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29 October 2014
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Pepys, an intimate portrait of the great diarist, naval strategist and adulterer, starts filming for BBC TWO

Steve Coogan plays Samuel Pepys, naval strategist and serial adulterer, in the first major television portrayal of Pepys's life.

Film director Oliver Parker and writer Guy Jenkin bring to the screen a darkly comic vision of the genius behind the famous diaries.

"I have a real affection for Pepys," says Steve Coogan. "He was flawed, offensive, funny and principled all at the same time.

"Guy Jenkin's brilliant script really crystallises the character of the time. It feels contemporary and reads unlike a typical costume drama."

Jane Tranter, Controller of Drama Commissioning, says: "We needed a stellar talent to make the role his own, and Steve Coogan is the perfect Pepys.

"He will bring intelligence and charisma to the role and Guy Jenkin's script is clever, and by turns funny and moving.

"It brings out the modernity of Pepys the man and the dilemmas through which he has to navigate if he is to survive and prosper."

Lou Doillon (a household name in France and sister of Charlotte Gainsbourg) plays Pepys's French wife Elizabeth; Tim Pigott-Smith, his arch-enemy Lord Shaftesbury; Danny Webb plays Pepys's employer Edward Montagu; and Nathaniel Parker is Charles II.

Zoë Tapper, Sally Rogers and Miranda Raison are Pepys's mistresses and Ciaran McMenamin is his manservant, Will.

"Samuel Pepys was a man driven by lust, riven by guilt," says producer Ben McPherson.

"Pepys is a portrait of the private man, his relationship with his wife and his many infidelities.

"We have what every production hopes for: a cast that combines established world-class actors with some very exciting new talent, a beautifully-judged script from Guy, and a director of great vision, wit and humanity in Oliver."

"Guy's script leapt from the page," says director Oliver Parker.

"It bristles with energy and sparkles with variety. It is, all at once visceral and irreverent, tender and excruciatingly funny.

"Steve's work is always mesmerising. He's uncompromising in his pursuit of the darker side of his characters while at the same time forcing us to empathise with them.

"The prospect of his Pepys is exhilarating: Pepys is one of history's great observers, and Steve is one of today's."

The film is a unique collaboration between the BBC's Drama, Arts and Entertainment departments. Filming begins at the end of August at Dorney Court, Windsor.

Pepys is written by Guy Jenkin (Jeffrey Archer: the Truth, Drop the Dead Donkey), produced by Ben McPherson (Omnibus, Meades Eats, Britain's Best Buildings) and directed by Oliver Parker (The Important of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, Othello).

It is made in Association with Steve Coogan, Henry Normal and their production company Baby Cow.

The executive producers for the BBC are Mike Dormer (Drama), David Okuefuna (Arts) and Mark Freeland (Entertainment) and for Baby Cow, Steve Coogan and Henry Normal.

Pepys is part of BBC TWO's commitment to the arts and complements two other dramas celebrating the lives of some of Britain's foremost writers: Nick Dear's drama about Byron, starring Jonny Lee Miller in the title role, is to be shown in September and Larkin: Love Again, a film by Richard Cottan about the life of poet Philip Larkin starring Hugh Bonneville was shown in July.

The Private Life of Samuel Pepys will be broadcast at 9.00pm on BBC TWO on Tuesday 16 December 2003.

Notes to Editors

The story of Stephen Hawking's early years told for the first time in a major drama for BBC TWO (04.09.03)

Byron press pack (26.08.03)

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