The Journey: McGuinness v Paisley and other odd movie couples
Nick Hamm’s new film The Journey tells of the decades-long enmity, followed by the highly surprising friendship, between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness as they laboured towards the Anglo-Irish agreement. It slots neatly into a favourite mini-genre of mine, mostly cornered by screenwriter Peter Morgan, who has made half a career of creating dramatic face-offs between real-life figures with diametrically opposed worldviews: Lord Longford and Myra Hindley (Longford); Brian Clough and Don Revie (The Damned United) and James Hunt and Niki Lauda (Rush). Other film-makers have taken up the format, too, in My Week With Marilyn, The King’s Speech and now The Journey.
I love this genre. Trouble is, I need more. How about a movie about that time in 1956 when ascetic playwright Arthur Miller and rococo intellectual Saul Bellow were living out the six-week residency requirement in the same hotel in Reno while waiting for their quickie first divorces, with Marilyn Monroe sneaking in for illicit visits as Miller wrote the story that would later become The Misfits? Booze, bald intellectuals, bombshells: I’d watch that in a heartbeat.
Or what about the power struggle between Playboy writer Alex Haley and Malcolm X as they worked on the latter’s autobiography, one of the great American transformation narratives? One middle-class, integrated black writer, shaped by 20 years in the Coast Guard, versus a formidable, prison-sculpted black separatist. In the creation of that book, each man crawled inside the other’s mind and came away changed for ever. Plus, there’s a cameo in there for Hugh Hefner. Greenlight it!
Watch the trailer for The Journey.
Then there’s the story of how George Orwell’s widow Sonia and others wheedled elderly alcoholic recluse Jean Rhys (who had simply vanished 20 years earlier) into completing her masterpiece Wide Sargasso Sea in the early 60s. There are two parts for actors almost worthy of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, perhaps a Judy Davis and Vanessa Redgrave.
Or, perhaps Morgan could write a script about the Kaczyński brothers, one of whom had to betray his murderous sibling to the FBI for the common good. It’s a guilt-wracked story worthy of Cain and Abel, in which the brothers do not even meet for 10 years. And, if Morgan’s not up for that, I’d settle for Christopher and Peter Hitchens: Lust for Glory, which would be explosive, even without an explosives budget.
Until then, The Journey, which needs a better Ian Paisley but otherwise satisfies, will have to hold me.
The Journey is in cinemas from 5 May