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13th Sep 2023

Steve Coogan responds to backlash on decision to play Jimmy Savile in new BBC drama

Charlie Herbert

Steve Coogan Jimmy Savile series

‘Broadly, it’s better to talk about something than not’

Steve Coogan has responded to criticism for his decision to play the role of Jimmy Savile in the upcoming BBC drama about the sex offender.

A four-part series – called The Reckoning – was announced back in 2020 and will star Steve Coogan in the role of Savile.

The series will look at the life of the former DJ and television host and the crimes he committed.

The former DJ and television host was one of the biggest celebrities in the UK, and died in 2011 at the age of 84.

However, following his death hundreds of claims of sexual abuse by Savile emerged. Scotland Yard ended up pursuing more than 400 lines of inquiry based on the testimony of 300 potential victims.

Many of his victims were children, with an investigation also finding that he had sexually assaulted staff and patients aged between the ages of 5 and 75 at a number of hospitals over several decades.

The peadophile used his charity work and connections in the police and media to cover up his crimes.

Last month, the BBC released the first image of Coogan as the predatory sex offender ahead of the series’ release later this year. The corporation has been criticised by many for its decision to make the series, with some claiming the series is “immortalising” the Jim’ll Fix It host.

Steve Coogan plays Jimmy Savile in upcoming BBC drama, The Reckoning (BBC)

Now, Coogan has responded to the criticism.

Speaking on the Radio Times podcast, he said: “It is controversial and I understand that. The BBC are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, and I believe the correct choice is to be damned if they do.

“Broadly, it’s better to talk about something than not. The team had the right attitude and it was done with the cooperation of survivors. I think when it’s broadcast, it will vindicate itself.”

Coogan has previously compared the series and his role to those about serial killers such as Fred West and Dennis Nilsen, who have been played by Dominic West and David Tennant respectively in TV series.

Speaking to Lorraine Kelly last year, he said: “The point is people play these monsters, and there wasn’t the same revulsion, and I think partly it’s because I’m playing someone who either hoodwinked a nation and groomed a nation, or – if you’re being slightly less charitable – the nation enabled him.

“That’s why people are uncomfortable about it, but like with all these things, you have to sort of lance the boil by contemplating and looking back and reflecting on why it was allowed to happen, how he was able to do this, and then learn from it. Then you can move on.”

After The Reckoning was announced by the BBC, the series’ executive producer Jeff Pope said: “The purpose of this drama is to explore how Savile’s offending went unchecked for so long, and in shining a light on this, to ensure such crimes never happen again.”

He also praised Coogan for his “unique ability to inhabit complex characters,” adding that the Alan Partridge star will approach the role with “the greatest care and integrity.”

BAFTA-winner Gemma Jones (MarvellousGentleman Jack), Siobhan Finneran (Happy ValleyTime), Mark Lewis Jones (OutlanderChernobyl) and Mark Stanley (Happy ValleyWhite House Farm) will also star in the BBC One show.

According to the BBC, the drama will “trace the life of Jimmy Savile, a man who, for decades, became one of the UK’s most influential celebrities, but in death has become one of the most reviled figures of modern history following revelations of extensive and horrific abuse.”

They added: “Savile used his involvement in multiple organisations, such as the BBC, hospitals, prisons, and charities, to legitimise himself, forging friendships in showbusiness, politics, journalism, the Catholic Church and even the Royal family to cement his position.”

The BBC has said that four survivors who have contributed to the series will feature after being interviewed on camera to “offer their further insight and to reflect on their experiences in the hope that the telling of their stories will prevent something like it happening again.”

Related links:

Ex-cop who exposed Jimmy Savile looking to bring down ‘untouchable’ sex offender

Prince Charles asked paedophile Jimmy Savile for help with royal family image