There are, in the Deighton canon - as is the case with other writers too - many stories which had hopes of being made into films or TV series, but have instead languished as 'non films', ethereal 'might have beens' which are destined to roam the corridors of Hollywood or Soho as film spirits, seeking a corporeal existence.
I was prompted to think about these might-have-been films after some Twitter communications with a Dossier reader George White of Ireland, who got in touch asking if I knew anything about the filmed version of SS-GB made in the 1970s in Canada?
|What might the Canadians have done with this?|
I admitted I didn't, but it piqued my curiosity. Especially so as the novel SS-GB had - finally - made it to the BBC as a mini-series in the spring of 2017. The seventies version was, George informed me, evidently a Canadian tax dodging exercise in Canada by the film mogul Harry Alan Towers.
This producer, who had a varied career in the UK with the BBC and then internationally, frequently churning out what might be called product targeted at the lower quality end of the market, or producing films linked to Liechtenstein-based companies - tax write-offs, in other words - has a couple of interesting Deighton connections.
In 1995, he was responsible largely for persuading Michael Caine to return as spy anti-hero Harry Palmer in two straight-to-DVD movies, the (infamous) sequels to the sixties classics: Bullet to Beijing, directed by George Mihalka, and Midnight in St Petersburg, directed by Douglas Jackson, both filmed in a Russia adjusting to the post-Gorbachev economic realities of gangster capitalism.
"When I was asked to give the OK for the Harry Palmer character to be used on these original screenplays my feelings were negative. I said, ‘If you can persuade Michael to play the lead I will let you have the necessary screen rights.’ I was quite confident that I would hear no more about it. But I did. They were not stories I had written. In fact I was not involved in any way other than my agreement to the character rights. When I eventually saw the films I thought they were both well above average. Michael was inspired as always and the locations were great."
|Destined to be stuck on the runway?|
As I reported back in 2010 on this blog, it was 'in development' by a London-based financier called Bob Wigley. Eight years on, the legal option for this movie clearly still weighs down Wigley's bookshelf (and he has never responded to email enquiries about the status of the film). And while the option is still owned by him, it's not open to others to try and make what could be one of the great British wartime movie stories.
|Will this ever get re-made?|