BBC biopic of Dylan Thomas

BBC2 is set to host the latest Dylan Thomas biopic due to hit our screens on 17 October 2014, marking the centenary of the poet’s birth. Screenwriter Andrew Davies, a man responsible for continually convincing Colin Firth to remove his clothing in films, is at the helm. Alongside Bridget Jones and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Davies is best known for his bodice-ripping 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, so we can only assume there will be a conveniently placed water-feature on the New York set of A Poet in New York. Or Colin Firth trouserless.

The BBC screenplay will focus on the tragic last days of Dylan Thomas’ life. He died aged 39, whilst on a trip to New York to oversee the production of his play Under Milk Wood. This project was intended to finance a foray into Hollywood, where the poet was due to collaborate with Russian composer Igor Stravinsky on an opera. However, whilst in New York, Thomas continued his penchant for excessive drinking and one night at a bar with his lover Liz Reitell, the assistant of American poet John Brinnin, he fell into a coma and died four days later. Allegedly his last words were the remarkable phrase: “I have had 18 straight whiskies, I think that’s the record”, it remains to be seen if Davies will stick to this line in his BBC adaptation.

In his research for the BBC, Davies explored this idea of a tortured soul drinking himself into self-destruction, citing Dylan Thomas’ crippling debt to the Inland Revenue, and the creative difficulties he was suffering at the time as major psychological factors. However, Davies is sceptical about the likelihood that Thomas managed the alleged 18 whiskies, stating that the fact he hadn’t eaten 10 days prior to his death, and an ill-advised morphine shot, as heavy contributors to the poet’s tragic end.

The BBC biopic, whilst focusing on his final days, will include flashbacks to Thomas’ earlier life in Carmarthenshire with his wife, Caitlin. Dylan Thomas’ relationship with his wife is tackled in the 2008 The Edge of Love pitting Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley as rivals for Thomas’ affection. In contrast to that suitably sensationalised biopic, the BBC’s A Poet in New York looks to be the real story of Dylan Thomas’ loves, life and death.

Davies has suggested that Toby Jones is in the running to play the hard-drinking Welsh poet; personally we’d love to see Rhys Ifans tackle 18 whiskies. Who would you like to see play Dylan Thomas in the upcoming BBC biopic?

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