In Contested Will, James Shapiro’s just-published book on who wrote Shakespeare (he thinks it was Shakespeare), he quotes from Shakespeare’s Secret, a book for kids by an author called Elise Broach, in which Broach, who doesn’t think Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, writes the following: “As a historian, I don’t find the evidence to be complete enough–yet–to topple the man from Stratford from his literary pedestal. But as a novelist I am more convinced.”
There’s a sentence for you—from a woman who can think one thing as a novelist, another as a historian. I couldn’t do it myself, but Robert Harris and Roman Polanski probably could. As a novelist and author of The Ghost Writer, Robert Harris is convinced that Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), also known as Tony Blair, is an empty-headed, personable, good-looking, consummate actor of a politician who also happens to be wildly pro-American. And as a filmmaker, Roman Polanski thinks the same.
So they put that figure at the centre of the film version, and then build around it a fantasy which includes an arraignment before the International Criminal Court in The Hague (the same trope was used in Alastair Beaton’s 2007 TV play, The Trial of Tony Blair); a series of murders of those who discover uncomfortable truths under Lang’s lies; and the final revelation, that his wife Ruth (Olivia Williams), or Cherie as she was known, is a CIA agent who has been manipulating him to poodle along behind the US in its evil design to depose a mass murderer.