Clough's family ignore The Damned United
The film The Damned United tells the story of Brian Clough's forty-four day run as manager of Leeds United, however his family want nothing to do with the film, mainly because they want nothing to do with the book on which the film is based.
However those behind the film are keen to point out that it is nothing like the novel and that their objections to the book by David Peace might not be apparent in the film version as the two are completely different works, and from the sounds of it neither are the truth.
This seems to be why Brian Clough's family are so against the film and the book The Damned United, that despite the assurances that the two are polar opposites in their portrayal of Clough, neither tell the truth, and according to the story from The Guardian, that's why they never liked the novel.
Don Shaw, a TV producer and friend of the family represented them at their request when the book came out in 2007, and has now spoken out about the film. Speaking about the offer from the film-makers to see the film either at a private screening or première, said:
“They absolutely loathe the idea. Nigel tried to read The Damned Utd but gave up because he was so shocked by it. Barbara read one page before she had to stop...They were horrified by the book and won't be seeing the film.”
While Shaw may have a vested interest as his own novel about Brian Clough is due to come out, the family don't, and they are interesting in neither of the polar opposite sounding stories.
It seems that the novel by David Peace () is a very dark story, with a strong look at the psychology of Clough as much of it takes place inside his own head. It shows his chain smoking, using expletives throughout conversations and his heavy drinking, and it seems this dark and negative view is what the family don't appreciate.
A producer of the film, Andy Harries, is surprised that they haven't taken up the offer and says that they have sent scripts, invites to production meetings, and even the offer of a private screening.
“I find it a bit surprising. He was a public figure all his life and no one exploited the media more than Clough.”
However he does say that the decision to make the film a much more light-hearted look at the time was a deliberate one.
“We didn't dwell on his alcoholism or his decline. That wasn't the story we wanted to tell. In quite tough times, we wanted to make a film with an upbeat ending - you come out of the cinema thinking it was an enjoyable experience and that Clough was a good guy.”
Now that strikes me as just as bad as portraying it too dark as it would appear that the novel has done. Either way is taking the truth and changing it, something the family don't appreciate and I've spoken out about many times before.
Changing historic events, particularly involving a well known individual as this story does, runs the risk of altering perceived fact and changing the beliefs of what has actually happened. Both the book and the film threaten to do that and present a less than truthful account of the events in real life.
I do find this rather surprising since Peter Morgan wrote the screenplay. Yes they've taken liberties with real life stories already, but this sounds like a much more drastic change than before.
What's interesting is that the David Peace book (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com) hasn't just come under fire from the family, but Leeds midfielder Johnny Giles who was featured in the story received an out of court settlement and apology from the book's publishers along with a promise to remove certain passages from future editions of the novel.
It raises that question of fact mixing with fiction and just how that affects people's perception of history, and whether the books and film about the character of Brian Clough do him justice. Don Shaw does, not too surprisingly, have a book coming out about Clough very soon, and his will no doubt gather the favour of the family.
I wonder if the interest in The Damned United film and novel might spark a desire to film the true life version of Clough, and if the family will be happy with a film based on that version of events.