In 2004, following the award-winning success of his adaptation of Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, Andrew Davies turned his attention to Trollope’s searing novel, He Knew He Was Right.
Oliver Dimsdale and Laura Fraser are perfectly cast as the beautiful, madly in love young couple who, through a kernel of mistrust and lack of communication, head inexorably for disaster. Alongside the dark and thrilling central story, the drama also has great wit and warmth, provided by a cast of strongly-drawn characters whose stories reflect the central theme of human relationships. The proud and ridiculous Reverend Gibson (David Tennant) struggles to choose between sisters Arabella and Camilla French (Fenella Woolgar, Claudie Blakley), who are both desperate to marry him; the fiercely comic Aunt Stanbury (Anna Massey) is never happier than when meddling in the affairs of others; and the incomparable Bozzle (Ron Cook) is one of fiction’s first and most memorably seedy private eyes. Bill Nighy is the devilish Colonel Osborne, a man whose reputation leaves no lady safe; Patsy Palmer makes a rare foray into period drama as Bozzle’s wife; and a strong supporting cast includes Geoffrey Palmer, Geraldine James, John Alderton, Joanna David and James Bolam. Andrew Davies teamed up again with producer Nigel Stafford-Clark, a successful partnership that followed their collaboration on the Bafta-award winning The Way We Live Now. Stafford-Clark says:
Trollope moves the story with extraordinary speed for the 19th century novel, and switches the point of view between the two protagonists. Since it’s a tiny misunderstanding that causes the marriage to founder, it’s obviously important to see how both sides think – the title is clearly ironic.
The four-part serial features 25 main characters and six storylines, so casting was a mammoth task for Stafford-Clark and director, Tom Vaughan.”At the core of the story is a group of very young people and what happens to them is partly a result of their youth and inexperience of life,” says Stafford-Clark. The directors were looking for something specific in the actors who play Louis and Emily. Louis has a fragile quality combined with a steely determination whilst Emily spirited, but when under attack she mustn’t sound whining or resentful.
The 12-week shoot took place during one of the hottest summers on record. Magnificent country houses such as West Wycombe Park, Waddesdon Manor and Disraeli’s house, Hughenden Manor, were used, as well as locations in the West Country.”The coup for us was finding Wells and its cathedral green which hasn’t been used for filming before. The Mayor gave a reception for the whole cast and crew when we arrived, and the Bishop invited us to tea.” says Stafford-Clark.