Heads Up: Page Eight

Good Hare day: Sir David sets his spies on the small screen
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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

A new spy drama from the BBC.

Elevator Pitch

Hare snares starry cast in return to the small screen.

Prime Movers

Sir David Hare, taking a break from writing for the stage, directs his own screenplay.

The Stars

The project has drawn A-list acting talent: Bill Nighy plays the main protagonist, silver-tongued spook Johnny Worricker. His boss is Sir Michael Gambon, the love interest is Rachel Weisz, while the role of the fictional prime minister is taken by Ralph Fiennes. The supporting cast isn't bad either: it includes Felicity Jones (currently starring in Luise Miller at the Donmar), Judy David (A Passage to India), Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting) and Tom Hughes (Silk).

The Early Buzz

The drama premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival this month; the Evening Standard was impressed: "Page Eight is a lean political thriller that is as enthralling as it is intelligent ... [it] takes all the best bits from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, cuts away the slow bits and comes up with the best cinematic exposé of how the British establishment operates since Harold Pinter collaborated with Joseph Losey on The Servant. Hare's dialogue is easily a match for Pinter's. Funnier, too." The Americans were less enamoured, however, with Variety reporting that "the action unfolds within an endearingly British prism: the grizzled protag is in danger of losing his pension, rather than his life".

Insider Knowledge

Hare claims to have just that; he told the BBC website that he had "talked to people in MI5" when researching Page Eight, adding that "people will always talk to playwrights much more freely than they talk to journalists because not only is it off the record, but it's also non-attributable. They know that whatever they tell me is going to be buried deep within the drama."

It's great that...

Hare has returned to the screen – his last stab at screen directing was back in 1997, and Page Eight is his first original screenplay in over 20 years.

It's a shame that...

There have already been some grumblings about the age gap – also of over 20 years – between Nighy and Weisz.

Hit Potential

Early reviews from the cinema premiere have blown hot and cold, but it's generally agreed it will work well on the small screen, while blockbuster-worthy talent should draw an audience.

The Details

Page Eight will air on BBC2 next month.