Thursday 11 April 2013

Bernard Samson to reach the TV screen (again) ...

Soon, in celluloid (or rather, MP4)
Confirmed in today's Bookseller the news I mentioned below but had to keep stumm about: the Deighton Dossier can confirm that over 25 years after the first portrayal of Len Deighton's spy creation Bernard Samson on ITV, he is making it back onto TV ... this time, however, across all nine books in the trip trilogy.

Here is the news release from Clerkenwell Films, reproduced in full:

Oscar-winner Simon Beaufoy to bring Deighton to the screen.

Clerkenwell Films today announced that they are developing an 18 part series based on Len Deighton's classic Cold War novels featuring the iconic spy Bernard Samson. With over 40 million book sales, Len Deighton's Bernard Samson novels are regarded as his masterwork and one of the greatest spy stories of all time. Covering a vast array of international locations from London to Berlin to Mexico City and California, the series follows the exploits of Bernard Samson, an ex MI6 field agent who is drawn back into active duty in a quest to uncover the truth about his wife's defection to the KGB.

Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty, 127 Hours) says:

'Deighton's masterful series of novels draws the hidden political map of the late twentieth century. It is all here: murders, honey-traps and spy swaps, the double-dealing and manoeuvring of nations jousting for position at the height of the Cold War, with Bernard Samson, the Bond with brains, giving it an almost Chandleresque sense of cool. The novels have at their heart a love story of Shakespearian proportions, taking in passion, betrayal, loyalty and the lengths we will go for the love of country and the love of one another.'

Len Deighton says:

'Writing it took well over ten years of my life, and it was my hope and firm belief that some day a film company would want to bring the entire series of books to the screen. Now it has happened. The impressive resources of Clerkenwell Films - and notably the talents of Simon Beaufoy - have embarked on this exciting project. I thank everyone concerned for this happy outcome, and I am confident that Bernard, and his associates, will make many new friends'.

Murray Ferguson, Chief Executive of Clerkenwell Films says:

' With the increasing international appetite for compelling and intelligent long form serial drama, the time is ripe to bring these wonderful novels to the screen, and television is absolutely the best place to do it. With Len Deighton and Simon Beaufoy we are working with two giants in their field. Set in London, Berlin, America and around the world we will be casting from the premier league of international talent.'

Notes to Editors:

Len Deighton

The best-selling author achieved worldwide fame with his spy novels Funeral in Berlin and The Ipcress File, made into an iconic movie starring Michael Caine. Deighton's first Bernard Samson novels, Berlin Game, Mexico Set and London Match, cemented his position as one of the world's leading spy and thriller writers, and has been described by the Sunday Times as 'the poet of the spy story'.

Simon Beaufoy

Simon Beaufoy is one of the world's leading screenwriters, best known for writing the film Slumdog Millionaire which won him an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA award. Also Oscar nominated for The Full Monty, Simon's other credits include 127 Hours and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

Clerkenwell Films

Clerkenwell Films is a multi-award winning production company. Formed in 1998 the company has gone on to establish itself as one of the leading producers in the UK, creating high quality, popular drama for both UK and international audiences. Among its credits are award-winning, critically acclaimed shows such as MISFITS, AFTERLIFE and PERSUASION.

Lot's to discuss. Starting gun fired ..... now!


  1. Before you listed your 9 questions, I was thinking of questions similar to the following:
    “Can the producers successfully recapture the grimy reality of Cold War Berlin?”
    “Does the Cold War (which ended nearly 24 years ago) still have resonance for the general reader?”
    Taking the first question, the simple answer is NO, for the simple reason that the audience need to be middle-aged with a critical knowledge of the cold war. Very difficult to get that many , shall I say fanatic followers, who like the kind of story lines that emerge from Deighton novels. Nuances without Bond- like actions will hold very little interest to the younger generation. I know a few friends in the middle-age category, but even at that time only a small core of them were sophisticated in their understanding of the cold war. For example, in early 1980s, I went with two of those who had had general interest in the cold war to visit West Berlin, having dissuaded them from visiting Paris during the Whitsun Bank Holiday Week End. But after a brief visit to see the Wall, they were more interested in enjoying the nightlife in West Berlin! I was the only one who crossed into East Berlin having got a brief visit visa-based on my academic connections at the Technical University of Dresden. This was to savour the cold war eerie atmosphere of the place for a day! If that was the case with the above two, the answer to the second question now is evident.
    The story lines could be similar to the approach adopted in recent James Bond films- to fit the main characters, and more importantly contemporary menace manifesting in London/ England for example to justify deploying a MI6 spy to get involved in settings in those places outwith Britain. The excuse then could be - something similar to the deaths of two Russian expatriates in London- one of them recent, and the other was through Polonium-210 poisoning, the perpetrating cell moving to places to hide their involvement. They could also throw in the mysterious death of the MI6 officer in a Chelsea flat for example. This is at a time when Britain is disengaging militarily from Germany!! About, Mexico City and California? Could be industrial espionage by agents from Russia/China. Gets more complicated as we start thinking!!!

    1. Interesting points - the idea of a complete contemporary 'conversion', using the basics of the story.

  2. Sorry, my post appears in the wrong thread! I do not know why!
    Anyway, what you call "contemporary conversion" was agreed long time ago by
    Robert Ludlum, realising that his Bourne series had had contemporaneous issues.
    The success of the Bourne films was thus assured.

  3. Rob - this is just fantastic news! Hopefully Deighton will appreciate this more than the 1988 Game, Set and Match anthology! Not that I've ever had the privilege to see it of course....

  4. Tom - look on YouTube - you can generally find the 1988 version on there at some point; just look a bit.

  5. Len Deighton in truly enthralling. There are many masters of suspense and local colour in the spy genre, but few who are so convincing because of their knowledge of the historical realities. Yet only a select few can reach into the subtleties of the mind and contrive such phenomenal networks of credible and in-depth characters who are both recognisable in our own lives but who interact in ways wholly unthought of by those of us without espionage and deception experience. The subtlety and economical meanness of his ironic humour is unsurpassed in the genre... though the inspiration it has given both to some contemporaries and many successful follow-on authors is to be recognised. His first several
    novels have these qualities in fresh intensity, though the Sampson agon is somehow mellower, but no less intriguing and confounding.

  6. Contemporary conversion -- I devoutly hope not. The Bernard Samson novels are not "about" the cold war; they are a depiction of cunning, ambition, love, delusion, loyalty, betrayal, nationality, power and snobbery played out against the background of the cold war. They are a work of art, and not the raw material for a franchise. The idea that only the older generation can "get" stories like this is disturbing, and if it were true I doubt if the recent Smiley film would have succeeded, or if a big-time publishing house would have reprinted some of the Samson books.

  7. After reading this I have to pop upstairs and watch my DVD's of Game Set and Match while quaffing a root beer float.

  8. Whatever happened to this plan for producing?

  9. It is stuck in "development hell", i.e. the production company has done nothing, but won't give up the rights.