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Tribute to Peter Morgan
The BAFTA awards in 2007 seemed like a battle of Peter Morgan versus Peter Morgan. In the television category was Longford (and Morgan also won the screenplay award), and among the films, The Queen duelled The Last King of Scotland with the Last King claiming victory. The Last King of Scotland also won the prize for the best adapted screenplay for Morgan and his co-author, while The Queen was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay (as it was at the Oscars), and Morgan won the Golden Globe in this category. Apart from the nominations and awards, these films were met with the enthusiasm of both critics and audiences, which confirmed Morgan's position as a star writer in the “genre” of multi-layered biographical dramas, which are usually labelled as “based on true events”, a label both popular and invoking immediate controversy in the question of faithfulness to the depicted events and historical characters. Morgan's answer to this type of criticism is the principle of his approach to the subject, and symptomatically also explains how it is possible that his films also attract and enchant those viewers whose interest in the nuances of British or American politics, football league or Formula 1 is almost nil. “I effectively fictionalise history and yet somehow aim at a greater truth”, he says. His admitted artistic license enables him to blend facts and protagonists of key events in modern history with studies of fascinating characters with their inner discrepancies and conflicts, unfolding mostly in exposed spaces under the interpreting and judging eye of the media and general public. As Morgan says: “History in the end just ends up being everyone's individual fictions.” It is a fictional young doctor, Nicholas, who goes to Uganda in the 1970s and becomes the private doctor and advisor of the charismatic Idi Amin, whose enchanting personality hides a brutal dictator. Nicholas's rise at the “royal court” clashes with the historical reality of the monster who claimed to be The Last King of Scotland. Yet thanks to Nicholas's naïve perspective and friendship that binds both men, he gains a scarily humane dimension. High politics is the stage for the protagonists' rises, falls, betrayals and ethically complicated decisions in Morgan's loose trilogy whose (anti)hero is the former British PM Tony Blair. The first part, a breakthrough for Morgan's career, was a television film called The Deal, directed by Stephen Frears. Together, the two men continued with The Queen, and the trilogy has concluded with The Special Relationship. In all three films, Blair is portrayed by Michael Sheen, whose cooperation with Morgan on embodying his versions of real personalities strongly binds the two men's work. It was also Sheen who played Brian Clough, a coach who reaches the limits of his ego, in Damned United, and also a popular host in the dramatization of a television duel with the former American president in Morgan's successful play and film adaptation, Frost/Nixon, which earned Morgan his second Oscar nomination. The film's commercial success may be related to Morgan's rule of waiting at least ten years before he depicts an event: “If you have distance from the events, then your story can work as an analogy or parable, rather than its literal narrative. People can watch the Frost/Nixon interviews and make associations that aren’t just about Richard Nixon and David Frost.” Ambitions, which Morgan considers a kind of a curse, establish a universally understandable topic. And it is the thirst for success that drives his characters to conflicts where Nicholas and Amin, Frost and Nixon, Clough and Leeds United, and Formula 1 drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt in Rush all clash.
Damned United / The Damned United / Prokletý klub (United Kingdom, USA) Director: Tom Hooper (Tribute to Peter Morgan )
Frost/Nixon / Frost/Nixon / Duel Frost/Nixon (USA, United Kingdom, France) Director: Ron Howard (Tribute to Peter Morgan )
Rush / Rush / Rivalové (Germany, USA, United Kingdom) Director: Ron Howard (Tribute to Peter Morgan )
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