It is not the usual stuff of celluloid blockbusters – a quirky "dramedy" about two twenty-somethings in the 1970s who work as building society clerks in the dull suburban surrounds of Reading. Then again, nobody thought that about a comedy set in an office in Slough either.
But now Ricky Gervais has just finished writing the script for The Men at the Pru – a major feature film he describes as a cross between The Office and Mad Men.
The story is a "coming-of-age" tale about two friends who work for the Prudential, then a building society, amid the concrete "glamour" of the town where Gervais grew up. The idea first started as a television series, but has now morphed into a feature film which is due to begin filming next year. Gervais and his creative partner, Stephen Merchant, visited the Pru's London headquarters in February. They tried to reassure the financial services company that it would provide a backdrop for the drama and not become subject to the same lampooning of white-collar workers as shown in The Office. Jon Bunn, the PR director at the Prudential who met the comedians during their research, said: "They came in to look through our old archived stuff and Merchant then came in separately and went though the archives in more detail. They wanted to find out what the Prudential was like in years gone by.
"They looked at recruitment material, advertising, staff magazines and various other literature. There was also a recruitment advertisement that was shown in the local cinema in Reading which featured actual members of staff. It was an induction video for the Prudential, about it being a good place to work, which they said in a 1970s kind of way," he said.
Gervais is not speaking about the film, but wrote on his blog: "Did a bit of scouting for The Men at the Pru. Filming won't start 'til next May or June but locations can really inspire. I've also been reading books about my home town of Reading. That's where the HQ of the Prudential Building Society was in the '70s." Gervais has said it would be set "in the 1970s in a seaside town the sexual revolution never hit ... I'd be a 45-year-old in 1970, so I'd be one of those people who thought the permissive society was disgusting. That's why we're losing our empire."
The wisdom of Ricky
* Pol Pot – he rounded up anybody he thought was intellectual and had them executed. And how he decided if someone was intellectual or not was whether they wore glasses. If they're that clever, take them off when they see him coming!
* Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
* Avoid employing unlucky people – throw half of the CVs in the bin without reading them.
* If you treat people with love and respect, they will never guess you're trying to get them sacked.
* If work was so good, the rich would have kept more of it for themselves.
* If at first you don't succeed, remove all evidence you ever tried.