Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story is a 90-minute roller coaster ride through a golden era of popular culture, lifting the lid on the complex life of a much-missed entertainment icon.
New television writer Tim Whitnall's script centres on the unconventional love story between Kenny, played by newcomer Oliver Lansley, and his wife Lee Middleton, played by Corrie favourite Katherine Kelly.
Made by Mammoth Screen for BBC Wales, Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story is also a celebration of Kenny Everett's extraordinary life and work. Told with the help of some of Everett's most famous comic characters, including Sid Snot and Cupid Stunt, this film charts how Everett became one of Britain's best-loved, most-rebellious and truly innovative broadcasters and comedians.
Luke Franklin, associate producer, describes the ambition behind the film: "The task of distilling the multiple, often chaotic strands of Kenny Everett’s remarkable and eventful life into 90 minutes of drama felt like an ambitious one, right from the off. Luckily, the desire to see the project made generated endless enthusiasm in its key creative team – writer Tim Whitnall, and director James Strong, who was on board for much of the development process – as well as the consultants, who knew Kenny, and advised on every detail of the production.
"From the start of the development process, authenticity was always a central aim. It soon became clear that the script was likely to focus upon Kenny’s relationship with Lee Middleton (now Lee Everett-Alkin) – to whom Kenny was married for almost a decade and a half. It was through the prism of this defining relationship that Tim Whitnall felt Kenny’s story could best be told. The period of Kenny and Lee’s relationship encompassed Kenny’s rise to fame in the UK, his coming to terms with his sexuality – but also worked as an unconventional love story in its own right.
"Together with her husband, John Alkin, Lee was the first consultant to come on board the project, to which she gave invaluable support and access to her archives – as well as notes on the accuracy of the script at each draft stage. Given the script dealt with the gradual break-down of the marriage, as well as its many happier periods, Lee’s involvement as a first-hand source was essential.
"Lee met with Oliver Lansley (Kenny) and Katherine Kelly (Lee) early in pre-production – sharing with both actors details and insights from her life with Kenny which could inform the events dealt with in the script.
"Kenny’s long time manager and friend Jo Gurnett was the other major consultant on the project – advising and providing detail and perspective on the whole script, but especially on those elements which dealt with Kenny’s professional life, and his personal life outside of his marriage to Lee.
"Barry Cryer - Kenny’s colleague and co-writer on Kenny’s television series for both Thames and the BBC – was also a script consultant, as was journalist David Lister, the author of Kenny’s biography In The Best Possible Taste.
Commenting on the casting of Oliver Lansley as Kenny, Luke adds: "With the character of Kenny appearing in almost every scene, casting the actor to play the lead role was a daunting but exciting challenge. Not only did the script require an actor capable of delving into the inner turmoil and private life of a very public figure, but it also demanded a performer who could replicate whilst making his own the coterie of Kenny’s famous sketch show characters.
"By the time Oliver Lansley auditioned, the production team had been casting for some considerable time, and was acutely aware of how much hinged on finding our Kenny. Within moments of Oli walking in the room, there was a sense that he was our man. The brash swagger of his Sid Snot bore an uncanny closeness to the original. His readings from the most emotionally delicate moments of the script were a stark contrast, and equally compelling. The only problem was Oli was due to fly to Melbourne for a month to perform in a play. Dates were shifted, and a slightly jet-lagged Oli flew back to the UK 48 hours before the read through."
Guest stars include Adam Garcia, James Wilby, Jonathan Kerrigan, James Floyd as Freddie Mercury and Simon Callow as Dickie Attenborough.
Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four, says: “Kenny Everett was a genuine original: wild and un-focused maybe, but also deliciously anarchic and always entertaining. In many ways Kenny was a very modern celebrity, wearing his heart on his sleeve while coping with a complex life. Re-evaluating this talented and exuberant personality, enabling audiences to re-consider Kenny’s undoubted impact and legacy, makes this a very BBC Four drama.”
Commissioned by Richard Klein, Controller BBC Four, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, Best Possible Taste: The Kenny Everett Story is directed by James Strong (United) and produced by Paul Frift. This is a Mammoth Screen Production through BBC Wales Drama, executive producers are Damien Timmer and Michele Buck for Mammoth and Faith Penhale for BBC Wales.
Kenny Everett - Oliver Lansley; Lee Middleton - Katherine Kelly; Maurice Cole - Perry Cole; Lily Cole - Angela Lonsdale; Tom Cole - Tony Pitts; Wilfred De'ath - James Wilby; Tony Windsor - Adam Garcia; Dickie Attenborough - Simon Callow; Freddie Mercury - James Floyd; John Alkin - Jonathan Kerrigan; Michael Winner - Andrew Greenough; Nikolai - Uriel Emil; Pepe Flores - Stefano Braschi
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Re-evaluating this talented and exuberant personality, enabling audiences to re-consider Kenny’s undoubted impact and legacy, makes this a very BBC Four drama.”