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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 01:57 GMT
Creating a role fit for a Queen
By Victoria Lindrea
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Peter Morgan with Helen Mirren
I'm on a diet of Red Bull and sleeplessness
Peter Morgan

Actors must be beating a path to Oscar nominee Peter Morgan's door.

The screenwriter behind The Queen and The Last King of Scotland created the roles for which both Dame Helen Mirren and Forest Whittaker are widely expected to lift the Academy Awards on Sunday.

The pair are already laden with honours for their leading performances as Queen Elizabeth II and the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin respectively.

"Helen and Forest's success makes me very proud - that's the best bit about all this," Morgan, 43, told the BBC News website.

By "all this", Morgan - who is nominated for best original screenplay at the Oscars this weekend - means the razzmatazz that is the annual film awards season.

"You go into this bubble, and inside that bubble are all the people that are in this awards race," he explains.

"Everybody else is getting on with their lives - and you lot are suspended in this completely artificial campaign.

"It's every bit as intriguing and preposterous as a political campaign."

The Queen
Morgan has captured the Queen's most private moments

As the author of TV play The Deal and the recent West End hit Frost/Nixon - set to arrive on Broadway this Spring, and next year on the big screen - Morgan is no stranger to politics.

The writer has built up his reputation forging drama out of pivotal real-life events, shining the spotlight on memorable moments from our recent past.

The Queen follows the divisions between the British public, the government and the monarchy immediately after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Despite its very British roots, the film has found global recognition, reaping awards all over the world.

"It's amazing how people take different things from The Queen.

"In general, reaction round the world has been incredibly similar, but there have been certain jokes that have played totally differently," says Morgan.

"The bit where Blair says: 'Tell Gordon to hang on' - that only gets a laugh in the United Kingdom. In Los Angeles in particular, when Steven Spielberg walks into the Abbey, it brings the house down."
The Last King of Scotland
He even called his wife as Idi
Peter Morgan on Forest Whitaker's intense performance

Hollywood insiders "love to mock their own", explains Morgan, but he claims that, in reality, Tinseltown is a far cry from the Hollywood of screenwriters' imagination.

"It's far more sober here than one imagines. It's full of people who are very abstemious and workaholic - and it feels like a community of lawyers rather than that Hollywood of drug-taking excess.

"Everybody is very young, very thin and no-one eats puddings."

Now the proud owner of two Baftas for The Last King of Scotland, and a Golden Globe for The Queen, Morgan is certainly getting a taste of the high life.

"You sort of get a sense of what it must be like to be famous.

"After winning the Golden Globe, I went to a couple of parties here. When I walked around holding my Globe, everyone smiled and laughed at everything I said," says Morgan.

"Then, thankfully, I put my Golden Globe down - and I was elbowed and punched, and kicked and ignored - just like every other person in the room!

Actor Michael Sheen
Michael Sheen, who plays Tony Blair, will also play Brian Clough

"It was really nice to be able to just switch it on and off, and to see the difference."

But beyond all the air-kissing and hubris, awards mean ringing cash tills.

"The moment that it made sense to me was when, in the immediate aftermath of the Oscar nominations, box office for The Queen went up overnight - by 45%.

"You suddenly realise that behind the madness is something rather basic. It's all about business."

And in spite of his recent success, Morgan insists he is not besieged by Hollywood script demands.

"I am writing a low budget film for the BBC about Brian Clough, explains the screenwriter, who is about to embark upon an adaptation of David Peace's The Damned United.

"It's so un-Hollywood, the Americans just stare at you, like you've committed career Hari-Kari."


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