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29 October 2014
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He Knew He Was Right

He Knew He Was Right -

a new Andrew Davies adaptation of an Anthony Trollope novel for BBC ONE


Following the award-winning success of his adaptation of Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, Andrew Davies brings a surprisingly new perspective in his reworking of Trollope's searing novel, He Knew He Was Right.

"This is an unusual Trollope," says Davies. "A dark and edgy central story about a young glamorous couple whose marriage goes disastrously wrong because of the husband's insecurity and jealousy.

"It feels startlingly modern - it's Trollope's take on the Othello story, and the subject of sexual jealousy is a timeless and universal one. Almost all of us have had experience of it by the time we've grown up."

Jane Tranter, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, says "Andrew Davies brings to He Knew He Was Right the same modern resonance which he brought to the world of business and finance in The Way We Live Now.

"Oliver Dimsdale and Laura Fraser are perfectly cast as this beautiful, madly in love young couple who, through a kernel of mistrust and lack of communication, head inexorably for disaster."

A fresh young cast of talented actors brings the tale to life:

Oliver Dimsdale, recently seen as the poet Shelley in Byron, is Louis Trevelyan, a young man who refuses to believe his wife is not having an affair;

Laura Fraser, star of the forthcoming movie 16 Years of Alcohol, is his spirited independent wife Emily, the epitome of a very modern heroine;

Christina Cole plays her sister Nora, who has to choose between marrying for money or marrying for love and

Stephen Campbell Moore, one of the stars of Stephen Fry's Bright Young Things and Byron, is Hugh Stanbury, one of the suitors competing against the odds for Nora's hand in marriage.

Alongside the dark and thrilling central story, the drama also has great wit and warmth, provided by a cast of strongly-drawn characters whose stories reflect the central theme of human relationships.

The proud and ridiculous Reverend Gibson (David Tennant) struggles to choose between sisters Arabella and Camilla French (Fenella Woolgar, Claudie Blakley), who are both desperate to marry him; the fiercely comic Aunt Stanbury (Anna Massey) is never happier than when meddling in the affairs of others; and the incomparable Bozzle (Ron Cook) is one of fiction's first and most memorably seedy private eyes.

Bill Nighy, fresh from his success in State of Play and Love Actually, is the devilish Colonel Osborne, a man whose reputation leaves no lady safe; Patsy Palmer makes a rare foray into period drama as Bozzle's wife; and a strong supporting cast includes Geoffrey Palmer, Geraldine James, John Alderton, Joanna David and James Bolam.

Davies says: "He Knew He Was Right is about a strong woman who is seeking to make her own decisions and lead her own life, and a rather fragile man who can't stand up to her.

"That strikes all sorts of chords today. I detect a crisis of confidence in men as women are succeeding at everything.

"This novel has a lot of confident women discovering themselves and making their own choices.

"Most 19th century novels tend not to deal with marriage at all," Davies continues. "It's got lots of modern parallels, such as a husband abducting his son and taking him abroad.

"The audience will recognise all sorts of ways the conflict develops as the behaviour of the couple is the sort we see today in divorce courts and read about in tabloid newspapers.

"This novel also has some of the richest comic characters and one of the funniest sub-plots that I've ever come across.

"The story of Mr Gibson, the unreliable young vicar who flirts with the two silly French sisters without any apparent intention of becoming betrothed to either of them, is inspired. His comeuppance is brilliantly funny."

Although Davies was a lecturer in English literature before he became a full time writer in the 1970s, by his own admission he came late to the works of Anthony Trollope.

"Through the 70s and 80s I'd greatly enjoyed watching The Pallisers and The Barchester Chronicles on television without particularly wanting to read the books.

"I got into Trollope through his more unusual novels - The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right are not typical of his work, but I'm becoming a straightforward fan and I'm really looking forward to gradually reading his entire output."

Which means Davies will make his way through Trollope's 47 books.

"Trollope seems to have preferred women who were gentle, like his docile dutiful wife. However, in his middle years he travelled a lot and fell in love with a very vivacious, emancipated young American girl called Kate Field. He lost his heart to her, although they only had a sentimental, platonic friendship.

"He found American women fascinating but scary. He was used to women who kept what he considered to be their place. These fiery women with strong opinions who'd argue like a man were very attractive to him, if also a little bit daunting.

"The problem for Louis is that Emily's independence damages his virility. It unmans him: he can't get it up any more because he's scared of his wife. It would be more appropriate for Louis to be called the name of Nora's first suitor, Mr Glascock, because his sense of his own manhood is so fragile!"

Andrew Davies teamed up again with producer Nigel Stafford-Clark, a successful partnership that followed their collaboration on the Bafta-award winning The Way We Live Now.

Stafford-Clark says: "Trollope moves the story with extraordinary speed for the 19th century novel, and switches the point of view between the two protagonists.

"Since it's a tiny misunderstanding that causes the marriage to founder, it's obviously important to see how both sides think - the title is clearly ironic."

The four-part serial features 25 main characters and six storylines, so casting was a mammoth task for Stafford-Clark and director, Tom Vaughan.

"At the core of the story is a group of very young people and what happens to them is partly a result of their youth and inexperience of life," says Stafford-Clark.

"We were looking for something specific in the actors who play Louis and Emily. Louis has a fragile quality combined with a steely determination.

"Emily is spirited, but when she's under attack she mustn't sound whining or resentful. She's as determined as her husband and does not give in as she has not betrayed him.

"The tragedy is that Louis becomes terrified of the woman she is and destroys the very thing he fell in love with."

Stafford-Clark knew he'd found the right Louis as soon as Oliver Dimsdale walked through the door, but the search for Emily proved much harder than first thought, as the director Michael Mann had expressed interest in his first choice, Laura Fraser, for a film with Tom Cruise.

"Luckily for us, they kept her on hold for so long that she decided to take the role of Emily."

The 12-week shoot took place during one of the hottest summers on record. Magnificent country houses such as West Wycombe Park, Waddesdon Manor and Disraeli's house, Hughenden Manor, were used, as well as locations in the West Country.

"The coup for us was finding Wells and its cathedral green which hasn't been used for filming before. The Mayor gave a reception for the whole cast and crew when we arrived, and the Bishop invited us to tea." says Stafford-Clark.

"At West Wycombe Park, on the hottest day of the year, we had lots of extras in heavy petticoats, corsets and Victorian dresses.

"Outside the costume and make-up marquees there was a line of pretty young girls sitting with their skirts hitched up to their waists, all on their mobile phones to their boyfriends saying, 'You will not believe what I'm wearing!' It was the most bizarre sight."

He Knew He Was Right is a BBC Wales/WGH Boston co-production in association with Deep Indigo and is directed by Tom Vaughan, whose credits include Cold Feet, I Saw You and Final Demand.

Executive Producers for the BBC are Sally Haynes, Bill Boyes and Laura Mackie and Executive Producer for WGBH is Rebecca Eaton.

The four-part series is complemented by the drama documentary The Two Loves of Anthony Trollope, narrated by Stephen Fry.

It gives a rare glimpse into the inner world of Anthony Trollope, one of Britain's most prolific and enduring writers.

There were two women at the heart of Trollope's life - Rose, his devoted wife, and Kate Field, a young American feminist with whom Trollope had a long friendship and infatuation.

Through this friendship Trollope's female characters began to change quite dramatically from the 1860s onwards, culminating in Kate's personification in He Knew He Was Right, as the attractive and independent young American Caroline Spalding.

The Two Loves of Anthony Trollope is produced by Richard Downes.


He Knew He Was Right begins on BBC ONE on Sunday 18 April at 9.00pm, with part two following at 10.00pm on BBC FOUR.

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