Article from the 13 February 2000 Sunday London Times

Submitted by Margy

Charles Dance to star in TV film of Hamilton court drama

He suffered financial ruin and the loss of his reputation in the High Court -- now Neil Hamilton's humiliation is to be re-enacted for an audience of millions in a BBC film.

The actor Charles Dance is to play Hamilton in his failed court battle against Mohamed al-Fayed. The role of Hamilton's wife, Christine, is to be taken by Zoë Wanamaker.

The BBC is to base its court-room drama on a transcript of the month-long case, which ended in the ruin of the former Conservative minister four days before Christmas.

Under the protection of legal privilege, the BBC will screen a series of allegations that would otherwise not reach the screen. During the trial, Fayed claimed the crash that killed Diana, Princess of Wales, was a secret service plot masterminded by the Duke of Edinburgh.

One source defended the BBC's decision to pile on the shame for Hamilton -- and insisted there was no question of it seeking belated revenge for his victory over the current affairs programme Panorama in a libel case of the mid-1980s.

In a reference to Hamilton's legal bill for the case, estimated at £1m-£2m, the source said: "The script is on the public record, it's been paid for, and it demands to be made."

The BBC aims to overcome restrictions on the portrayal of living people by sticking faithfully to the court transcript. Shooting is expected to begin within weeks.

Fayed emerged triumphant from the High Court, ordering "hampers and champers all round" to celebrate the jury's verdict that Hamilton had accepted payments from him. But the film will remind the public of the damage the Harrods owner sustained to his own reputation during the trial, in which he admitted greasing the palms of politicians using envelopes stuffed with £50 notes.

During the trial, the judge, Mr. Justice Morland -- to be played by Robert Hardy -- said: "Mohamed Fayed has a warped appreciation of what is fact and what is fiction." When challenged about his use of the prefix "Al" on his name, Fayed replied: "You can call me Al Capone if you want."

Fayed will be played by Nadim Sawalha. His barrister, George Carman, will be played by Michael Kitchen.

Even before the verdict, Hamilton had listened to hours of humiliating testimony. The court heard how he was paid £10,000 by the oil giant Mobil to seek changes to a bill. Fayed claimed: "Neil Hamilton would sell his mother for money."

This weekend Hamilton said he was concerned to ensure that the BBC would be impartial. "It will be interesting to see what the BBC chooses to use from the transcript," he said.

‡ The Department of Trade and Industry has been asked by Michael Heseltine, the former deputy prime minister, to investigate claims that Fayed paid £10,000 for documents showing the questions he would face during the libel case. They were allegedly taken from rubbish bags outside the offices of Hamilton's lawyers.

There is no suggestion that the Fayed camp told its legal team about them. Last night Hamilton called for an investigation by the Law Society.

© Nicholas Hellen, Media Editor

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