JIMMY MCGOVERN FEATURE
keep the story rolling. This friction is what McGovern is interested in; he only does the plots. ‘the Cowboys and Indians stuff’. to keep people watching.
‘As a writer you are praying for the day when you can write what you want.’ says McGovern. ‘but to get to that point you’ve got to give so much that you feel deeply about and. when you get to that point of being able to write about anything you want, you soon find out that actually you’ve written about it. But I still hope to God I do have things to say.’
Asked if he held anything
back when writing Brookside. he responds quickly:
‘No I never did. I’ve a big beef with people who write things like Brookside and EastEm/ers and think they have the right to say nothing of substance and then walk off with all that money. When I used to write Brookside. doing the Grants and the Corkhills was draining — with every episode I gave it everything.’
Talking in the week when Brookside is running for five nights on the trot so the discovery of Trevor Jordache’s remains can be dwelt on at length. we agree that perhaps the siege a few years back marked the soap‘s departure from its radical political agenda. ‘I wasn’t there at that storyline meeting.‘ he laughs. ‘Ifl had been there they would still have done it. I’m sure, but at least there would have been an argument against it.’
Almost throughout McGovern‘s time at Brookside Close. there was one storyline that he was desperate to write. ‘Since I983 I wanted to
do a drama about a priest and the laws of
celibacy.‘ he says. ‘I kept pressing Brookside to do it because they had the ideal character — Sheila Grant. For a Catholic mother to fall in love with a Catholic priest would’ve been dynamite. but for some reason they kept turning it down.’
‘When I used to write Brookside, doing the Grants and the Corkhills was draining —
with each episode I gave it everything.’
McGovern left Brookside in I989. determined to find a home for the idea. Initially he planned a television series called The Ten Cmnmandmettts about a priest examining different aspects of the Catholic faith. For background material McGovern spoke to many priests. both in England and Ireland. but meeting a homosexual priest made such a huge impression that he ditched the project and wrote a film script instead. ‘There was so much angst and passion.‘ remembers tVIcCrovern. ‘For an hour he poured his heart out and I was priest to him for that time. I always had a vocation to write Priest — I’m convinced of that — and when l came out of there I knew what I had to do; I had to tell this story.’
Priest is the powerful tale of Father Greg. played by Linus Roache. a young Catholic priest wrestling with his homosexuality. Father Greg represents one side of the Catholic Church — conservative. orthodox. repressed: while Father Matthew (Tom Wilkinson) is a radical. iconoclastic priest trying to bring South American-style liberation theology to the pmerty-stricken streets of at Liverpool community.
That this is a very personal film is evident from the depth in which .‘ychoyern. himself a Catholic. explores faith. and the conflicts within the church. Although critical of the Church. he reckons Priest ultimately reaffirms the Catholic faith in Holy Communion.
‘I’d like to think that if there is a heaven I’ll go up there and Hell say. “What did you do)“. and HI say "I wrote Priest". and IIe‘lI say "Everything else you did was shite. you‘re a bastard in your personal life. but you wrote Priest. so come in.’ .1
Hearts and Minds starts 011 Thursday 16 I“(’/)I’lt(lt’_\‘ at [0pm ()II Channel 4. Priest gets a cinema release in Marc/t.
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Bobble Coltrane as Fitz, McGovern‘s flawed criminal psycologist from Cracker
Christopher Eccleston in Shallow Grave
Teacher, accountant, policeman — there’s something apparently solid and dependable about a Christopher Eccleston character, but underneath often lurks a darker side, which can explode with passionate intensity. In the last two years this ambiguous quality has brought the 28-year-old actor critical acclaim and popular success as the insecure police chief Bilsborough in Cracker and more recently as the bespectacled psycho flatmate in Shallow Crave.
Born in Manchester, Eccleston trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, settling into traditional final year roles in Chekhov, Shakespeare and Moliere. Stardom came early when he won the part of Derek Bentley in Peter Medak’s 1991 film, Let Him Have It. Based on the true story of a teenager who was hanged in the 1950s for the murder of a policeman, despite having the mental age of a nine-year- old, the film was the first to cast him as a sympathetic, not sexy, lead. Although Bentley doesn’t have the intellect of David, the accountant Eccleston plays in Shallow Grave, there are similarities in the sense that both characters are a pace behind their cohorts. There’s also an unappealing side to the actor’s other cinema role to date — the scheming, opportunistic priest in Chris Hewby’s beautiful, but rarely seen, monochrome medieval allegory, Anchoress (1993).
Eccleston’s stage career began at the Bristol Old Vic in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and since then he has performed at the National Theatre and the Royal Court Theatre. At the same time, he was slogging away on various television series including Casualty, Inspector Morse, Boon and Poirot. Before the risky decision to cast someone so young as the by-the-book foil to Bobbie Coltrane in Granada’s Cracker, he took on a trio of BBC dramas, finding himself under Alex Cox’s directorial eye in Death And The Compass. How he’s back on our screens — again with Cracker writer Jimmy McGovern — as a passionately committed, idealistic teacher in Hearts And Minds. McGovern rewrote much of the screenplay for Eccleston after they hit it off on the set of Cracker. l
How that he’s established himself, it's clear i that the projects Eccleston prefers contain I difficult roles that might not steal the show but I are essential to the script’s social edge. His l impressive transition in Shallow Grave from ' boring bookwonn to psychotic murderer showed F amazing control. I
But knowing the real Chris Eccleston, whose absolute passion for Manchester United takes him every Saturday from film location to football ground, few roles will equal a certain scene in Cracker. Bilsborough, raiding a i skinhead party, takes aside one right-wing unfortunate and, with angry authority, points to i a poster and reels off the race, colour and I creed of every one of the Reds. What else can have that custom-built appeal? (Alan Morrison)
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