult contractual situation because the estate had made the stipulation… there was a condition that if we had the rights, we had to accept their choice of adaptor. And the first adaptor that they nominated was somebody I like very much, and that was Alan Bennett. Alan and I were having rather a good time, lots of discussions, and then suddenly he came up to me and said would I mind terribly if he slipped away and abandoned it. I said, “No, no – absolutely. Of course I wouldn’t. And I imagine that what had happened to Alan was that he realised the enormous amount of work it would be, and he hadn’t quite faced up to that before. And when he realised the amount work it would entail, I think he just decided to slip away. And he did. And so the estate then nominated the second nomination as John Mortimer, and John came, and John was a very grand writer, he was very well known. And he’d had Rumpole of the Bailey, so that was a very, very big hit and he was much in demand. He was rather grand, I have to say, and a little… I mean, perfectly nice but rather difficult really to have a collaborative conversation with, I think. And anyway, he went and did his own thing, and he delivered something which was perfectly competent. I mean, it was a perfectly competent series of telly scripts, but we didn’t want that – we wanted something much more delicate, and something much more reflective of the beauty and nostalgia of the book. And indeed, the German investor rang me up and said, were rather unteutonically, “Where are the Proustian overtones you promised us?” And nobody liked the script, so Sidney rang me and said, “I don’t think much of the script,” and when Michael joined, the very first time we met with Michael Lindsay-Hogg, I first met to discuss the whole thing, he said, the first line he said to me was, “What are we going to do about these Mortimer scripts? And I said, “We’ll do it ourselves.” And that’s what we had to do. But we had to do that clandestinely because there was no way I think, because the agent represented not only the Waugh estate, but also the nominated writers. So it was AD Peters who represented not only Waugh, but also John Mortimer, and there was no way in which I could turn down the Mortimer scripts without the whole project folding – they would simply have pulled it. And they knew that, so we just bit the bullet and decided to do it ourselves.

And did Mortimer get any kind of credit?

Mortimer gets a credit on all of the… He got the full pay for everything, including the extension. I mean, he got paid for six hours, and when we went to 11 hours he got paid for the extra five hours. So he did very, very well. We also had rather difficult meetings after that where we gave each other old-fashioned looks. But of course it all came out in his official biography, when the writer of his official biography had to face up to this, and I gave her the scripts, the Mortimer scripts, and our scripts, and she said, “There’s no way that these are even comparable.” So she came out with it and both the official and the unofficial biographer gave chapter and verse of the fact that he hadn’t wrote them. And also all the papers; The Sunday Times were the first to carry an article about it. Richard Brooks wrote about it.


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