Brighton 1984: Victoria, Washington, and a fantasy cast......
When Mum woke me with a cup of tea, I knew something was wrong. The last time she'd woken me this early in the morning, John Lennon had been tragically shot dead.
'They've blown up the Prime Minister's hotel,' she reported.
'What?' I said, drowsily.
'The Grand Hotel in Brighton. It's been bombed by the IRA.'
Hours later, a defiant Mrs Thatcher addressed the populace on nationwide TV. The Iron Lady had miraculously survived the deadly blast.
When the book - inevitably - became a number one bestseller in the U.K. and the U.S., Hollywood came calling.
'I've arranged for you to meet Solly Gold,' my agent informed me. 'He's the one calling the shots on this.'
Feeling distinctly scruffy in my greatcoat and my Levi jeans, I breezed into London's Savoy Hotel and took the elevator to Gold's room on the top floor. Gold was reclined in an arm chair watching the TV; his scantily clad companion, a leggy blonde, was draped over the couch.
Gold turned off the telly. 'So, you're the writer,' he drawled. 'Sit down, take the load off. What will you have? Scotch?'
'No thanks,' I said. 'I'm fine.'
'Come on, lighten up.'
'A cup of tea, then.'
'Tea?' he exclaimed derisively. 'Jesus H! See to it will you, doll,' he ordered the blonde. The blonde picked up the phone. Gold fixed himself a whisky. 'So,' he said, 'you're wondering why I got you up here, am I right?'
'For the screenplay?' I suggested, with an air of confidence.
'Hell, no!' We got an army of hacks for the script. The last thing we want is the author fucking things up.'
'I see,' I remarked, somewhat mortified.
'No,' he said, 'it's the casting.'
I was perplexed. 'The casting?'
'Don't tell me you haven't imagined your favourite film stars reading the lines of your dialogue. I know you writers, you live on dreams about the movies, admit it.'
'Well, I confess I did have someone in mind for the lead -'
'Forget that. We got it covered.'
'We're gonna get Washington.'
'Yeah, Washington. Denzel Washington.'
'I'm sorry,' I said, shaking my head. 'I'm not familiar with - '
'You know, Doctor Chandler.' My look was blank. 'St. Elsewhere,' Gold said, 'the hospital soap. It's only top of the goddamn ratings for crissakes.'
We got most of the American soaps but I'd never heard of St. Elsewhere. 'Sorry,' I said, shrugging my shoulders. 'I've never heard of it.'
'Never mind. Trust me, Washington will be perfect.'
'But he's American - presumably,' I protested.
'What about it?' Gold rejoined. 'He's black for crissakes.'
'Can he do a British accent?' I enquired.
'Of course he can, he's an actor isn't he? Listen, you wanna sell this film in tinsel town? We need American stars, period.'
'You said: stars?'
'Yeah, Vicky Principal wants to do a film over here. We'll give her the part of the broad.'
'Victoria Principal? Of Dallas?'
'You got it.'
'What part - exactly?'
'The heiress - Victoria, right? Even the name fits the bill.'
My mum was a Dallas addict, I only watched it occasionally - just to keep her company you understand - and like - I strongly suspected - most of the red blooded heterosexual males who viewed the show, I'd had some fairly - uninhibited - fantasies about the gorgeous Mrs Pamela Ewing, aka Victoria Principal.
'My Victoria in the book,' I pointed out, 'is very upper class British.'
Gold was dismissive. 'So, we'll make her an American heiress. What the hell.'
Room service brought the tea. 'I'll be your mom shall I?' said the blonde. 'Sugar?'
There is such a thing as "the integrity of the work" I reminded myself, and the casting of two American soap opera stars ought to make me rather sniffy but the thought of the stunning Ms Principal starring in a movie based on my book? I'd only been in the room five minutes and I was already selling out to Hollywood.
'All right,' I said meekly, 'but if you've made up your mind why am I here?'
'Because,' Gold explained, 'I know jack shit about British actors. Sure I know James Bond and Michael Caine but that's about it. We got our two big stars lined up but I need you to come up with the rest of the ensemble.'
'Because the last time we went through a British casting agent we got burned - severely - and because your agent tells me you're an authority on British film and TV. He says your knowledge is encyclopaedic. You know who's got it and who aint, right?'
'Well - yes - I suppose I... ' I stammered, modestly.
'So, give me a list of names,' said Gold. 'We'll screen test them and as long as they pass muster, they're in. Sound good to you?'
A chance to cast my favourite character actors in a film adaptation of my book? Oh yes, it sounded good all right! I drank my tea and made my list:
I didn't condone acts of terror but I felt uncomfortably conflicted. As one of Mrs T's unemployed millions I was no fan of the PM.
The attack, I read in the paper, was planned well in advance. Reports concluded there must have been an IRA cell operating in the seaside town.
That's when I got the idea for the book. I dug out Dad's old typewriter and set to work.
The Lady's not for bombing......
The Black Peacock Club: The Movie....
Matt Waters Denzel Washington
Gerard Byrne Gabriel Byrne
Max Carnaby Ian Richardson
Victoria Carnaby Victoria Principal
Ray Cutter Bob Hoskins
Hazel Cutter Helen Mirren
Harry Solomon Cyril Shaps
Abraham Isser Clifford Rose
Vijay Tandekar Art Malik
Vishwanath Rahman Saeed Jaffrey
Jasmina Rahman Farah Naaz
Mark Steele Ray Winstone
D.I. Ronald Price Jonathan Pryce
D.S. Ronald Piper Phil Daniels
Tim Burton Gary Webster
Tom Burton Steve Fletcher
Dermot Brady Colm Meaney
Mr Smith T.P. McKenna
Jackie Miller Pete Postlethwaite
Des Kelly George Layton
Corky Pat Roach
Percy Tony Selby
Godfrey Miles Charles Gray
Bernard Rowles Paul Brooke
Dieter (Hans) Weber Derren Nesbitt
Alan Noble Derek Jacobi
John Drewin Alfred Burke
Officer Johnson George Cole
Alan Maynard Jimmy Nail
Danny Brady Aidan Gillen
Alison Marbury Maureen Lipman
Joe Bennett Roy Kinnear
Ulrike Weber Tracey Ullman
Mrs Rahman Jamila Massey
*This delusional fantasy is copyright and may not be reproduced............
THE BLACK PEACOCK CLUB
Crime, Espionage, PoliticalThriller www.thrillerwriter.org