Is that me? Portraying the famous on screen

As a film about football manager Brian Clough hits the big screen, Victoria Richards asks other figures in the public eye how they view their alter egos
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The Independent Culture

When The Damned United opens this week, Michael Sheen will again showcase his ability to capture the essence of the person he is portraying. Already acclaimed for his takes on the former PM Tony Blair and the broadcaster David Frost, his take on Brian Clough, one of the most celebrated and controversial figures in footballing history, is considered by many to be his strongest yet.

He captures the beleaguered Leeds United manager's fall from grace as Clough, later lauded for his European Cup wins with provincial team Nottingham Forest, was ousted from his position after only 44 days.

But while the actors may win awards and critical acclaim for their performances, for the people they portray, seeing themselves captured, distilled and delivered up on the film screen or theatre stage is often an uncomfortable or disturbing experience.

For some, like Peter Hook, the New Order bassist, seeing himself on screen captures a time he will always remember. For the parents of some of those who died in mysterious circumstances at the Deepcut barracks, it is a reminder of a time they yearn to forget.

The Independent on Sunday asked six people who have been through the experience how it feels to see someone else deliver their hopes and fears for public consumption.

Des and Doreen James

Played by Ciaran McIntyre and Rhian Morgan in Deep Cut.

Parents of Private Cheryl James, 18, who died of a gunshot wound to the head at Deepcut barracks in Surrey in November 1995.

"The first time we saw it we were going to walk out... Choosing to do this play was our last resort, a way of keeping people interested, for the sake of the families. I'm just angry that to do that, we had to sacrifice our privacy."

Robert Lawrence

Played by Colin Firth in Tumbledown.

He lost 43 per cent of his brain from a gunshot wound during the Falklands War.

"It's odd when people say, 'Colin had you down perfectly.'... I have one gripe: in all his films he never gets the girl!"

Toby Young

Played by Simon Pegg in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People – his book on his failure to make it in the US.

"I had been a fan of Simon Pegg since seeing Shaun of the Dead... They were nervous as they thought I might step in to try and make the character more 'likeable'. I didn't, as it wouldn't have worked."

Brian Haw

Played by Graham Turner in The Trial of Tony Blair.

He has lived in a protest camp in Parliament Square, London, since 2001.

"At first they asked me if I would play myself."

Peter Hook

Played by Joe Anderson in Control.

He is Joy Division's co-founder and New Order bassist.

"The life that I've led has been quite surreal, and seeing yourself on screen fits in quite well with that. I could see myself in Joe Anderson. He looked like me and acted like me."

Ivan Cooper

Played by James Nesbitt in Bloody Sunday.

SDLP MP caught up in the 1972 march that led to the shooting of 13 civil rights protesters.

"I said at first, 'Why can't I play myself?' But then he's a glamorous chap."