Red Top’s Maxine Peake: ‘Rebekah Brooks has some extraordinary charm’

Red Top’s Maxine Peake: ‘Rebekah Brooks has some extraordinary charm’

Silk actress Maxine Peake, who stars as former News of the World and Sun editor Rebekah Brooks in this week’s Comic Strip Presents satire Red Top, has revealed how she jumped at the chance to be in the production.

“When I heard it was Comic Strip I just asked if I could be in it,” she told the Observer newspaper, “and when I heard that it was Rebekah Brooks I thought ‘Brilliant’.

“The Brooks part is obviously a caricature,” continued Maxine,” who made her name in Victoria Wood’s dinnerladies, “but I tried to pick up on elements of her character. People who’ve met her say: ‘I didn’t want to like her but I did.’ Obviously she has some extraordinary charm that people really seem to fall for.”

Inspired by the phone-hacking debacle, the 1970s-set story follows Northern girl Rebekah who unwittingly becomes chief executive of News International and gets caught up in a “Watergate-style scandal”.

“Like our previous The Hunt For Tony Blair which was set in the 1960s, Red Top lampoons the world of politics and press proprietors, and is set in a Boogie Nights-style parallel universe with a disco soundtrack,” said Peter Richardson who masterminded the project.

The comedy also stars Harry Enfield as Brooks’ former husband, Ross Kemp, while Russell Tovey is Andy Coulson and Stephen Mangan reprises his role as Tony Blair.

Red Top can be seen on Gold at 10pm on Wednesday

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Peter Richardson on Maxine Peake’s role of Rebekah Brooks

Peter Richardson on Maxine Peake’s role of Rebekah Brooks

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.

Click to read the rest of the interview.

Russell Tovey on working with Maxine Peake

Russell Tovey on working with Maxine Peake

Q: How did you find it working with Maxine Peake?

A: I loved it. Maxine is fantastic, and I really enjoyed our scenes together. Rebekah and Andy have this tremendous energy. They are two power-hungry people with huge egos. Within that world they are two gods. They can be so offensive and abusive to anyone under them, and they have to take it.

Read the rest of his interview here.

An Interview With Red Top Star Maxine Peake

An Interview With Red Top Star Maxine Peake

Q: What appealed to you about this film?

A: The fact that it was Comic Strip Presents. I can’t remember the last time I got this excited, before even reading the script. I just got an email saying, “Will you read this with a view to meeting the director?” I went, “Oh my God, this is Comic Strip Presents. Oh please let me like it”. I knew I would!

I’ve seen the majority of The Comic Strip Presents films, and the last one I saw was The Hunt For Tony Blair which I thought was absolutely brilliant. Without sounding too corny, it was a little bit of a dream come true when it came in the email. It’s a bit like when I did Dinner Ladies – these are my heroes.

Q: Were you also pleased to be coming back to comedy?

A: Yes. I’ve been stuck in the world of gritty drama for a while, so it was a lovely relief as well to think, “Someone does trust that I can do some comedy”. That’s to be seen – I might completely ruin it!

Q: Are you enjoying the return to comedy?

A: Yes. But it’s been about 10 years, and that does take its toll. I’ve been thinking, “I’m sure there’s a gag in here somewhere!” But it’s been great. For a long time I’ve been desperate to do some comedy, but it’s about the right script. You don’t want to do comedy for the sake of doing some comedy. But you don’t get better than Comic Strip Presents. It’s so iconic.

Q: How would you describe the tone of Red Top?

A: It’s very tongue in cheek, I’m not playing Rebekah Brooks – I’m on roller skates, for one! It’s a very high-octane version. As Brits, we are famous for being able to laugh at ourselves, and I think if people don’t have that outlet, it all gets very serious. It’s really exciting and brave because these people deserve to have the mickey taken out of them.

Q: How would you describe this Rebekah?

A: I don’t like to use the word caricature. But she’s canny, and she likes to use her feminine wiles. With the gentlemen, she plays on her vulnerability sometimes and wields her power quite strongly at other times.

Q: Is this Murdoch under her spell?

A: Yes, completely. That relationship is fascinating. When he was asked “What’s your number one priority”, he said, “This one”. I’ve spoken to people who’ve met her who said they didn’t want to like her, but then they came away and thought, “Wow, she does have that charisma.”

Q: Why is she so successful at creating these relationships with powerful men?

A: I listened to one of these profile programmes on Radio 4 and it was interviewing an old school friend of hers. She said Rebekah’s emotional intelligence was way ahead of other people’s. She had this way of being able to play people and understand them and get under their skin. Those kind of women are always a real mystery to me. There are quite a few of them about. Game players – I’m always fascinated by those sort of women.

Q: Could you tell us about this Rebekah’s relationship with Murdoch in this drama?

A: It’s a very close father and daughter relationship, and she’s very demure and little girl around Murdoch. Then obviously she has this stand-off relationship with Wendi.

Q: So there is a father-daughter thing going on?

A: Yes. It’s fascinating. Obviously he has daughters of his own, but maybe he sees something of himself in Rebekah. There’s something he responds to in her. It’s not a sexual thing. It just feels like two like minds. She’s obviously very devoted to him. She probably gives him a lot of attention that maybe he doesn’t get so much from his own family.

Q: How have you found the roller skating?

A: It’s been fun, although I did fall yesterday. Peter said, “Just get to the end and spin!” I thought I’d give it a go and I went down like a sack of spuds!

Q: Finally, what do you hope people will take away from watching this?

A: There is a serious issue here. But first and foremost, you hope that people will enjoy it and that they’ll have a laugh. I think people will laugh along with it, people who work for the Sun or the Guardian. Everyone gets it in the neck, every publication, every political leaning. Peter has done an amazing job. It’s very, very funny.

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The Comic Strip takes on Rebekah Brooks in first look at new special Red Top

Can Maxine Peake, Russell Tovey and Stephen Mangan hack it?

The Comic Strip’s upcoming satire Red Top has released a new image of its all-star cast.

The special, which will focus on Rebekah Brooks (Maxine Peake) and the phone hacking scandal, will air on Gold on January 20.


L to R – Bob Harris (Peter Richardson), Wendi (Eleanor Matsuura), Coulson (Russell Tovey), Rebekah (Maxine Peake), Blair (Stephen Mangan), Johnny (Johnny Vegas), Ross (Harry Enfield)

Alongside Peake, the show will star Nigel Planer as Rupert Murdoch, Russell Tovey as Andy Coulson and Harry Enfield as Ross Kemp.

Red Top will also star Stephen Mangan, Johnny Vegas and Peter Richardson.

It is described as the story of Rebekah, “an innocent and beguiling Northern girl​” who becomes Chief Executive of News International​ through a series of accidental circumstances and gets tied-up in a “’70s Watergate-style scandal​”.

The Comic Strip previously parodied Tony Blair in The Hunt For Tony Blair.

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12 movies you mustn’t miss at York’s festival of short films: Strange Weather starring Maxine Peake

12 movies you mustn’t miss at York’s festival of short films: Strange Weather starring Maxine Peake

t’s time to crank up the industrial-sized popcorn-maker if you want to munch along with the 300 or so mini movies on offer at the fifth annual Aesthetica Short Film Festival.

There’s a packed programme of screenings, masterclasses and panel discussions at 15 York venues over four days.

Among the many highlights are Eleanor, starring Golden Globe-winning actress Ruth Wilson (The Affair), thriller Strange Weather, starring Maxine Peake (Shameless) and blood-splattered black comedy Dark_Net, starring Johnny Vegas (of getting drunk and being funny fame).

TV star Maxine Peake flexes her not inconsiderable acting muscles in Strange Weather , a Loose Change Films production by Tom Shrapnel, that explores what happens when two people witness a mysterious natural phenomenon that reawakens their senses and draws their fractured lives together.

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Film makers reveal why they chose Plymouth for star-laden Comic Strip filming

Film makers have revealed their reasons behind choosing Plymouth city centre for the filming of a new Comic Strip TV show with top celebrity names.

For the last few weeks film crews have been in Plymouth filming around the city centre for the new film, The Comic Strip Presents…The Red Top!.

Film makers Great Western Features today revealed how they had been looking for a building that could double up as 1970s newspaper offices in Wapping, as well as being a hotel and police station.

The filmmakers managed to find a window when the Civic Centre – the former headquarters of Plymouth City Council – was being vacated prior to the planned sale to Urban Splash.

The film features an A-List of British comedians including Maxine Peake, Johnny Vegas, Stephen Mangan, Nigel Planer, Harry Enfield, Russell Tovey, Alexei Sayle and Comic Strip creator Peter Richardson also makes an appearance in the film, which parodies the phone hacking scandal.

It has been commissioned by UKTV and will be shown on Gold in the new year – the second Comic Strip film to be made exclusively for Gold since Five Go To Rehab was made to mark the Comic Strip’s 30th anniversary in 2012.

Leader of Plymouth City Council, Councillor Tudor Evans said: “We are really thrilled that the Comic Strip team have chosen Plymouth to make their new film.

“It’s a fantastic city with some amazing locations, and we are always delighted to welcome film-makers here. It has been a bit surreal the last couple of weeks because the Council House has doubled up as News International headquarters but it’s a great coup for Plymouth and I look forward to seeing the finished product.”

Nick Smith from Great Western Features approached Plymouth City Council to ask about using the buildings as a film set, said: “The Civic Centre and Council House were perfect as our film is set in the 1970s and neither building has changed much since then! This small window between the Council moving out and before Urban Splash move in was the ideal opportunity for us to make the film so we were delighted when Plymouth City Council said yes.”

Creator Peter Richardson said: “Like our previous Comic Strip satire – ‘The Hunt For Tony Blair’ which was set in the sixties, ‘The Red Top (WT)’ lampoons the phone hacking scandal and the world of politics and press proprietors, and is set in a colourful seventies ‘Boogie Nights’ style parallel universe with a disco soundtrack. I’m thrilled to have such a fantastic cast. It should be huge fun.”

The outlandish 75-minute comic fantasy tells the story of Rebekah (Maxine Peake) an innocent and beguiling Northern girl who accidentally becomes Chief Executive of News International and gets caught up in a seventies Watergate-style scandal.

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