Ben Whishaw to play MP Jeremy Thorpe’s lover in A Very English Scandal
The announcement was made by Russell T Davies at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
Ben Whishaw will star opposite Hugh Grant in a new drama about disgraced MP Jeremy Thorpe.
The James Bond star will play Norman Scott, the ex-lover Thorpe was acquitted of conspiring to murder in 1979.
A Very English Scandal will be written by former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies, who announced the casting of Whishaw on stage at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
The three-part series is based on the best-selling book by John Preston that tells the account of Thorpe’s trial and acquittal.
Grant’s casting was announced in May this year, and it will be directed by Bafta-winning film-maker Stephen Frears.
Davies said of the casting: “It’s a dream come true, to work with Ben. One of Britain’s finest actors playing one of history’s most fascinating men.”
Piers Wenger, controller of BBC drama, added: “Ben Whishaw is an extraordinary actor and we are thrilled to announce he will star opposite Hugh Grant in this scandalous real-life story for BBC One. I cannot wait to see this first-class British duo bring Russell’s powerful scripts to life.”
In conversation at the festival after he was presented with the lifetime achievement award, Davies – who is responsible for series including Queer As Folk, Bob And Rose and Cucumber – said he “kinds of loves it” when he is referred to as a “gay writer”.
He added: “It’s never been a problem for me, I would quite happily stay in that space and write about those men forever.
“If I find myself standing on that prairie by myself, all the more for me.”
He also defended his decision to feature an underage character in landmark gay drama Queer As Folk, as played by Charlie Hunnam.
He said: “It doesn’t matter that it’s illegal, there was no such thing on screen or in the culture as a gay underage boy.
“Back in 1998 when it was written, gay youth was just beginning to be talked about, boys like that didn’t exist.
“Now the out gay schoolboy exists, they don’t always have an easy time, but they didn’t exist then.
“But they did exist in life. They were there and were starting to appear in the clubs, it was real.
“Drama doesn’t have to follow the law, just because you can’t have sex until you’re 16, obviously it’s happening.
“Drama doesn’t have to be legitimate in that way.”
He continued: “With those shows you also have a great responsibility. I went to a conference of gay teachers and was told a story about a 15-year-old boy who saw it and came out at his school and got beaten up so badly his cheekbones were crushed, so you have to live with that.
“Does that stop me writing it? Do I wish I hadn’t written it? No I don’t, that is a terrible thing to say, but you have to be ruthless.”
He added that he will consider himself to have failed as a writer if he never manages to write a story about the Aids crisis.
He said: “I’m trying to write a drama about the Aids crisis in the 1980s, I will get it right in the end.
“I’ve had a great joy in writing gay characters, if I get to my death bed and haven’t written about the Aids crisis I will consider myself to have failed, if I haven’t done the greatest gay story that has happened.”