Although largely forgotten today, the saga of Jeremy Thorpe and Norman Scott was the biggest British political scandal of the 1970s – indeed some dubbed it the case of the century. It had everything the tabloids loved to feast on – a major party leader, the hint of homosexuality, a court case involving incitement to murder and even a dead dog! John Preston’s 2016 novel about the case, A Very English Scandal, is currently being made into a limited TV series, and the first picture from the show has now been released.
Ben Whishaw is playing Norman Scott, while Hugh Grant takes his first TV role in 20 years as Jeremy Thorpe. The show itself will recount the rather complicated affair, which involved a secret relationship between Thorpe and the younger Norman Scott. Thorpe’s political star rose as the leader of the Liberal Party throught the 1970s, to the point where the party picked up almost 20% of the vote in the February 1974 election. It was the biggest success for a third party in decades and threatened to break down the two-party system (Conservative and Labour) that had been in place for decades.
However, as Norman began to feel increasingly as if he’d been mistreated by the politician, things began to get complicated, especially when rumours about the affair between the two started to circulate. Thorpe and those around him knew that if stories about the politician and Scott hit the mainstream press, it would probably be the end of the married Thorpe’s career, as well as ruining the best chance the Liberal Party had to became a major political force again. This led to beatings and an attempt on Scott’s life, which resulted in his dog being shot. Thorpe later went on trial accused of being involved in the conspiracy to murder his former lover. He denied that he knew anything about the ‘hit’, as well as denying he’d ever been in a phsical relationship with Scott.
Queer As Folk’s Russell T. Davis is on scripting duties for A Very British Scandal, while Stephen Frears, who worked with Hugh Grant on Florence Foster Jenkins, will direct. Alex Jennings, Patricia Hodge, Monica Dolan, Adrian Scarborough, Jason Watkins, Eve Myles, Michele Dotrice and Blake Harrison will also star. The show will air on the BBC in the UK next year, while it’s likely to debut on Amazon Prime in many other territories.