I’ve kept clear of watching ‘Byronesque’ movies since my run in with the cringeworthy Hugh Grant version some years back. I am sick of the ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know’ image (thanks Caroline Lamb for that addition to legend) that fails to take into account all the good, interesting and otherwise noteworthy aspects of Byron’s life that made him into one of the most talented writers we’ve ever known.
Until my script was almost complete I was afraid of seeing anything that was better, or that might influence what I was trying to achieve. Plagerism is a real fear. And I knew what I wanted to project with my retelling.
But now that my pre 1824 key characters are cast in stone and much of the action is immoveable and I’ve decided on what I consider to be the important bits to the chronology from my hero’s perspective, at least I cannot claim to have quoted from anyone except the original sources.
In response, I have just recently watched the Jonny Lee Miller 2003 version. Honestly? I’m glad I waited. I loved it far more than I expected to and possibly far more than I should (why should I be ashamed of that?). It’s now my ‘go to’ watch again and again and it sits up there with James Nesbitt in Jekyll as one of my most rateable performances on tv ever (in my earnestly humble opinion). I’m glad I made the right call. It would have made too much of an impression on me in the early days. So I was right to hold off.
I’ve always enjoyed Miller’s onscreen romps, hence I gave it a try in the first place. I enjoy his acting style and he is my ‘type’. This of course always helps. And he really is the perfect Lord Byron bar a couple of tiny details. At least, he is the best that’s out there at the moment.
The truth is, there is no perfect Lord Byron. How do you recreate the man entirely? You can’t. But here I think despite all the faults and issues they’ve alluded to in this two-parter (accurately in my opinion) he is still a likeable character. You get to understand a little bit about why he became who he was. He, like all of us, was a product of his upbringing and his formative years. And they are all very 20th century issues.
I was concerned when I first started to watch it, that Nick Dear’s version was too like mine despite part one covering entirely years I do not, and part two barely covering the bits that I go into in great detail. So although we have similarities there is a good deal in it which is very different. And I suppose if you are trying to be accurate, then of course there are going to be similaries because the facts are there and you cannot change them if you want to be truthful.
Essentially Byron is NOT the hero in my screenplay, nor is he the main subject although at times, writing it, it has felt like that. Thankfully ‘Tita’ here has no speaking role and is less refined than the vision I have. It was however, quite odd seeing him in a film as a character and looking largely like he should. I felt strangely territorial about it. And I was glad he was not better than mine.
I am also more than relieved that this one had to be cut into two parts over an hour long. Still, mine is currenly 146 pages long and not quite finished. It’s now a four parter and I suspect there will be tears before bedtime when I am having to hack mercilessly at content I deem essential. If it ever gets to development stage…
You can read my book ‘A Most Faithful Attendant – The Life of Giovanni Battista Falcieri‘ by purchasing it here.