Shock Role For Mr Darcy

Shock role for Mr Darcy

by BAZ BAMIGBOYE Last updated at 11:47am on 6th October 2006

Matthew MacFayden
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Matthew Macfadyen - who played Mr Darcy opposite Keira Knightley in Pride And Prejudice - will play a paedophile trying to rehabilitate himself in a made-for-TV film.

The actor, who led the first three series of the excellent BBC thriller Spooks, was said to have been impressed with the screenplay for Secret Life when it was sent to him by Channel 4.

The drama will begin shooting later this month and is being made by first-time film-maker Rowan Joffe, son of actress Jane Lapotaire and film-maker Roland Joffe.

Channel 4 are so sensitive about the film, which will be shown on TV next year, that they were not going to announce it until after filming had been completed.

Indeed, no one at the channel would speak to me about it - and nor would Mr Joffe.

However, I have talked to some people who have read the script and it has been variously described to me as "highly intelligent", "a proper grown-up drama that argues many points" and, at the other extreme, "deeply offensive".

One agent refused to recommend that any of her actors even read it. From what I understand, the character Macfadyen will play was molested himself as a child and we learn that he has been jailed for molesting young girls.

He's then released to a halfway home where he undergoes psychiatric treatment and he's determined not to re-offend.

However, residents in the area where the home is don't want such a place in their neighbourhood, and trouble ensues.

I am told there are no scenes of children - or anyone else for that matter - being sexually abused.

Macfadyen is that rarity: a thesp without vanity. The actor, who married his Spooks leading lady Keeley Hawes two years ago, is also one of the few who could handle such a difficult role.