Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An Evening With TKM

The evening out began with an announcement: “British Transport Police to the Victoria Line platforms. Help a member of staff with a drunken lady!” Ah, the joys of King’s Cross. And only just past five in the afternoon!

Trains rumbled lazily out of Charing Cross as I crossed the Thames. Below me the surface of the water shone blood red, reflecting the lights from the London Eye.

What was billed as An Evening With Troy Kennedy Martin, at the NFT, didn’t start for over two hours by the time I arrived. First there was a screening of The Italian Job. Having not sorted out the tickets myself, I didn’t know if we were on the list for the film. We weren’t, but a seat could easily be arranged.

The people I was meeting hadn’t turned up yet so I declined. Which turned out to be a good thing. Our Pal arrived a little later and we were killing time in the bar, waiting for everyone else to arrive, when TKM appeared with his daughter.

Amongst the books Our Pal has written/co-written, one covers a television show TKM had been heavily involved in. It’s an exceptionally well researched and entertaining read, and one that TKM was especially pleased with. (Anyone who listened to Radio 4’s Front Row last week will know that he’s not as forthcoming with his praise). When an autograph hunter actually appeared with their book for TKM to sign he insisted Our Pal and his writing partner, who had recently arrived, sign it as well.

Charming and avuncular, TKM chatted about his existing work as well as mentioning some of his unrealised projects. One of his favourites was a script about Enzo Ferrari which at one point Michael Mann was attached to direct. Even if it did eventually get made, TKM was resigned to the fact that it would be significantly altered from his original vision.

In fact later in the season of his work at the NFT there was to be a talk about the various as yet unfilmed scripts. Ironically, it had to be cancelled because of a recent project about global warming, in collaboration with James Lovelock, being greenlit. As his friends began to arrive, we left TKM to greet them and meandered away to take our seats in NFT1.

The talk was prefaced by the cliffhanging climax of The Italian Job, which seemed like an odd choice since it was well documented that TKM had originally written a different resolution that had been rejected and had nothing to do with what eventually appeared on screen. That said it was a good starting point. Talk turned to TKM’s almost cavalier attitude to endings, figuring out they would resolve themselves as production continued.

The Italian Job was meant to be a much darker affair, with TKM originally envisioning Nichol Williamson in the role eventually played by Noel Coward. With the interview interspersed with clips, an almost anarchic humour was revealed in even the most serious subject matter, whether it was a clip from Z-Cars, a savage beating – following a pub brawl – in The Sweeney that is cut short when the trio pummeling Sgt Carter recognise him as a fellow policeman, or the ambitious 12-part Reilly, Ace of Spies, based on the life of Sigmund Rosenblum. There was also time for Darius Jedburgh’s famous line from Edge of Darkness:

“Have you been to Dallas, Craven? It’s where we shoot our presidents. The Jews have their Calvary, but we got Dealey Plaza.”

Just marvellous.

On the way home, waiting on the platform at Blackfriars for one of the last trains north, an already overfed pigeon ambled over and stared me down the whole time I sat waiting on the bench, expecting food I didn’t possess.

An Evening With TKM – The Name-Dropping Version

At the NFT bar, as TKM spoke of the Ferrari project, his friends and colleagues began to filter in. Tony Garnett appeared, then Stephen Frears and Hanif Kureishi, followed by GF Newman and Ken Loach. Producer Michael Wearing make a late entrance just before the interview was about to begin and later we discovered Trevor Preston in the audience.

Having met Tony Garnett some years back at the bar outside Channel Four’s screening room on Horseferry Road, I went over and reintroduced myself. That first meeting, prior to the press screening of World Productions' No Angels, we discussed The South Bank Show special about the then-state of British Drama. Garnett had been asked to contribute and turned them down in no uncertain terms. ‘Catching up’, and skirting back around the same subject, I discovered exactly why Garnett had rejected their advances and left with a handshake and a smile.

After the interview was over, outside the theater, we ran into TKM’s daughter who invited us to join them in the NFT’s Green Room for a drink. We milled around, chatting with the BFI staff we knew and TKM. I even managed a brief chat with Michael Wearing before it was time to leave.

The hungry pigeon at Blackfriars still remained unidentified.


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