Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Philandering Diarist Still Holds Guilty Fascination; AUTHOR OF SPOOF VERSION OF ALAN CLARK'S DIARIES VIEWS NEW TV SERIES ON HIS LIFE

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Philandering Diarist Still Holds Guilty Fascination; AUTHOR OF SPOOF VERSION OF ALAN CLARK'S DIARIES VIEWS NEW TV SERIES ON HIS LIFE

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER BRADSHAW

WE LIVE in such a dull political age, dominated by politically-correct New Labour apparatchiks sipping mineral water while they email supportive comments to the excruciating Big Conversation website.

Nothing else explains our continuing guilty fascination with the rip-roaring characters of the political Eighties: and one character in particular, a Conservative backbencher who died in effective political obscurity in 1999 and hadn't had his hands anywhere near the levers of power for many years, yet who hypnotised everyone with sheer force of personality: the Rt Hon Alan Clark, reactionary, philanderer, High Tory romantic and diarist of genius.

His journals have now been dramatised by BBC Four, a slightly cerebral but nonetheless very enjoyable series due to be broadcast in the New Year with John Hurt as Clark and Jenny Agutter superbly cast as his elegant and longsuffering wife Jane, whom he cheated on but unceasingly adored.

The first episode was unveiled last night. I watched John Hurt's terrifically subtle performance with the admiration of a fellow professional.

For I too have portrayed Alan Clark: but in print.

In 1997, I wrote a spoof version of Clark's diaries for the Evening Standard. Alan was outraged; he sued and won, but throughout the High Court proceedings, I wrote up the sensational events from his standpoint: a conceit that exasperated him considerably.

I took the view that like Robert De Niro fattening up to play the overweight boxer Jake La Motta in the movie Raging Bull, I should be allowed to "get into" the role.

Sir Max Hastings, then Standard editor, allowed me exceptional latitude on my expenses so that I could lunch most days at Wilton's in Jermyn Street and drink fine wines and eat grouse just like the great man - in true method-acting style. …

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