Chris said he owed his loyalty to Derek not to Peter Medak.
'If you're borrowing the drama of epilepsy you have to show the reality. But Hollywood doesn't like ugliness.'
(From Iris Bentley's book Let Him Have Justice, read relevant extracts here on the blog)
Let Him Have It
Vivid Entertainment movie, premièred at Toronto Film Festival in 1991; written by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, directed by Peter Medak.
Christopher Eccleston plays Derek Bentley (30 Jun 1933 - 28 Jan 1953), mentally disabled youth, convicted and hanged for a murder he didn't commit. He was fully pardoned first in 1998 (read an article).
The production originally started with Alex Cox at the helm. Cox cast Eccleston (as Bentley) and Paul Reynolds (as Craig) with the intent of making a truthful film, in b/w. I. Bentley: "But it turned out his ideas were a bit too revolutionary and before long he fell out with the producers." Cox was replaced by Medak, film took on a different direction and both Eccleston and Reynolds had to re-audition.
Initially satisfied with film's message (it did bring the case back to light), Eccleston soon discovered changes that had been introduced, and how the reality was glossed over. He spent a month visiting Lingfield Hospital School in Surrey, where he found out about the specifics of epilepsy and learning disability Derek suffered from. He was further encouraged by Derek's sister, Iris Bentley, who was supposed to be a consultant for the film, but was rarely listened to. In her frank and poignant book she lists various discrepancies, from trivial to fundamental ones.
Still, this is a feature film, not a documentary, and in theory, the director's - audacious or not, artistic or market guided - vision. A restless actor - is it a hindrance or a gift for a production?