John Hurt's sneer wins him BBC drama role as Alan Clark

The diaries of the late Alan Clark, which scandalised a generation of politicians, are to be turned into a BBC drama series.

John Hurt is set to take the role of the former Tory minister famous for his withering assessments of colleagues and his shameless philandering.

A BBC spokesman said that Hurt's ability to sneer had helped to land him the role. He said: "He has that tone of voice, almost sub-Paxmanesque, when he speaks to people."

Auditions to portray other senior Conservatives, including Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine, will be held in the next week.

The most ambitious piece of commissioning in BBC4's short lifespan will be aired on the digital channel this winter and repeated on BBC2.

It will feature the second edition of the Clark diaries, In Power, culminating in the downfall of the Thatcher government.

Clark, who died aged 71 in 1999 when he was MP for Kensington and Chelsea, described the former chancellor Kenneth Clarke as "a pudgy puffball" and dismissed Michael Heseltine as the sort of person who has to buy his own furniture.

Of the former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, he sniped that he "might as well have a corncob up his arse".

He also called himself a Nazi and said that the Third Reich was "the ideal system ... it was a disaster for the Anglo-Saxon races and for the world that it was extinguished".

The BBC confirmed that the programme would not shy away from Clark's notoriously wandering eye ­ and hands. One memorable sequence in his diaries described a chance encounter on a train with a "plump young lady" who got into his carriage at Waterloo station and "was not wearing a bra". He wrote: "Bonking on a train? I honestly don't think the public would mind. I don't see how it could."

Another central piece of casting will be Clark's wife, Jane, whose loyalty appeared boundless. When news broke of her husband seducing the wife and two daughters of a South African judge, she said: "If you bed people of below-stairs class, they will go to the papers."

Jon Jones, who worked on the successful ITV comedy Cold Feet, is understood to be writing the script. Andrew Davies, the screenwriter behind BBC adaptations such as Pride and Prejudice, will add finishing touches.