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

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."

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living