Steve Coogan To Play James Boswell

He'll star in Boswell For The Defence

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in A Cock And Bull Story

by Owen Williams |
Published on

Taking a break from Alan Partridge, Trips with Rob Brydon and Nights At The Museum, Steve Coogan has just signed up for a period piece. He'll play the 18th century lawyer James Boswell in an adaptation of Patrick Edgeworth's play **Boswell For The Defence{ =nofollow}. Edgeworth wrote the screenplay himself, and Gregor Jordan (Buffalo Soldiers, The Informers) is directing.

Boswell is best known as the long-suffering companion and biographer of Samuel Johnson, but Boswell For The Defence takes place some years after Johnson's death. It's a fictionalised version of the trial of Mary Bryant, who was convicted of (pretty low-level) highway robbery and transported to Australia in 1787. She and others escaped the colony and returned to England in 1792, undertaking an extraordinary journey that at one point involved navigating the then-uncharted Great Barrier Reef.

The punishment for escaping transportation was usually death, but Boswell, stirred by her heroic tale, came to her aid when she was put on trial again in 1793. And therein lies our story. It was filmed once before, in the early '80s, by the BBC. The original stage run (actually a one-man show in that form) starred Leo McKern, famous as John Mortimer's similarly avuncular defence lawyer Horace Rumpole (of the Bailey).

"We fell in love with the script," said the Highland Film Group's Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier. "Gregor’s vision and Coogan’s talent create the complete package, which will be sure to resonate with buyers and appeal to global audiences."

"Whether it be Lincoln or Thatcher, bringing a historical figure to life is always a challenge," added producers Mark Pennell and Steve Chasman, "but Steve's extraordinary ability to blend humor and pathos make him the perfect artist to bring a complex character like Boswell to the screen. We are excited to see him make this role his own."

Shooting is planned for next year.

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