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Pandora: Any old Irons won't do for 'Brideshead'

Jeremy Irons claims to have been offered a part in a new big-screen version of Brideshead Revisited, but the film's director says he didn't want him.

Just before shooting of Evelyn Waugh's classic novel began last year, Irons (who found fame as Charles Ryder in the TV Brideshead in 1981) told Pandora that he had been approached to play Lord Marchmain, the role that on the small screen went to Laurence Olivier. "I couldn't possibly put my feet into his footsteps," Irons said.

It turns out that it's a good job Irons resisted the offer. The film's director, Julian Jarrold, was not keen on having Irons in the cast, and says the decision to offer him a role was made over his head by the movie's producers. "To be honest I'm glad he wasn't involved," Jarrold told me at the film's premiere on Monday night. "We really tried to separate ourselves from the TV series. We want to be seen as something entirely different – not just a sequel to the TV show.

"We are an adaptation in our own right. The producers approached him but for one reason or another it didn't happen. I don't know the whole story though."

Asked whether he had seen the TV series featuring Irons, Jarrold added: "No I haven't. I deliberately avoided it before filming. Maybe I should sit down and watch it all one go now. Maybe tomorrow."

Ben won't see David's Hamlet

The actor Ben Whishaw continues to be haunted by Hamlet, the part which made him famous when he appeared at the Old Vic in 2004.

Whishaw, left, won rave reviews in Trevor Nunn's production, after being awarded the part aged just 24. But he won't be going to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's equally well-received production starring David Tennant, because he'd find the experience too uncomfortable.

"It's really difficult to watch someone playing a role that you've played," he tells me. "It's not that I don't think he'll be absolutely brilliant, it's just that I'd find it really disconcerting. You hear your voice saying their lines in your head and it's just really weird. I put so much into that role it was really intense, I don't know, I just got really involved in it. I invested a lot in it."

Stephanie misses the big story

As share prices continue to plummet, the BBC's excitable business editor Robert Peston's stock continues to rise and rise. But what of his fragrant colleague Stephanie Flanders?

Just months after bagging the vacant Economics Editor's job on Newsnight, Flanders, right, disappeared on maternity leave, thus missing what is undoubtedly the economics story of the past century. Yesterday, the BBC announced that she would now not be returning to her role until at least January.

"Unfortunately it won't be until early next year," said a spokesman. "I was thinking about that this morning. She certainly is missing a lot isn't she?"

In the meantime, economics reporting duties are falling to the supremely accomplished Hugh Pym, though I'm assured that he will be more than happy to step aside upon Flanders' return.

Dragon's dens of inequality?

Dragons' Den panellist James Caan last night launched his autobiography entitled The Real Deal. Rather grandly, he felt this momentous occasion required not one but two launch parties. The first, earmarked for family and close friends, was held in Brick Lane. Later on, Caan hotfooted it across London to a second bash in Mayfair, which I'm told was intended for some of his celebrity chums.

Tories spare the big tipples

With David Cameron insisting that Tories must not to be seen swigging champagne as the world economy crumbles, the party treasurer Michael Spencer's drinks reception at conference on Monday was relatively austere. It was a change from past affairs, when his wealthy chums competed to see who could turn up with the costliest bottle of hooch.

D ave's 'Independent' – are you?

*David Cameron prepares for interviews in Birmingham by swotting up on his new all-colour Independent. In the spirit of shameless self-promotion, I'll give a bottle of champagne to the reader who can come up with the wittiest caption to accompany it.