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Tom Kinninmont has a list of writing credits for TV and film as long as your arm. And he’s produced at least as many stage plays as movies, as well as occupying the director’s chair as well. Most recently, he co-wrote the screenplay for THE CARER (released in cinemas on Friday, 5 August, certificate 15), a project that was tinged with some personal sadness.
Long term friend and collaborator, Gilbert Adair, had been hired by the film’s Hungarian director, Janos Edeleny, to work alongside him on the screenplay. “He got Gilbert to do the first draft of the script, but unfortunately Gilbert had a stroke and was quite incapacitated. He then had a second stroke and died. At that point, Janos tried to complete the script himself but, although he’s an extraordinary speaker of English, he’s not a native speaker, so he felt he wasn’t quite able to write the script he wanted. He decided he needed another writer to finish the script and, realising that I’d worked with Gilbert quite extensively, he contacted me and we had a very long Skype call. He kept quoting Shakespeare at me and, fortunately, I’d done two degrees in English literature and know my Shakespeare quite well, so I think he felt he’d found a kindred spirit.”
That mutual love of Shakespeare found its way into the film, which sees retired actor Sir Michael (Brian Cox) surrounded by three women – his daughter (Emilia Fox), his housekeeper and former lover (Anna Chancellor) and his young carer (Coco Konig) – and frequently reminiscing about his most famous role, that of King Lear. It’s a theme that runs throughout the film, although it developed while the script was being written. “In the original version of the script, the young Hungarian carer, Dorottya, was much older and because of that her personality was very different. But the Lear theme was always there.
“Actors who are deeply involved in a play find that they end up quoting lines from it years later and I think that’s where part of the Lear theme came from, that this actor has been performing Shakespeare all his life and tends to fall back on it. And the idea of Lear is made explicit in that final speech, when he realises he’s misjudged his daughter.”
The film culminates with Sir Michael receiving a lifetime achievement award and giving a speech. And Kinninmont was given some additional, and rather unexpected help, in writing it. From Brian Cox himself. “He and a writer friend of his did a version of the speech, which was about three pages long, and clearly he didn’t expect us to use of all of it. But some of it found its way into the final version because it toughened up what I’d written: there’s an element of attacking the audience in the speech and that came across. It’s a better speech because of Brian’s contribution.”
There are also lines in the film that were inspired by some of the actors Kinninmont has worked with over the years – and the occasional direct quote, including one from no less than Stewart Granger. All of which makes THE CARER an actor’s film in its widest sense, and one that will appeal to anybody with a love of the theatre or acting – or both.
THE CARER is released in cinemas on Friday, 5 August. Read the Britflicks review here.
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