The most sensational court case of the Victorian Age has been committed to film in The Tichborne Claimant. Director DAVID YATES talks
about his bold debut. Words: Miles Fielder
David Yates first talked about The Tichborne Claimant three years ago at the Cannes Film Festival. At that time the film was yet to be made, and although some of the financing had been secured, all Yates had to show
was a series of beautifully drawn
’It’s a great, great story,’ intones the director. Recounting the facts of this true story in present tense, he brings the most sensational and most suppressed lawsuit of the Victorian Age to life: ’In 1866, Sir Roger Tichborne, heir to one of the largest
'lt's a great, great story.'oavid Yates
estates in England, disappears while sailing around the world. Ten years later Sir Roger is seen in Australia, and so the Tichbornes send their African manservant, Andrew Bogle to bring him back. Years go by and Bogle, believing himself abandoned by his
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employers, hires an imposter and returns with him to claim the estate. The Tichbomes refute the claim and the case becomes one of the most famous in English legal history. But what's really interesting,’ finishes Yates, ’is that Bogle begins to believe he may have found the real claimant.’ It's a tall tale. For Yates, filmmaking is all about storytelling, and he has a knack for picking great stories. The script was brought to his attention by writer Joe Fisher, who had discovered articles about the case at Cambridge University seven years earlier. Irish actor/entrepreneur Tom McCabe agreed to finance the film with a fortune made by selling phone cards (and took a plum cameo as a wily barrister). The modest budget was spent filming on the tax—free Isle Of Man and at London's recently re- opened Ealing Studios. It’s an epic tale, painted in bold strokes by Yates, whose budgetary limitations necessitated imagination and ingenuity. The result is a series of sparse but striking images (reminiscent of David Lean's Dickens’ adaptations), embellishing the story and given life by two superb leading performances (Robert Pugh and John Kani) and a plethora of star cameos: Sir John Gielgud, Charles Gray, Dudley Sutton, Stephen Fry and Robert Hardy. ’We needed a baritone of a man to play the claimant,’ says Yates, ’someone whose voice and size could
Chancer: Robert Pugh in The Tichborne Claimant
fill a music hall and Robert rose to the challenge. For Bogle, we knew John, who is well-known for his work in Johannesburg, would bring a focus and integrity to the heart of the acting ensemble.’
It's taken a while for Tichborne to reach the public (it premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in
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1998). Meantime, Yates is collabo- rating With Fisher on a film abocit the British Northern SOuI scene, the already near-complete soundtrack for which he‘s usmg as this proiect's calling card.
The Tichborne Claimant opens Fri 5 Nov. See review, page 26.
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