How we met: Bill Kenwright & GF Newman
'I think football is one of the greatest forms of theatre – but just you try to explain that to him…'
Bill Kenwright, 68
A leading West End theatre producer, with hits including 'Blood Brothers', 'Cabaret' and 'A Few Good Men', Kenwright (left in picture) has also been chairman of Everton FC since 2004. He lives in London with the actress and political activist Jenny Seagrove
GF Newman was an idol of mine. I'm a huge fan of great writing on TV and in the 1970s there were two writers I worshipped – Alan Bleasdale and GF Newman – and both became close friends. The [1977 BBC] TV series Law and Order was the first thing of Gordon's I saw and it was groundbreaking, each episode a specific case looked at from everyone's point of view – the prisoner, the lawyer, the prison service; it was TV vérité.
The first time I met him was in Jenny's dressing-room, during her role in Brief Encounter at the Lyric Theatre in 2000. He came to see her as he wanted her to be in Judge John Deed. Jenny didn't know who he was but I was like, oh my god, it's the great GF Newman. He was extraordinarily unassuming for so prolific a writer.
Jenny accepted the role [as barrister Jo Mills], and though the show took on real challenges about justice, it was still populist – it was getting up to nine million viewers.
So it was through Jenny that we became friends. Whenever we go out to eat now, Gordon humbly sits in front of me like I'm Charlie Big Bollocks. But I'm like, hold on, you're the man; I'm not the man. While we eat, he'll look at me and shake his head at what I'm having [Newman is a vegan]. And every time after we leave, he writes me a message which says: "Take a holiday and stop eating meat."
I love how, like me, Gordon isn't motivated by money. There was a book I wanted to get the rights for a few years ago, which he was associated with and he said, "Don't pay me any money for that; [adaptations] are notoriously risky. If you get anywhere with it, then I can do a deal." A lot of people look for how they can benefit personally when you ask them to make things happen, but not Gordon.
He's got a wonderfully childlike quality and he gets excited about projects that we've started working on. Right now we're working on a TV series about a cop who goes up north to help against some drug barons.
I'm a lot more outgoing than Gordon, but actually I'm really shy. For instance, I've been a director at Everton for 25 years, but I've only been into the players' dressing-room twice, as I feel like a spare part when I do.
When I talk football, Gordon looks at me and shakes his head bewildered. He'll say, "Surely you can't have problems, you're fourth in the league." And I say, "Well, I want to be top." Not only does he not understand the game, he doesn't get the hold it can have on you. I think football is one of the greatest forms of theatre – but just you try to explain that to Gordon…
GF Newman, 67
The screenwriter and novelist who first came to public attention with crime series 'Law and Order' is the author of 16 novels and several stage plays. He lives in London with his partner
I wanted to cast Jenny Seagrove alongside Martin Shaw in Judge John Deed, in 2000, so I went to see a play at the Garrick that Jenny was in, and when I met her afterwards, this man Bill was there.
I actually didn't know of him before then. I didn't even know that he was the producer of her play. But we exchanged a few views about drama and he said how much he admired me from back in the Law and Order days. And that was the start of our friendship.
I went to a few first nights of Jenny's after that and Bill and I subsequently had lunch, which initially consisted of me persuading him to become a vegetarian; it's like pushing a boulder uphill, though, because he pays no attention to his diet.But when I ask him about it, he knows he ought to go that way; Jenny is already a strict vegetarian.
Over the years we started talking about potential TV projects, too. I had written a script about heart transplants and he was full of enthusiasm about it. What impressed me most was when he said, "I don't bother with contracts; we'll just do it." That's Bill; his word has always proven solid and it's what endears me to him.
That, and how Bill is always supporting his friends. I had a potentially large court case to pursue, with potentially millions of pounds involved. And he was the first to say, "I'll support you; let's sue them." It could have cost him an awful lot of money and it made me feel very warm towards him; you're lucky if have one or two friends you can trust, and Bill is one of them.
He's not a minutiae kind of guy – but he's great at working from the gut, so we work well together. I think the most infuriating thing about him, though, is how he always has lots of balls in the air, so I feel that I'm fighting for attention. But I take the view that it's better to work with a busy man than an idle one.
I've only been to one football match with him; with my grandson when Everton played Arsenal at their old stadium. We were in the directors' box and we met the great and the good, such as Sven-Göran Eriksson. Bill adores Everton and he's very much a fan. Win or lose, he travels up on the train and talks to the supporters; he won't be aloof in the directors' box.
Would he do what Sir Alex Ferguson did and write about his experiences? Never: he's far too discreet for that.
GF Newman's new novel, 'Dark Heart', is available now on Kindle, priced £2.99. He'll be appearing at the Hay Winter Weekend on 1 December (hayfestival.com)
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