Alan Hollinghurst & Andrew Davies: Interview
Alan Hollinghurst and Andrew Davies are two of the most influential writers working today. Hollinghurst won the Man Booker prize in 2004 for his fifth novel ’The Line Of Beauty‘, about a young gay man‘s relationship with a wealthy Tory family in Thatcher‘s Britain, while Davies has been the busiest adaptor of classic novels for TV since his memorable version of ’Pride
When did you first meet?
Andrew Davies We’d met a couple of times at parties. I remember coming up to you drunkenly saying how much I’d enjoyed ‘The Swimming-Pool Library’, and did you mind heterosexual chaps reading your books and substituting girls for your boys, in order to get full value!
Alan Hollinghurst And I said: ‘No, not at all, how do you imagine I got through a course in English literature at university?’
AD I’ve been a fan of Alan’s books since ‘The Swimming-Pool Library’ and read this one as soon as it came out, but I didn’t consider adapting it. Then after I’d recommended it so enthusiastically to my agent, he said ‘Well, you’d better adapt it, hadn’t you!’ So we set it up with the BBC, who got us together for a dinner. We’ve been emailing each other a lot since then.
Did you consult Alan much when you were doing the adaptation?
AD Yes – I sent him all the first drafts, which is not something one would always do.
AH Not something you could do with George Eliot or Jane Austen! Would you have sent them to her had she been alive?
AD I don’t know…
Alan, did you consider doing the adaptation yourself?
AH Oh no, I couldn’t conceive of it. I’d have no idea how to do it. My instincts are all novelistic and I would have been hopeless, even if I’d known what to do technically. I’d have been too attached to things that are superfluous. It was really Andrew’s enthusiasm for it that ensured it got made.
AD It was brave because I can be quite ruthless. But I didn’t want to be too ruthless with this one, just make some technical changes. In the book we meet Nick Guest [played by 22-year-old newcomer Dan Stevens] when he’s already embedded in the Fedden house and then flash back to how he got there. I wanted to do something simpler and more linear so the audience get to know the Feddens as Nick does, so he’s our guide. It’s true that if the audience don’t like Nick, we’re in trouble.
AH The things you did were necessary – so much of the book is interior, so there are things that had to be brought out. The dramatisation makes Catherine Fedden’s [daughter of Tory MP Gerald Fedden] part all the richer – Nick has only just come out and is a virgin, she’s the one who encourages him to meet Leo [Nick’s new, black boyfriend]. Theirs is a sweeter, more collaborative relationship in this.
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