ITV commissions single drama based on the life of Tommy Cooper
David Threlfall takes the role of the iconic comedian with Amanda Redman as his wife Dove
ITV has today confirmed commission of a single film about legendary comedian Tommy Cooper, written by Simon Nye and produced by multi award-winning production company, Left Bank Pictures.
Simon Nye’s script focuses on the dilemma the much-loved comedian faced when he fell in love with assistant Mary Kay and embarked upon a relationship that would last 17 years. Tommy was married to Gwen, whom he adored and affectionately nicknamed Dove. Tommy was unable to choose between Dove and Mary, and his untimely death live on air in 1984 meant that he never did.
David Threlfall (Shameless, Nowhere Boy) will play the comedian and Amanda Redman (New Tricks, Little Dorrit) takes the role of Dove. When Tommy’s extensive touring started to affect their home life, Dove decided she couldn’t go on the road with him any longer. Whilst Tommy travelled the length and breadth of the country with his own brand of visual humour and ingenious magic tricks she knew she had to remain at home to run the house. Their children, Tom Junior and Vicky, needed her and maternal Dove knew her own mind – “She’s actually not much like a dove. She’s strong. Kills first, asks questions later”.
The late nights and post-show drinks were taking their toll on his health, and Dove tried to convince him that TV work was enough. But touring was where Tommy’s heart lay: “A miner goes down a mine, a stand up comedian stands on a stage and looks the audience in the eye.”
But Tommy found he couldn’t tour alone and asked stage manager Mary Kay if she would join him. Mary was gentle, diligent and good at her job. She would arrange his props and tricks, flash a warm smile and reassure an often-tense Tommy before he took to the stage. He needed someone to bolster his confidence and it was Mary’s loving support that made the difference to his performances. The pair fell in love, and just like that, Tommy became torn between two equally devoted women.
The 1 x 120 film will also reveal Tommy’s working relationship with his agent, Miff Ferrie, who managed his career until Tommy’s shocking death in front of millions of television viewers during Live From Her Majesty’s on 15 April 1984. A dour Scot, Miff had an acrimonious working relationship with Tommy often trading insults in bitter but hilarious exchanges.
Filming will begin in London this June with former London Weekend Television Producer and award-winning magician, John Fisher, acting as a Consultant on the drama. John was a personal friend of Tommy Cooper’s and is the author of “Always Leave Them Laughing”, a definitive biography of the comedy legend’s life.
Tommy will be executive produced by Left Bank Pictures Chief Executive Andy Harries (Strike Back, DCI Banks) and produced by Lucy Dyke (The Ice Cream Girls). The Director is Benjamin Caron (Derren Brown: The Heist, My Mad Fat Diary, Scott & Bailey). Writer Simon Nye’s credits include How Do You Want Me, Reggie Perrin and the fabled comedy Men Behaving Badly.
The casting of the role of Mary will be announced in due course.
ITV’s Director of Drama Commissioning Steve November has commissioned the film.
“Tommy Cooper was an ITV legend and so it feels very fitting to be telling his story on ITV,” said Steve. “Left Bank have brought together wonderful talent in Simon Nye, David Threlfall and Amanda Redman to tell the story.”
Andy Harries commented on behalf of Left Bank Pictures: “Few comics have had such a lasting influence on UK culture as Tommy Cooper . The man was a comedy giant who spent his final years juggling his hugely successful public persona with a private passion for two women. Just like that.”