Sheen adds Clough to his gallery of famous faces

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The Independent Online

For a man who, in life, declared a particular affection for Nottingham's river Trent "because I have walked on it for 18 years", Brian Clough would probably have been delighted at the idea of assuming cultural status in death. But the array of artists flocking to capture the the life of Ol' Big 'Ead - as he was fond of calling himself - has surprised even his most ardent fans.

As The Damned Utd, David Peace's fictional account of Clough's legendary 44 days as manager of Leeds United, emerges as a surprise hit on the Christmas bestseller lists, the writer Peter Morgan, who wrote the screen play for The Queen and Longford, has now revealed that he is turning his attention to Clough.

Details of Morgan's project remain sketchy, but he is known to be at work on the project, a film for television which combines drama sequences with newsreel footage.

The fusion of fact and fiction is familiar to Morgan's fans: Longford, which examined the former Leader of the House of Lords's relationship with the Moors Murderer Myra Hindley, was a typical example, while The Queen included entirely imaginary scenes. And although Clough, who died in September 2004, was remembered for his self-deprecating one-liners ("Walk on water? Most people will be saying that I should have taken more of it with my drinks.") his life story provides plenty of opportunity for serious drama.

Much of his retirement, after 1993, was spent fighting the alcoholism that had plagued him since the 1970s, while in the early 1990s he was also implicated in the transfer "bungs" scandal. But perhaps the most fascinating area is his relationship with Peter Taylor, who was his assistant at Derby County, Brighton and Nottingham Forest. The two fell out in 1982 and the rift had not been repaired by the time Taylor died, in October 1990.

Morgan is unwilling, as yet, to discuss which aspect he might be centring on, although the actor Michael Sheen has recently indicated that he wants the title role in the film.

David Peace has certainly found that Clough provides a rich seam of creative potential. His novel weaves together two narratives, one dealing with Clough's rise and fall at Derby, and the other his ill-starred reign at Elland Road, in a work which captures the man's bravado, ruthlessness and uncertainty in equal measure. No fact and fiction here: the research is meticulous.

In Nottingham, a more prosaic and permanent way of celebrating Clough is under way. Devotees have just completed a major weekend of fundraising aimed at raising £60,000 to get a Clough statue erected in in the city. A number of "Clough Aid" events included a grand auction, a musical event compered by Clough's European Cup-winning Nottingham Forest captain, John McGovern, and corporate training sessions by the actor Colin Tarrant, who has played Clough in a comedy drama at the Nottingham Playhouse.

Clough certainly felt he had the measure of stars such as David Beckham. Asked for his opinion, he once famously said: "His wife can't sing and his barber can't cut hair."

Michael Sheen: His many parts


Sheen took the role of crazed ancient despot Nero in the first series of the BBC's Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, in September this year. His performance charted Nero's descent into madness.


In The Deal, Stephen Frear's Bafta-winning 2003 drama, Sheen took on the role of Blair opposite David Morrissey's Gordon Brown in a compelling account of their relationship in the years leading up to the 1997 general election and succeeded in perfectly capturing Blair's mannerisms.


Sheen played the title role in Fantabulosa! Martyn Hesford's 2006 BBC4 comedy-drama on the tortured personal life of the Carry-On comic. Partly compiled from Williams' diaries, the film charts his attempts to deal with his homosexuality in the 1950s.


Three years after The Deal, Sheen reprised the role of the Prime Minister in Stephen Frear's 2006 film The Queen, garnering accolades for his performance, no mean feat when sharing screen space with the multi-award winning Helen Mirren. Sheen won the LA Film Critics Association Award for best supporting actor.