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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 June, 2003, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Comedy and tragedy of Chris Evans

By Torin Douglas
BBC media correspondent

Chris Evans has always taken pride in being unpredictable. So how will he react to his comprehensive defeat in the High Court?

Chris Evans
Evans' career is going through the doldrums
He has failed to win damages for unfair dismissal and some 8m in lost share options, which he claimed he was owed by the company when he left.

He will also have to pay damages - possibly running to millions of pounds - to Virgin Radio for walking out on his breakfast show, as well as the costs of the case, so far estimated at 3.75 million.

He will also have the judge's comments ringing in his ears, assuming he has bothered to read Mr Justice Lightman's lengthy judgment.

The judge said Evans lied in evidence, was an unimpressive witness and had the temperament of a prima donna.

Chris Evans
There is a fear that Evans has lost his Midas touch
He said the star was petulant, insecure, manipulative, given to sulking and laddish behaviour (including drunkenness), and a management nightmare.

"As in a Greek tragedy, the eventual outcome was practically inevitable," said the judge.

Evans' first reaction to the judgment will have fuelled fears about what he might do next.

He was not at the High Court - it is reported he is in Portugal - but the comments read out on his behalf were cryptic in the extreme: "All will come out right at last, have we such faith in the goodness of providence".

They are apparently the words of Henry Stanley to the explorer Sir David Livingstone, but some might feel the remark made to Stanley Laurel by Oliver Hardy would be more appropriate - "That's another fine mess you've got me into".

Many will see this as a mess of Evans' own making and wonder how he is going to get out of it.

He turned down the offer of mediation in the dispute, insisting on bringing what Virgin called "this needless court action" which he must now pay for.

 Chris Evans and Billie Piper
Evans does not like to read negative criticism
The judgment comes as Evans' professional career is going through the doldrums, after a period of bright hopes.

Following a two-year absence, holidaying with his wife Billie Piper and building homes abroad, he returned to the UK last autumn with great plans to produce new TV entertainment shows.

But Boys and Girls for Channel 4 and Live with Chris Moyles (later reborn as Live with Christian O'Connell) on Channel 5 have flopped, and his company's new Channel 5 morning show with Terry Wogan and Gaby Roslin is still finding its feet.

When the Terry & Gaby Show was launched last month, Evans said he would quit TV if it was not a hit.

He said it could not go wrong and if they messed it up they would have to go and set up a market stall somewhere.

The fear is that having made his big comeback attempt - as a producer rather than performer - Evans has lost his Midas touch.

Chris Evans
The question now is whether Evans can re-focus his talents
The comprehensive defeat in the High Court - and the high-profile coverage it is likely to attract in the tabloid newspapers - could reinforce the star's self-destructive streak.

During the court case, he revealed he had asked staff not to show him any newspaper cuttings that were critical of him. He is unlikely to like what he reads following the judgment.

According to Mr Justice Lightman, Evans "is a person who cannot tolerate either criticism or the exercise by management of authority over what he does.

"Despite his confident front, he is very insecure in himself and as a consequence frequently... avoids confrontation or unpleasant or unpalatable situations".

His current situation is about as unpalatable as it can get. It remains to be seen whether his undeniable creative talent can be re-energised and re-focussed or whether, as the judge hinted, this is a Greek tragedy in the making.

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