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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 November 2006, 09:31 GMT
Ifans to play '60s pop mogul Meek
By Nick Dermody
BBC News website

Joe Meek (photo courtesy David Peters, Joe Meek Appreciation Society)
A former radar operator in the RAF, Meek built his own recording studio
Notting Hill star Rhys Ifans is signed up to play 60s pop producer Joe Meek, who killed his landlady and himself.

Stephen Fry is said to be interested in a role in a film portraying the life of the troubled music genius best known for the instrumental hit Telstar.

Ifans, who won a Bafta for portraying the late comic Peter Cook, is ideal for the part as he is still "very rock 'n' roll," says director Marc Evans.

Evans said: "It's not obviously commercial, it's a little more edgy."

Next year is the 40th anniversary of Meek's shotgun suicide, following his murder of landlady Violet Shenton.

He could have ended up being the Beatles' producer if his life hadn't spiralled out of control
Marc Evans, director

For some, the notoriety of the Gloucestershire-born music pioneer's death has overshadowed his career achievements, such as developing the electronic effects reverb and sampling.

Meek had Britain's first number one in the US in 1962 with The Tornados' Telstar, which former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once named as her favourite pop song.

Meek had even tried to promote a little-known Welsh singer called Tom Jones, but was two years too early.


Telstar was also one of the first commercial successes of synthesised music, created in a studio Meek built in a flat above a London leather goods store.

But his landlady was known to complain about the noise. In February 1967, Meek quarrelled with her and shot her dead with a single-barrelled shotgun.

He then turned the gun on himself. This happened on the eighth anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, one of the music greats with whom Meek was obsessed.

Rhys Ifans picks up a Bafta Cymru award in 2005
Rhys Ifans is 'Peter O'Toole and Peter Cook,' says Marc Evans

The shotgun belonged to Heinz Burt, a member of the Tornados with whom Meek was in love and who was initially a suspect in the killings.

The film rights to a biography of Meek by John Repsch have been bought by a film partnership including Stephen Fry's production company, Sprout.

Marc Evans, who directed Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman in the film drama Snow Cake, is to direct the proposed film.

Evans said he was fascinated by Meek, an electronics engineer and occultist who had to keep his then-illegal homosexuality secret while also creating his trend-setting music.

He said his fascination was shared by fellow Welshman Ifans, who was already working on how he might play the part.

'Country boy'

Ifans made his name internationally as Hugh Grant's eccentric Welsh flatmate Spike in the comedy Notting Hill.

Of Meek, Evans said: "It was the period in which he lived, when pop culture was being invented in post-war Britain.

"He could have ended up being the Beatles' producer if his life hadn't spiralled out of control.

"He was the aural equivalent of a visionary. It was the beginning of space travel. It was a fantastical world with new sound landscapes, and he could hear things in it that other people couldn't hear."

Evans said Ifans, who grew up in Ruthin, Denbighshire, was well-placed to play the "gangly, country boy who managed to get into the heart of what was then the centre of pop culture, London".

"Rhys is like an outsider. He is a country boy... sometimes I think he's Peter O'Toole and sometimes I think he's Peter Cook," he said.

"I've been working with the Super Furries and he is still part of that. He is in and out of bands. He is a very rock'n'roll guy."

Playwright Kevin Clarke, whose work includes scripts for Doctor Who as well as Casualty, The Bill and the Inspector Linley Mysteries, is writing the Meek screenplay.

The next step, said Evans, was coaxing cash for the project from the limited number of sources for British-made films.

"It's about timing, and finding the right person who gets it," he said. "It's not an obviously commercial film. It's a little more edgy than that."

Ifans in tribute to drama roots
07 Feb 05 |  North East Wales

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