Ben Whishaw's pet problem on A Very English Scandal were 'tricky'
11 May 2018 - 11:00 AM

Ben Whishaw's pet problem on A Very English Scandal were 'tricky'

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en Whishaw admits it was "tricky" working with his canine co-stars on "A Very English Scandal".

The 37-year-old actor stars in the upcoming BBC One drama which tells the true story of the political scandal which saw British MP and Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe stand trial in 1979 over accusations that he hired a hitman to kill his alleged ex-lover Norman Scott, a relationship that played out at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the UK.

Whishaw portrays Norman in the three-part miniseries and one important moment in the sequence of shocking events was when a gunman shot his Great Dane named Rinka dead as Norman walked his beloved pet dog on Exmoor, but when he turned the firearm on Norman the weapon jammed and he couldn't carry out the hit.

The "Paddington" star has revealed that director Stephen Frears had to tryout four different dogs for the crucial role of Rinka because many of the mutts were too "highly strung" for the cameras.

Speaking to BANG Showbiz, he said: "The main dog that features in the story is a Great Dane called Rinka, that was a big deal because of Rinka-gate when the dog was shot instead of Norman. The other dog in the story, which is the little dog that I have in my arms a lot, was very smart but Great Danes, I have now learned, are not so clever! It was difficult to get the right one, we went through about four Great Danes and they're quite highly strung and not very bright and they're enormous. So they're tricky as co-stars!"

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Whishaw appears as Norman opposite Hugh Grant as Thorpe in the drama - which has been penned by former "Doctor Who" showrunner Russell T Davies and is based on John Preston's book of the same name - and to prepare for the part he met with Normal, who is the only key person involved in the scandal still alive.

And Whishaw admits it was important for him to meet with Norman as he was able to relate to what he went though at the time.

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He said: "I met Norman once, for an hour-and-a-half, so I can't say I know him well but it was nice to be able to meet him and hear a little bit about what he recalled about the events. Obviously he's in his 70s now so he remembers and sees the whole thing quite differently to it was 30-odd years ago. I wasn't familiar with the story before I got the part. I'd never heard of Jeremy Thorpe, never knew any of it. What shocked me most looking at it for the first time was how somebody actually could be so entitled and so ambitious and at the same time also be so distressed that they could have an ex-lover thrown down a tin mine in Cornwall and think that would be a perfectly acceptable thing to do. That is a shocking thing for a leader of a major political party to do that."

And the meeting made Whishaw determined to not portray Norman as a victim in the saga.

He explained: "On one level you feel outrage on his behalf, but - and this is because I don't believe this is what the story is about - I didn't want it to be about Norman being a victim or someone who saw himself as a victim, because I believe that would be a disservice to him. It's much more complicated than that and the story is a lot more complicated than that. One of the few things that I really felt strongly about when we started filming this is that it was about two men who are equal to each other, who can give as good as they get. Norman was always portrayed as pathetic and a fairy but I know that's not true and I believe it's a more ambiguous thing and that Norman was aware of his sexual power as a person. You feel a certain responsibility to honour him and be aware that this really happened to a real human being and that he's still here and you are portraying his experience."

"A Very English Scandal" is due to air on BBC One later in May.

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