An Interview with Peter Richardson

"It’s mischievous, not malicious."

Peter Richardson in Red Top

Q: Could you outline the character of Rebekah Brooks in Red Top?

A: In this, she is an innocent northern girl who hitchhikes to London, where she accidentally becomes chief executive and gets caught in this web of intrigue. In our film she is very much the innocent. She is a very charming woman who uses her charm to get ahead and becomes very powerful.

Q: Can you give us an example?

A: One of her reporters has just won the Journalist of the Year award. When he comes back to the office, Rebekah doesn't say, "Well done". She just asks him, "Would you get me some nail varnish?" It's about the effect of power, but it's all done with a great sense of mischief.

Q: What does Maxine Peake add to the role of Rebekah?

A: She brings the fact that she's a great actress. She's playing a comic role straight, and that works even better as she surrounded by all these over the top characters. Her Rebekah is very funny, but she has a slightly space cadet feel. It's as if she's landed from the north and now lives in a bubble.

Q: How does Rupert Murdoch emerge from this film?

A: He's a very hard man who plays by very hard rules. But he remains very dignified when the dirt hits the fan. At the Parliamentary enquiry into phone hacking, he told MPs, "I feel humbled." So in the film we have this image of an old man who's lost his power. But we've given him dignity rather than showing him as a dribbling old fool.

Q: How does Red Top portray the relationship between Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks?

A: Rebekah treats Rupert like a father. They're very affectionate to each other. He says to her, "You're the only one who understands me, Rebekah."

Q: How does this film depict Wendi?

A: She is a real no-nonsense woman. She wears a Kill Bill outfit and is an ex-Red Guard. Being around her is like being in a James Bond film. Rupert is very powerful, but in the film Wendi steps over him and says, "I run things now." When a high-ranking politician promises Murdoch anything in order to get the support of The Sun, Wendi tells him, "Don't talk to Rupert - I run the show now!"

Q: What was the thinking behind setting this film in the 1970s?

A: I thought it would be much more fun to set it in another era, at one remove from the present day. The 1970s look - all those funny clothes and typewriters - also gives it a different spin. It's Dallas, Watergate, Boogie Nights and Rebekah Brooks on roller skates - as you'd expect!

Q: What do you hope that viewers will take away from Red Top?

A: I don't want to sound pompous - I just hope that people will laugh. We are making satirical points, but first and foremost it is meant to be funny. It's not banging people over the head with a message. It's mischievous, not malicious.

Q: After all these years, why is The Comic Strip Presents still so strong?

A: I still love it. I still love making comedy and telling a story in a funny way, and I still love rattling cages!