Step away from the Blair

Posted by · 4:46 pm · September 14th, 2010

Regular readers (or Twitter followers) may have gathered by now that Peter Morgan isn’t my favorite high-end screenwriter on the scene — I’ve found his recent run of factional biopics, resulting in a pair of Oscar nods for “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon,” increasingly smug and samey, and was pleased to see him attempting something a little different in Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter.”

Going on the mixed Toronto reception for the latter film, the jury is still out on whether Morgan’s flirtation with fiction — spiritually-tinged fiction, no less — has actually been successful. Either way, it would appear that Morgan is quite ready to return to his comfort zone, and more specifically, to his longstanding hobby-horse, Tony Blair.

Morgan has now dramatized the career of the former British prime minister in three separate projects — with “The Queen” sandwiched by TV films “The Deal” and “The Special Relationship” — each of them giving actor Michael Sheen an opportunity to fine-tune his Blair impersonation.

You’d think Morgan might have got the man out of his system by now, but The Guardian reports that he thinks a fourth Blair film is necessary.

[Morgan] said he felt the need to write one more screenplay about how Blair fell from his peak of popularity before the 2003 Iraq war.

“We’re just beginning to create the monster,” he said… “I keep feeling that we’ve left without the story being complete… I haven’t quite worked this out and maybe that’s why I have to keep writing them. The reason why I keep saying, ‘Michael, if you could bear to come with me on one more go,’ is because we still haven’t nailed him.”

Lord knows every good writer has his obsessions. But I fear Morgan is beating a dead horse here — it’s been over three years (and two subsequent prime ministers) since Tony Blair was in office, and it’s difficult to see how productive yet another scripted stab at his political weaknesses could be. If Morgan feels he hasn’t “nailed” the man over three films, perhaps that’s because a dramatized biopic will always retain a certain distance from the truth; and if he really can’t get away from the politics, Britain has a whole new troublesome Tory government for him to sink his teeth into.

In a related story, Morgan’s preoccupation with Blair is such that he’s convinced life is now imitating art — he recently told the Telegraph that Blair’s recently published autobiography lifts lines from his own script. While Blair quotes Queen Elizabeth II as saying to him, “You are my 10th prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born,” Morgan script for “The Queen” features the line, “You are my 10th prime minister, Mr Blair. My first was Winston Churchill.”

I’d be prepared to write off the replication of this not-especially-surprising line as a coincidence, but Morgan thinks otherwise:

I wish I could pretend that I had inside knowledge, but I made up those lines… There are three possibilities. The first is I guessed absolutely perfectly, which is highly unlikely; the second is Blair decided to endorse what I imagined as the official line; and the third is that he had one gin and tonic too many and confused the scene in the film with what had actually happened, and this I find amusing because he always insisted he had never even seen it.

Of course, he could just return the compliment by directly quoting large chunks of Blair’s autobiography in his fourth go-round. He’s a busy man; it’ll save time.


→ 9 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

9 responses so far

  • 1 9-14-2010 at 5:02 pm

    americanrequiem said...

    im with you guy, his work tends to be a snooze fest

  • 2 9-14-2010 at 5:03 pm

    Rashad said...

    He’s built a condo next to the well.

  • 3 9-14-2010 at 5:34 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I’ve only seen The Queen, which was a wretched script.

  • 4 9-14-2010 at 6:26 pm

    Silencio said...

    Of course, Michael Sheen could always just decline.

  • 5 9-14-2010 at 9:35 pm

    Derek 8-Track said...

    Id like to see a fourth. I’ll watch Sheen in anything. He’s one of the main reasons I come back to Morgans work.

  • 6 9-15-2010 at 2:26 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Of course, the moment also has passed because the book got finished basically with The Ghost Writer.

  • 7 9-15-2010 at 5:53 am

    Ben M. said...

    I actually really like his work. Frost/Nixon (on both stage and screen), The Damned United, Last King of Scotland, The Queen, The Special Relationship, and Longford were all very well-written IMO.

  • 8 9-15-2010 at 12:18 pm

    Edward L. said...

    Of the Blair films I’ve only seen The Queen so far, but although there’s much about the film that I could take issue with, I don’t think the script is the problem. On the contrary: I think the writing is a clever and quite thought-provoking intervention in what we already knew of this period in recent history.

    Frost/Nixon, I agree, was pretty shoddy and uninteresting – though I’ve only seen the film; I can imagine the stage play might have worked wonders.

    Also, just a reminder lest we forget: we don’t have a Tory Government at present, we have a coalition! Much as I’m not a fan of the Torys, the present deserves to be acknowledged for its Liberal component.

    What I’m most looking forward to re: Morgan is seeing what he can do with James Bond – IF the film from his script ever sees the light of day…

  • 9 9-15-2010 at 2:11 pm

    Clayton said...

    “I’ve only seen The Queen, which was a wretched script.”

    Please elaborate. Why was it “wretched”, exactly? You constantly throw glib comments of that nature out there, so I don’t think it’s too much to ask for you to support some of your opinions with some sound reasoning. Otherwise it’s little more than snark.