Steve Coogan on starring Jimmy Savile in new BBC drama

Actor and comedian Steve Coogan said taking on the role of Jimmy Savile wasn’t a decision he “took lightly” because “it’s full of pitfalls.”

he 56-year-old Alan Partridge star portrays the disgraced entertainer in a new BBC One drama entitled ‘The Reckoning’.

The mini-series, due out this year, will tell the story of how working-class Savile became one of the biggest stars on television, while also focusing on his years of sexual abuse and the impact it had on his victims.

The program’s creators “worked closely with many of the people whose lives have been impacted by Savile to ensure their stories are told with sensitivity and respect,” the BBC said in a casting announcement last year.

Speaking at Channel 4’s Sunday brunch, Coogan said there was “great dislike for me when it was announced”.

“I understand people’s hostility towards the whole idea,” he said, but added the script was “very intelligent” and “it was done in consultation with a lot of Jimmy Savile’s victims.

“And they came to the shoot and their story was integrated into the Jimmy Savile story, and I think with all of those things, it’s generally better to talk about it than not to talk about it.”

The screenplay was written by Neil McKay, whose other credits include the BBC drama Four Lives, about serial killer Stephen Port who drugged and raped four men before dumping their bodies near his home in Barking, east London .


David Tennant as serial killer Dennis Nilsen in ITV drama Des (ITV/PA)

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McKay is also collaborating on the project with Jeff Pope, who is executive producer of The Reckoning.

Referring to the ITV drama Des, in which David Tennant played serial killer Dennis Nilsen, Coogan said that while the actor did a “brilliant job”, the series “didn’t evoke the same kind of antagonism, even though his crimes in some were ways more terrible.

“I think that’s because Jimmy Savile pranked the whole nation, so there’s a real sense of hostility, but you have to look at someone like that to understand how they can operate and to prevent that it will happen again.”

Nilsen died behind bars in 2018 at the age of 72 after committing a string of murders in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Coogan said he also spoke to the actors who portrayed Savile’s victims before filming scenes.

He said, “I would go and speak to them as myself and say ‘Hi, I’m Steve, I’m not Jimmy Savile, I’m going to play him tonight’.

“And you play a role and we’re going to do it professionally, and it was like they knew I was someone else. So it was a tightrope act, but I think we did it right…”

Savile died in 2011 at the age of 84 after never being brought to justice for his crimes. Steve Coogan on starring Jimmy Savile in new BBC drama

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