One day my parents said they were taking me to Uncle Dan's

A new BBC drama about a boy put into a mental hospital by his parents stars Mike McShane. And why not? He was that boy, after all. By Elizabeth Udall

Chris Bould's film The Nicholas Brothers had just won three awards as well as a Bafta nomination for Best Arts Documentary, when he was called in to see Peter Cregeen, then head of serials and series at the BBC. Bould was still on a high as he pulled his latest idea for a horror anthology from his briefcase. "Peter just looked at me," Bould recalls. "He said, `We don't like anthologies'. "

Desperate, Bould produced a screwed-up piece of A4 out of his back pocket. On it were scribbled two sentences: "One sunny day in 1972, my parents packed me into the car and told me they were taking me to Uncle Dan's. Then, at the crossroads, they turned left instead of right and they took me to a loony bin." Within seven days a script had been commissioned.

The film, Crazy for a Kiss, was made under the BBC's Screen Two banner with a shooting schedule (21 days) and a budget (£900,000) to suit its status. Yet it has now been transferred to 35mm film and is being considered as an entry at next month's Cannes film festival.

The star of the film is the American actor and comedian Mike McShane. He was the obvious choice: those scribbled sentences had, after all, been his. And they weren't simply a fragment of an idea, they were a snapshot from his life.

"The basic plot, someone being unceremoniously dropped off at a mental hospital when he thinks he is going somewhere else, is absolutely true," says McShane. His adoptive parents left their 14-year-old son in a Midwest psychiatric clinic for six months. "They were older than most of my friends' parents. They had just been settling down into their golden years when - whoa! - there I was.

"I was expelled from school, I had difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality and I was happy one day and depressed the next. We'd been for family counselling but it was always, `We're OK, it's him, there's something wrong with him'. They left it to the doctors to figure out." The figuring out process included electric shock treatment and periods in "iso" - a solitary confinement cell whose walls were gnarled from the desperate clawing of other inmates. "The experience had a profound effect on the rest of my life."

It was while McShane was in New York with Chris Bould filming Broadway Stories for Channel 4, that Bould suggested he return to the hospital to "exorcise some ghosts". From their conversation on McShane's return was born the idea for Crazy for a Kiss.

"I did say at an initial meeting that I would play the young Mike, kind of like an Alan Bennett piece," McShane recalls. "I had to tell them I was joking. Midwesterners have irony plenty..." The American actor Shaun Weiss was cast as the young Mike, while McShane opted to play Harley - a hospital orderly who cared for him.

Clive Brill, the film's producer, asked the writer Greg Snow to adapt McShane's notes. Snow had also been in a "loony bin" in his early twenties. "I thought Greg and Mike would hit it off," Brill explains. He was wrong.

"He's from that whole Cambridge scene, a friend of Stephen Fry," McShane says. "It's all, `Hello darling, hello love, have another port.' I'm like, `Here's a beer, here's the football, welcome to the Midwest'." Greg used to write things that an American wouldn't say. He told me no one would notice. I told him I'd notice. It was about my life. I admit I was very emotional, but after a week I wanted to kill him."

Snow defends the language charge. "Every American who read it thought an American had written it," he says. "I was given only one correction, ever." At one point, McShane was so unhappy with Snow's script that he produced one of his own. "It was full of pain," Snow says. "It wasn't a piece of entertainment.

"Of course I have tremendous sympathy for what he went through, and it was very generous of him to ever let the film go ahead. But Mike didn't want to upset his parents by trivialising or mocking the episode... they'd have had heart attacks if they'd seen his version. He's obviously still scared of them, even though they're 80 years old now."

Mike's insists that his parents are "cautious and optimistic", that they want him to be "creative" and that he worked on the film "with their blessing".

Just as McShane and Snow disagreed over the film's tone, so did the producer and director. The BBC, criticised for the dour content of the majority of its Screen Two films, wanted Crazy to be a comedy. "Clive said it was a comedy, I felt it was a drama with funny moments," Bould explains. "I agreed with Mike that there should be dark things in there.

"Mike could never divorce himself from the absolute truth," Brill adds. "He'd say Greg's script wasn't heavy enough, but our intention was not to make a depressing film. The idea was that at the end the audience would go away feeling there was hope for Mike, that his life would improve."

The BBC is now billing Crazy for a Kiss as a "riotous comedy ... One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest meets Animal House". They are also using it to open "States of Mind", a season of programmes about mental health. So did everyone get their way in the end?

"I spent two years talking about what happened to me for this film, looking at it from different angles," McShane says, "but I still feel angry." Nevertheless, he admits that by the time filming started he was happier with the script: "It's like when you pack things for a holiday that you are convinced you'll need, but when you get there they never come out of the case."

Snow is in a buoyant mood, and very pleased with the idea of a couple of weeks in the South of France. This is, after all, his first screenplay. "Cannes only take about 15 films for Director's Fortnight, so it's a real honour to even be considered... My poodle is being trimmed and I'm dusting off my heart-shaped sunglasses as we speak."

n `Crazy for a Kiss' : BBC2, Sunday 23 April, 10pm

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Arts and Entertainment
Sassoon threw his Military Cross into the Mersey
booksAn early draft of ‘Atrocities’ shows the anti-war sentiment was toned down before publication
Arts and Entertainment
Actors and technicians on the march against changes made by Hollande
theatreOpening performances of the Avignon theatre festival cancelled as actors and technicians walk out
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West performed in a chain mail mask at Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park
Rapper booed at Wireless over bizarre rant
Arts and Entertainment

They're back, they're big – and they're still spectacularly boring

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil