11 Dec 2013
TV film (2 parts)
Dir. Adrian Shergold
Wr. Jeff Pope
Role: John Aspinall.

Amazon UK

Episode 1 - 11 Dec - programme info - 3.9m/18.8% at 9pm, + 205k/1.4% on ITV+1
Episode 2 - 18 Dec - programme info - 2.97m/13.5%

Press pack (pdf; source) - IMDb



The Guardian [video] - The Guardian ("Mad-eyed Christopher Eccleston had his work cut out as a brilliantly cocksure John Aspinall [...]") - The Independent ("The show's real villain, however, was the machiavellian Aspinall, played by Christopher Eccleston with serpentine grace (and the odd accent issue).") - The Telegraph comment ("[...] John Aspinall, as whom Christopher Eccleston is unsuitably cast, speaks in an uncertain accent and without the original's merriment.") - The Telegraph review ("Christopher Eccleston as Aspers conveyed his hawkish demeanour rather awkwardly and his clipped accent felt over-rehearsed.") - Metro - The Scotsman ("[...] Christopher Eccleston is stealing the show as "Aspers". What an astonishing performance this is. All actors can do voices but for some reason I didn't expect Eccleston's posh-sinister to sound quite as posh and quite as sinister.") - Express ("Aspinall was thoroughly unlikeable too but again portrayed in a pitch perfect performance, this time from Christopher Eccleston.") - The Arts Desk ("As Aspinall, Christopher Eccleston is seriously intimidating [...]")


Vine video message from CE.

Behind the scenes photo. Promo images here.  

Dec 7 CE interview - Nottingham Post.

Dec 1 Jeff Pope interview for The Independent.  

Nov 26 Images at CultBox.  

Interview from the press pack:
Fortunes were lost at the London gaming tables run by John Aspinall.
"It's very good for business to have a Lord in your casino, isn't it? It's reflective glory. Gets the punters in," explains Christopher Eccleston. "I think that's the first reason John Aspinall associated himself with him. Lucan could bring him business. Lucan could bring him money. And Lucan could give him money because he was an obsessive gambler. Aspinall was from a middle class background and the people he was running with were aristocrats. So he attached himself to them. I think it's quite possible that he resented them for their perceived superiority. And so he ripped them off and beat them at their own game. It could be seen as an act of class revenge." 
Aspinall known as "Aspers" to his friends was a gaming club host and zoo owner who ran The Clermont Club in London's Mayfair. He attracted high society to his tables and redistributed their wealth, mostly to himself, via a card game called Chemin De Fer, known as Chemmy. One gambler is said to have lost the equivalent of almost £4 million in today's terms in one visit. Aspers befriended many of those he was taking money from including professional gambler Lucan and they, in turn, became addicted to the club. 
"What was he up to? He's impossible to grasp. He was drenched in ambiguity," says Christopher. "Aspinall had a tremendous ego and a tremendous urge for power and control. He was out for himself. And people like that are impossible to pin down. He appeared to be very much at the centre of things but he was always a step outside, looking on. He was a puppet master, pulling all the strings and then cashing up at the end of the night." 
Lord Lucan sought out the enclosed and obsessive Mayfair gambling world as a refuge from real life and his increasing debts. Christopher learned about the game of Chemmy as part of his research for the role of Aspinall. 
"It was madness. Nine packs of cards go into the hat and there is no skill involved. It is entirely based on luck. So it is an addiction to chance. Gambling itself, as we know, is also addictive, along with the adrenaline. Plus the machismo of saying, 'I'm not scared of losing this money.' This is a very masculine boys' club environment. It seems as if they'd gone straight from public school into an extension of that. Which is what Aspinall cleverly provided. Lucan went to the club for lunch and for dinner and could, perhaps, hide there from who he really was." 
As the drama shows, Aspinall encouraged Lucan in his bid to win custody of his children from his wife Veronica, the Countess of Lucan (Catherine McCormack). With evidence the gaming club host was also a central figure in helping the peer vanish after Lucan had mistakenly murdered nanny Sandra Rivett (Leanne Best) and then tried to kill Veronica. 
"Aspinall has a very perverse kind of morality. He exhorts the people in Lucan's circle to protect Lucan from the police and he couches that in terms of loyalty, friendship and the country going to the dogs. But playing him, you ask yourself whether there could have been another agenda here. What has Aspinall done to need control of these men?" 
How much did Christopher know about the Lucan story before this production? 
"I was 10 in 1974 when he disappeared. I was familiar with the phrase 'Lord Lucan' as it was always applied to somebody who had gone missing. My dad would say, 'Where have you been Lord Lucan?' But aside from knowing that he was possibly on the run, that was it. I knew very little about the detail of the case. When I first heard about this I was a little bit sceptical. Until I read Jeff Pope's script, which has a real moral centre. You walk a very fine moral line in making entertainment out of this kind of tragedy. But the primary reason for him writing the script was to highlight the death of Sandra Rivett and the fact that was never given due prominence by the press. The drama also focuses on the tragedy of Veronica who was made a social pariah. So the moral centre of this, for me, is those two women. And I think Jeff has honoured that. 
"A very important element of the drama is the characterisation of Sandra, who was the victim, and the secondary victim, who was Veronica. She stepped outside that circle and said to Lucan, 'You are gambling all our money away. We need to feed the children.' And was rounded on by men and women alike. I'm sure she did have her problems but that says a great deal more about them rather than her. Jeff is writing about the grey areas of human existence. He finds redeeming qualities in Lucan. It's clear that he loved his children deeply. But he also behaved abominably towards his wife. Rory Kinnear gives you a three dimensional characterisation in his portrayal of Lucan. 
"There is a tragic quality to Lucan who was a product of his time. He was shaped by those chauvinistic, misogynistic views which surrounded him and had probably been reinforced in him through his schooling. Jeff doesn't idealise Veronica, even though she is clearly a victim. He also attempts to understand Aspinall. It's all in the quality of the writing. I think it's predominantly an examination of misogyny at the heart of the, then, British establishment." 
Aspinall used the money he made to fund his own sometimes eccentric lifestyle. 
"He was buying wild animals and indulging his passion for them. It seems to me that his emotional life was possibly reserved for animals, rather than human beings. I don't think he ever felt cowed by any human being. So he sought it out with silverback gorillas and tigers. I wonder whether anything that was genuine about him was channelled entirely into animals? In other words, he could connect and love animals in a way that he could not human beings. He was an extraordinary self creation and very astute about business. I think as he began to run the casinos he very cleverly realised that his interest in animals made him a character. So he made that kind of thing more pronounced and had tiger cubs roaming around. 
"Aspinall created a persona which was animal loving, right wing raconteur. He claimed to have some very extreme views. We have quotes from interviews he gave where he says some very harsh things. He spoke about genetic and racial superiority. Horrendous views. When you listen to him in interviews you think he's mad or a buffoon. I've met people who met him who said he was very powerful and charismatic. I'm not sure I would feel that. But the curious thing is whether he actually believed in those views or whether it was a sales pitch to the aristocracy? 
"The interesting thing about playing him is I'm not sure that he believed any of those things. I feel they were useful in creating a character. His job was to attract people to his casino. So rather than being a faceless casino owner he was a character." 
How did Christopher fare filming with animals, including having lunch with a chimp at the table and another with a monkey on his shoulder? 
"I was very comfortable with the animals. It added a new dimension of unpredictability to the scenes we were playing. But fortunately they all behaved." 
The drama is inspired by and based on The Gamblers, a book written by John Pearson who met and interviewed those closely connected to Lucan before his disappearance. 
Fans of the Salford born actor know what a wide range of roles he can portray. Was going "posh" as Aspinall part of the appeal of playing this character? 
"Yes it was. But I've used the accent a number of times, including in Elizabeth and on stage. So I can't say the accent was the primary attraction. But certainly having done things like Our Friends In The North, to suddenly be at the centre of British aristocracy was interesting for me." 
He continues: "It was a lot of not particularly emotionally developed people in a bubble. A world of privilege and exclusivity. And it seems slightly mad. It's excessive and without any redeeming features from what I can see. People do that, don't they? People create little societies within society to keep society at bay. There is a fascination about this story now, even some 40 years later. It says a lot about how class is so deeply entrenched in us that we're interested in this. Despite ourselves we are fascinated by this world and the people within it." 
Christopher's screen credits include: The Shadow Line; Thor: The Dark World; Lennon Naked; The Second Coming; Doctor Who; Cracker; Accused; Elizabeth; Our Friends In The North.
Nov 19 Review from CrimeTimePreview.  

Jul 31 Christopher Eccleston cast, reuniting him with Shergold, who also directed 'The Second Coming'. ITV's press release:
TV today announced commission of a two-part drama, Lucan, based on the life of flamboyant aristocrat, Lord Lucan, and written by award-winning writer Jeff Pope.
Rory Kinnear (Southcliffe, Loving Miss Hatto, Skyfall) will play Lucan whilst Christopher Eccleston (Song for Marion, Blackout, The Shadow Line) takes the role of John Aspinall. Acclaimed actor Michael Gambon will also appear in the drama.
The drama, produced by ITV Studios/GroupM Entertainment and from the department headed by Creative Director and Executive Producer for ITV Studios Francis Hopkinson (Wallander, DCI Banks, Married, Single, Other), will tell the story of Lucan's exploits as a member of the infamous Clermont set and will focus on his marriage collapse to Veronica, the Countess of Lucan.  [...]
[...]  The drama is inspired by and based upon the book, The Gamblers, written by author John Pearson who conducted exhaustive interviews with those most closely connected to Lucan at the time of Sandra’s murder. Pearson gained unprecedented access to Lucan's friends and acquaintances from the Clermont Club who helped him piece together the Earl’s movements on the evening of 7 November. Once the dreadful murder had taken place they shed light on how Lucan escaped the police search, and ultimately his fate.
Lucan will be produced by Chris Clough (Dates, Strike Back, Skins) and executive produced by Francis Hopkinson, Jeff Pope and Quentin Curtis. The drama will be directed by Adrian Shergold (Mad Dogs, Pierrepoint, Dirty Filthy Love). Lucan is an ITV Studios/GroupM Entertainment co-production with Executive Producers for GroupM Entertainment being Richard Foster and Tony Moulsdale.
ITV Media page for 'Lucan'.

Other articles:
("ITV previously aired The Trial Of Lord Lucan in 1994. The 90-minute single starred English Patient actor Julian Wadham as Lucan.")
Aspinall obits from The Telegraph and The Guardian

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