Saturday, 6 November 2010

"Any Human Heart" (2010)

I'm so excited to be able to post a link to Channel 4's new television series, Any Human Heart, an adaptation of the bestselling and award winning novel by William Boyd, which has one of my favourite people, Emerald Fennell, amongst its glitteringly delightful cast. Very exciting. 

Emerald and I first met at Oxford just before Christmas of 2006, when I was directing my second student play and she auditioned, as one of 83 girls competing for the three main roles in my favourite play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. We got to speak properly for the first time at the call-backs, when I accidentally scheduled the next auditionee an hour after Emerald's audition ended. So, we stayed and chatted for a while and I was heartily relieved that, at last, someone told me that my neurotic fear of flying was more than justified. It's not how often it happens, but how bad it will be when it happens. Even worse if the plane nose dives, then rights itself, and you're the person who wet yourself mid-plummet and have to live with that shame for the rest of the flight. True words. Perhaps some of my favourite memories of our time in Oxford include us, bedraggled and exhausted sitting, without shame, with various 18th century costumes and props slung over our arms as we waited for a post-rehearsal supper table to open up at the Chiang Mai restaurant. Good times. Less endearingly, on my part, there was an incident during a rehearsal for Dangerous Liaisons in a music room at Worcester College, when I - very tired and stressed with the dress rehearsal approaching - was interrupted by someone banging away on a defunct drum kit behind me. For some reason, I assumed it was my friend Johnny Rhodes, so I spun round in high fury and snapped, "Johnny, for f***'s sake! What are you doing?" Only to discover that it was Emerald on said drums; at which point, my demeanour changed entirely and I beamed, "Oh, it's you, Emmy. Well done." Johnny meanwhile, from the far corner of the room, glowered with seething fury from behind his 18th century valet's attire.

The novel Any Human Heart - published by Penguin - is written like a diary or a collection of papers and it follows the life of a fictitious author and art expert, Logan Montstuart, through his existence in the English upper-classes for most of the 20th century. Educated at Oxford in the years between the two world wars, Logan marries into the aristocracy - his wife Lottie (played by Emerald) is the daughter of an earl. However, life is not exactly plain sailing and the story of Any Human Heart chronicles Logan's misadventures across the British Empire as it enters its twilight, his interaction with the ex-King, Edward VIII and his social-climbing American wife, Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor (played by X Files and Bleak House alum, Gillian Anderson), and his life in America and France in the later half of the 20th century. 

It's a fantastic book with a wonderful cast for the adaptation, which was written by William Boyd. It will be broadcast later this year by Channel 4, in four 2-hour segments. So do look out for it! Amongst the cast are Oscar winner Jim Broadbent as the elderly Logan, with Pirates of the Caribbean 4's Sam Claflin and Pride and Prejudice's Matthew Macfadyen playing the younger versions; joining them, apart from Emerald, are Brideshead Revisited's Hayley Atwell, Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall, Tom Hollander as Edward VIII, Gillian Anderson and The West Wing's Richard Schiff. 

I'm obviously hugely excited about this, especially since it seems absolutely no time at all since I was directing Emerald in a student production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Dangerous Liaisons. And giving her the first three chapters of Popular which I had written, to see if she thought they were any good. I'm obviously incredibly grateful for the feedback I received right after she had finished reading them. Johnny, on the other hand, failed to read them at all and got away with saying, "Yeah, yeah, I loved the party in Chapter ...." And inserted any number he could think of. A clever strategy which worked until he accidentally hit upon the one chapter in the book sans party.

It's incredibly exciting that Any Human Heart is finished and I can't wait to see it.

The trailer for Any Human Heart can be watched here.


  1. enticicng trailer, but I hope the woman with the Duchess of Windsor hair-do (saying 'jaundiced'?) wasn't supposed to be Wallis. The actress is much too pretty.

  2. Wallis looked more like Flora Robson.

  3. Tubbs, that is indeed the on-screen Wallis and she is saying "Judas" to Logan. But, appearance aside, Gillian Anderson's performance as Mrs. Simpson has earned her rave reviews, apparently. I'm very excited to see it and Tom Hollander is likewise supposed to be excellent as the on-screen Edward VIII.

  4. Apparently this is going to be airing in the US on PBS starting Sunday. I'll look forward to it!


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