A film you won't be able to opt out of

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The Independent Online
WHEN I was up in Edinburgh last week for a small job connected with the summit - well, if you really must know, I was using my startling resemblance to the Dutch premier to act as his double. I was employed to go out and about in the streets to act as a decoy for any assassination attempts or even autograph requests, though I have to say that during the entire time I was there not one person recognised me (except for someone I had been at school with years ago, which was slightly embarrassing), so I can only report that yet more EC money has been poured down the drain.

Still, when you are a Dutch premier lookalike, you get into some interesting meetings, and I did pick up one or two juicy minor bits of gossip. The first was that when Edinburgh was picked for the summit nearly a year ago, nobody down in London realised that there was nowhere in Edinburgh that you could properly call a conference centre. So they had to ask the Queen very nicely if she wouldn't mind not going to Holyrood for a while, so that all the premiers of Europe could walk up and down her corridors and plot against each other. They would, of course, arrange for the royal yacht Britannia to be brought up to Edinburgh as alternative accommodation for the family, or as honeymoon headquarters for any member of the family who happened to get married that weekend. What a way to organise a summit.

So there we all were, being driven to and from Holyrood Palace, getting no nearer to the people than a hand wave from a black limousine and yet being kept busy deciding the fate of Europe. Weren't we? Well, no, we weren't, not by a long chalk.

I would never have learnt what the real agenda of the summit was if I hadn't happened to bump into Francois Mitterrand, who gave me the lowdown on what was really happening. Not Francois Mitterrand himself, of course. It was his lookalike. But he had got into almost as many meetings as the real man, and he told me that the big, behind-the- scenes secret was that they were auctioning the film rights to the Maastricht treaty.

'Film rights?' I said. 'I didn't know there were any film rights attached to the treaty.'

'Sure,' he said. 'Any book has film rights. Any bestseller has lots of film rights. The Maastricht treaty has been a bestseller all through Europe.'

'I haven't seen a copy on sale anywhere,' I said.

'Aye, well, it hasn't sold well in Britain. In fact, it hasn't sold at all here. That's one of the reasons they're all so sore at John Major - his bad sales promotion for the treaty. But the overall sales have been astronomical and now they are aiming to get rich off the film rights - make a quick killing for the EC.'

'Tell me more about the film itself.'

'Meryl Streep has been signed up to play Mrs Thatcher. They all think she has the right icy aggressiveness, and can probably manage the accent. Jacques Delors is to be played by either Gerard Depardieu or Charles Bronson. Sylvester Stallone is very interested, but hasn't signed on the dotted line yet.'

'Signed as who?'

'Leon Brittan.'

The more I thought about it, the more I could see that it made a sort of weird sense. The battle between Thatcher and the rest of Europe, the brooding presence of Chancellor Kohl, the fall of Nigel Lawson, the even more cataclysmic fall of Mrs Thatcher herself. . . . Yes, it was a stirring story, even if it hadn't seemed so at the time.

'Who is to play Nigel Lawson?'

'Alan Bates.'

'Norman Lamont?'

'Anthony Hopkins.'

'Would Hopkins be able to get the right sort of seedy menace into the part?'

'If he can't, who can?'

'Hmmm. And John Major?'

'Leslie Nielsen.'

The name rang half a bell.

'Which one is Leslie . . .'

'He is the white-haired actor who starred in Airplane as the unsconscious centre of disaster and prattfalls.'

I have to say that I couldn't fault any of the casting. It sounds a very exciting project, and one that might just put some glamour and romance into the EC. I just hope the Danes don't exercise their veto.

'Incidentally, you speak English very well for a Frenchman,' I told Francois.

'I'm no Frenchman. I'm Scots,' he said. 'Why should a Mitterrand lookalike be French?'

There was no answer to this.

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