Hawking rejected BBC drama script as 'soap opera'

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Stephen Hawking the world-renowned cosmologist, rejected the script of a BBC drama about his university years because it portrayed his life as "a soap opera", it was revealed yesterday.

The BBC film focuses on his time as a PhD student at Cambridge University, during which he was diagnosed with the debilitating motor neurone disease.

In an interview Professor Hawking, Britain's greatest living scientist, said he had complained to the BBC about the way he had been depicted.

"I was very disappointed when I received the first draft of the script. It was a soap opera with little relation to the scientific issues or what actually happened," he said.

The BBC agreed to do a re-write and Professor Hawking, 61, said the revised version was "close in spirit" to the real story. Yesterday the corporation denied that the rewriteamounted to "hagiography".

Laura Mackie, the BBC's head of drama serials, said: "[Professor Hawking] saw an early draft and there were some things he wasn't keen on." She said: "In the first draft we had him talking about his illness. He said, 'Well I never spoke about it', so we took that out."

Stephen Hawking is best known for his "Big Bang" theory, which helped the world to understand black holes. The film was one of the highlights of the BBC2 winter schedule announced by the station controller Jane Root. Other delights include MPs queuing up to follow Michael Portillo's lead and be filmed trying to cope with life in demanding circumstances. Mr Portillo enjoyed a public relations triumph when he moved to Wirral for a week to take on the role of a single parent of four children.

The Tory MP Alan Duncanwill become a youth worker, Labour MP Peter Kilfoylewill be running a shoot in Scotland while his colleague Clare Short will teach geography in a south London school

On a Christmas celebrity Mastermind, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, also turns his back on politics and chooses Harry Potter as his specialist subject. Mr Blunkett said: "If I did politics and made a complete backside of it my career would be over."

BBC insiders said that the Home Secretary has an encyclopaedic comprehension of JK Rowling's hero but makes something of a backside of the general knowledge questions.