Wednesday 18 December 2013

Who would you cast in the planned new Game, Set and Match triple trilogy?

Who will replace this man?
Something for you to think about over Christmas, everyone...

Earlier this year I revealed that Len had signed a development deal with Clerkenwell Films to create an 18-part TV series based on all nine books in the 'Samson series' of novels by Len Deighton, which follow the fortunes of desk-bound spy Bernard Samson and his search to uncover the deeper truth about his wife's staged defection to East Germany in the early 1980s.

I've started re-reading the last three novels again and over the Christmas break I thought I'd break out the (bootleg) DVD of the original Granada TV adaption from 1988 of the original Game, Set and Match, of which Len's admitted he wasn't satisfied about some of the casting, hence it's non-repeating on TV. This got me thinking - who are the contemporay actors and actresses who'd make the best choices for the main roles. And I'd like blog readers to share their views too. Who knows? Clerkenwell's producers might read the post....

Primary roles in all nine 'Game, Set & Match' novels
  • Bernard Samson
  • Fiona Samson
  • Bret Renselaer
  • Werner Volkmann
  • Zena Volkmann
  • Dicky Cruyer
  • Sir Henry Clevemore
  • Silas Gaunt
  • Erich Stinnes
  • Pavel Moskvin
  • George Kosinski
  • Tessa Kosinski
  • Lisl Hennig
My initial suggestions for actors to play these roles
  • Bernard Samson - Damian Lewis or David Morrisey
  • Fiona Samson - Gillian Anderson or Keeley Hawkes
  • Bret Renselaer - Ted Danson
  • Werner Volkmann - Sebastian Koch
  • Zena Volkman - Franka Potente
  • Dicky Cruyer - Dominic West
  • Sir Henry Clevemore - Tom Wilkinson
  • Silas Gaunt - Michael Gambon
  • Erich Stinnes - Daniel Bruhl
  • Pavel Moskvin - Philip Glenister or Jurgen Prochnow
  • George Kosinski - Ray Winstone or Mark Strong
  • Tessa Kosinski - Lena Headey or Sarah Alexander
  • Lisl Hennig - Marita Breur
Copy the top list of bullet points, and paste them in your comments below with your suggestion. Be creative!!


  1. Shouldn't Bernard Sampson be an actor in his mid-late 30s? And Tessa be in her twenties?

  2. Yes. About 40, reasonably tall and well built with glasses. Lewis and Morrisey, my two suggestions, are broadly in this bracket. Do suggest your ideas for who might work!

  3. I guess I'm not familiar enough with UK actors to make a suggestion. Sampson is an odd duck because he lives inside his head so much, so we have the unreliable narrator issue : he's a pension obsessed bureaucrat, he can handle himself in a fight, he's wicked smart, a sarcastic observer of the world. He's a "striver" and has a chip on his shoulder about it. He can't be too handsome - I've always pictured him as bland looking but interesting to speak with. He's not "hot". This is not very helpful is it? I keep thinking the character is subconsciously modelled on Michael Caine.

  4. My thoughts:

    Bernard Samson-Morrissey is a better fit for Bernard than Damian. When I Googled him, I found a picture of him wearing glasses and immediately saw why Rob picked him. Morrissey is 49 but certainly could pass for much younger.

    Fiona Samson-Gillian Anderson would be great. I always loved her in the X-Files and she just seems to get better with age.

    Bret Rensselaer-John Slattery of Mad Men fame would be my pick. Bret is a guy who loves to dress up, and John did that all the time as Roger Sterling.

    I agree with Rob's picks on the others, but you left out Zena! I suggest Antje Traue for this role. She was just seen in Man of Steel this year.

    1. Gosh, you're right. Obvious omission, now rectified, with my choice in there too. Do suggest yours!

  5. Wow, Ted Danson and John Slattery are both great choices for Brett! Danson never would have occurred to me, but I could REALLY see him nailing it. I just hope they cast a real American, at the very least.

    I honestly have no ideas about Bernard. Well, one, but I don't think Len would like it! I can actually picture Martin Freeman in the role, but since he's now quite famously playing another role played by Ian Holm, Deighton might have the same issues he had with Holm. (Personally, I think Holm makes a suitable Bernard, though maybe too posh.)

    I always picture Matt Berry (The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh) as Dicky! But again Deighton would probably have issues with that since he's not quite the right body type. His IT Crowd predecessor, Christopher Morris, is however, and he might be quite good in the role too, though maybe a bit too old at this point.

    For Fiona, I was quite impressed by Jodie Whittaker in Broadchurch, and I think she'd be good.

    Actually, despite what I said above about wanting a real American in the role of Brett, it just occurred to me that Hugh Laurie would be excellent. He's more than proved his chops at playing American....

  6. Hi
    I have read nearly every one of Len Deighton's books and have just started to read the Bernard Samson Trilogy of Trilogies for maybe the third or fourth time!
    I am particularly interested in the proposed forthcoming TV adaptation of the complete series. Are there any confirmed dates/channels or indications as to when it will be shown?
    Any such information would be much appreciated.

  7. The only thing confirmed is the development deal with Clerkenwell TV. I imagine it could be sold to ITV or more likely Sky Drama or something like that in the UK; there'll also be an international dimension I'm sure.

    1. Many thanks.
      I shall have to take a more regular look at what is on TV.
      I look forward to further details.

  8. Two things here: First, Clerkenwell Road is a rundown part of London where in the 1980s many small IT software companies rented floors in the old unwashed buildings which still stand today. They reminded the fronts of Dickensian workhouses. These companies did not last long. This TV company must be really modest despite their adverts boasting successes. Second, it must be really an elderly generation like me who are interested in "Bernard Samson and his search to uncover the deeper truth about his wife's staged defection to East Germany in the early 1980s". The younger generation do not know what East Germany was, they know even less about "defection" and are utterly bored with any one who is "desk-bound" . Can't understand the purpose of all this at all! ITV and BBC are into reality shows these days which are money spinners.

  9. Well, I guess a firm only signs a licensing deal if they're confident of making something that's commercially viable. I think channels like HBO show there's an appetite for deep, multi-episode dramas.

  10. I'd like to see Matthew Macfadyen as Bernie. As a bonus, I think he's married to Keely Hawkes, so if she was Fiona it could make for an interesting dynamic.

    1. Interesting choice. What about also Matthew Rhys, the English/Welsh actor who's starred recently in The Mystery of Edwin Drood on Drama TV and also in The Americans on ITV last year?

    2. Ahh, nice thought. He was definitely the bright spot of what I saw of The Americans. Whoever it is, I just hope it's not someone too "pretty" It just doesn't seem appropriate for this role.

  11. I like Matthew Macfayden for Bernie. Besides being the right age and size, he can play that mixture of toughness and vulnerability.

  12. After watching Sherlock, I think Benedict Cumberbatch would be perfect as Dicky Cruyer. He's the right age. With his hair long he matches Len's description quite well. Most importantly, many of the character traits he does so well as Sherlock apply to Dicky as well (haughtiness, casual indifference, etc.)

  13. How about Deighton himself for Silas Gaunt?

  14. Martin Freeman as Bernard as he plays the younger Bilbo to Ian Holm and he can project that "tired of life" feeling of Bernard.

  15. Martin Freeman as Bernard as he plays the younger Bilbo to Ian Holm and he can project that "tired of life" feeling of Bernard.