Page last updated at 00:10 GMT, Friday, 26 August 2011 01:10 UK

David Hare: 'My opinions have nothing to do with my art'


David Hare speaks about how finding the limits of your own imagination can be painful

"It's been a rough few years for MI5," says award-winning playwright Sir David Hare, explaining why he has chosen a spy thriller as his first original screenplay in 20 years.

"Partly because it refused to offer Blair the information he wanted when he was putting together the case for an invasion of Iraq and partly because of the effects of 7/7."

Page Eight, written and directed by Hare, looks at how the world has changed since the invasion of Iraq and the so-called "war on terror".

Starring Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz, it is a fictional account unpicking what went on in the British intelligence services when they were working alongside their American counterparts.

"There hasn't been a single work so far about what's happened to MI5 in the first 10 years of this century," Sir David told HARDtalk.

David Hare's film, Page Eight will be screened on BBC Two on Sunday 28 August

"In the Cold War John le Carre was writing up a storm about the subject of the intelligence services, obviously he's the greatest writer on the subject - but there's nothing contemporary," he added.

Sir David received Oscar nominations for both The Hours in 2002 and The Reader in 2008.

His work often uses political material which can prompt readers to look for a message but Sir David insists that he does not write agitprop, and that his purpose isn't to try and change the system.

Bill Nighy in Page Eight
Nighy plays an M15 officer who quits his job to investigate a mystery file

"I'm looking for metaphors, I'm interested in art - but I happen to use as my materials things from contemporary society."

"If I wanted to effect political change - I wouldn't choose the theatre as the most efficient way of doing it."

When asked if topical events like the recent riots in England would inspire his work, he replied: "Artists don't choose their subject matter - it chooses them. My opinions have nothing to do with my art."

Guess work

One of his plays, Stuff Happens (which premiered in 2004), traces the origins of the Iraq war, puts it in perspective and analyses American politics.

"I feel that the world is changing so quickly in the 21st century that I'm almost having to resort to documentary because I've got no time to do some of the deeper processes of fiction."

Sir David said the premise of Page Eight was based on "informed guess work". Much of his political writing combines documentary realism with imaginative reconstruction of the arguments behind the publicly known facts.

Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz in Page Eight
Page Eight: Is a chance encounter with Weisz's character a honey trap?

"In Stuff Happens, two thirds of what went on in the diplomatic process leading up to the invasion of Iraq happened behind closed doors - nobody knows what happened.

"When Tony Blair and George Bush went for a walk in the woods in Crawford, Texas, they didn't even take their assistants with them, which made their assistants extremely nervous - nobody knows what they said."

"I wrote that scene as a fictional encounter, I invented that scene, and people will never know whether it was true or not - and that's exactly the same as what Shakespeare and Schiller did."

According to Sir David the accuracy of the final encounter has been described as "very good guess work" by people who were party to those events.

He has written a new play, South Downs, which is currently in rehearsal, and is partly based upon Sir David's own experiences as a schoolboy at Lancing College, in Sussex.

"It's about that moment at which a boy of 13 begins to realise who he is."

"There's a terrible moment in your life when you realise, as one of the characters says, you're condemned to live your whole life in the company of someone you don't like very much - namely yourself."

Page Eight is on BBC Two on Sunday 28 August at 2100 GMT.

The full interview with Sir David Hare on HARDtalk will be broadcast on Tuesday 30th August. Visit the BBC News Channel or BBC World News for programme times.

Print Sponsor

Hare to return with spy thriller
07 Jan 11 |  Entertainment & Arts
Page Eight: New Cambridge spies
17 Feb 11 |  Cambridgeshire
Hare marks wall fall anniversary
11 Feb 09 |  Entertainment

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific