BBC drama king screenwriter behind War and Peace and Pride and Prejudice claims women bosses are forcing him to make female characters feisty
- Screenwriter says BBC bosses veto any ‘droopy, soppy’ girls he wants to pen
- Andrew Davies says he is not allowed to make his women anything but feisty
- He made the comments in a forthcoming documentary to celebrate his career
In his illustrious 50-year career, screenwriter Andrew Davies has forged a formidable reputation for creating strong female characters
In his illustrious 50-year career, screenwriter Andrew Davies has forged a formidable reputation for creating strong female characters.
But now he says he is not allowed to make his women anything but feisty – by the powerful female executives who run television.
Davies, who is known for adaptations of classics such as Pride And Prejudice and War & Peace, says bosses want to see an image of themselves projected on screen, and veto any ‘droopy, soppy’ girls he wants to pen.
He said: ‘I started writing lead characters for women who disconcerted men quite early on in my career. Now it’s compulsory because drama networks are run by strong women who like to see themselves reflected.
‘I often find myself pleading, ‘Can’t I write a really droopy, soppy girl?’ And they say, ‘No, she’s got to be strong and independent.’ ‘
His comments, made in a forthcoming documentary to celebrate his career, will reignite the debate about how much classic literary works should be altered to fit modern attitudes.
The 2016 BBC version of War & Peace included a controversial storyline of incest to enhance the role of Helene Kuragin played by Tuppence Middleton
Davies, 82, has changed female characters in several adaptations. In the BBC’s 2005 version of Bleak House, critics noted that housekeeper Esther Summerson was more ‘forceful and knowing’ than originally depicted by Charles Dickens.
Three years later, his BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit focused more on the title character Amy Dorrit than Arthur Clennam, the older man who falls in love with her, as Dickens had.
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In an interview at the time, Davies said: ‘It’s called Little Dorrit. Let’s try to put her at the centre.’
The 2016 BBC version of War & Peace included a controversial storyline of incest to enhance the role of Helene Kuragin played by Tuppence Middleton.
Jane Tranter, a former BBC executive who worked with Davies on several dramas, told the documentary: ‘Andrew will take those sort of pale-skinned, young, Dickensian virgin heroines and make them interesting. He will give them spirit.’
Firth’s terror over Mr Darcy wet shirt scene
Colin Firth was sick with nerves about playing Mr Darcy in Davies’s Pride And Prejudice
Colin Firth was sick with nerves about playing Mr Darcy in Davies’s Pride And Prejudice.
Producer Sue Birtwistle says: ‘When we did the read through, Colin was being sick in the men’s loos.’
She also insisted Darcy should wear a shirt in the lake scene.
She and Davies clashed on the issue but she says: ‘It was the right decision. Everybody talks about the wet shirt, don’t they?’
Davies last night sought to play down his comments which he suggested had been made ‘half in jest’.
He added that any female characters he reinvented were an attempt to capture the zeitgeist, rather than to appease female TV bosses.
Andrew Davies: Rewriting The Classics will be screened on BBC4 next Sunday to coincide with the start of his six-part adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.
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