BBC confirms filming has started on Talking Heads remakes

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The new lineup...

The BBC has confirmed that filming has started on new versions of Alan Bennett’s acclaimed Talking Heads series.

Killing Eve lead Jodie Comer (left, main photo) will feature in the new series along with other major British stars.

They include Monica Dolan, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Sarah Lancashire, Lesley Manville, Lucian Msamati, Maxine Peake, Rochenda Sandall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Imelda Staunton and Harriet Walter (second left to right, main pic).

Filming began today on the critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning monologues, which first aired on BBC Television in 1988 and 1998.

New Talking Heads

Ten of the original pieces are being remade. Two new pieces, written by Bennett last year, will be included.

They are produced by Nicholas Hytner’s London Theatre Company and Kevin Loader; and they will air in the coming months on BBC One.

The BBC said it has a key role to play in continuing to offer new programming for audiences at this time of national crisis.

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You’ll never guess: Bennett in one of his original TH’s.

The contained nature of Bennett’s monologues allowed the opportunity to tell timely and relevant stories while following the latest government guidelines on safe working practices during Covid-19, the Beeb said.

“In such difficult circumstances, that the BBC should choose to remount both series of Talking Heads, and produce two entirely new ones, is a comfort and a huge compliment”, Bennett said of the remakes.

“I hope a new generation of actors will get and give as much pleasure as we did 20 and 30 years ago.”

TV masterworks

Nicholas Hytner, Bennett’s long-term collaborator and Lead Director and Producer, said: “Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads are among the masterworks of one of the very greatest writers in TV, film and theatre history.

“It has been a profound and fascinating experience to work out a way of making them again, this time with a company of phenomenal actors who are the equal of those who first made them; with a group of leading theatre directors, colleagues and friends of long standing; and with a team behind the camera that represents the best of the British TV and film industries.

“It is a wonderful bonus that two of the 2020 Talking Heads are totally new, written only a short time before the current crisis began.

“Everyone involved has been working in an unprecedented way, rigorously observing social distancing, entirely rethinking ways of filmmaking that until a few weeks ago seemed routine.

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Iconic Heads: The fabulous Maggie Smith in one of the original TH’s.

“The shoot will never bring any of us within touching distance of each other, but I hope that in every other way it will reach out and touch millions of viewers. We are all of us beyond grateful to the BBC for setting us this challenge.”

Original Talking Heads

The Talking Heads monologues were first broadcast on the BBC in 1988 and 1998. They broke new ground for television, and are widely celebrated as Alan Bennett’s masterpieces.

They had a stellar cast including Patricia Routledge, Maggie Smith, Stephanie Cole, Julie Walters, Thora Hird, Eileen Atkins, David Haig and Penelope Wilton, alongside Bennett himself.

The monologues won two Baftas, an RTS award and have also since been included on the A-level and GCSE English Literature syllabus.

New Heads

The remade monologues which will air on BBC One in the coming months are as follows, in alphabetical order:

  • Jodie Comer in Her Big Chance (1988), directed by Josie Rourke
  • Monica Dolan in The Shrine (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner
  • Martin Freeman in A Chip In The Sugar (1988), directed by Jeremy Herrin
  • Tamsin Greig in Nights In The Garden of Spain (1998), directed by Marianne Elliott
  • Sarah Lancashire in An Ordinary Woman (2019), directed by Nicholas Hytner
  • Lesley Manville in Bed Among The Lentils (1988), directed by Nicholas Hytner
  • Lucian Msamati in Playing Sandwiches (1998), directed by Jeremy Herrin
  • Maxine Peake in Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet (1988), directed by Sarah Frankcom
  • Rochenda Sandall in The Outside Dog (1998), directed by Nadia Fall
  • Kristin Scott Thomas in The Hand Of God (1998), directed by Jonathan Kent
  • Imelda Staunton in A Lady Of Letters (1988), directed by Jonathan Kent
  • Harriet Walter in Soldiering On (1988), directed by Marianne Elliott

Filming is taking place at BBC Elstree Studios using existing sets. The Talking Heads production team is following the latest government guidelines on Covid-19; to ensure that the series is made safely and responsibly.

Talking Heads will be produced by London Theatre Company for BBC One, with BBC Studios providing the studios facilities.

The series will be produced by Nicholas Hytner and Kevin Loader for London Theatre Company; and co-produced by Steve Clark Hall.

Executive Producers are Nick Starr and Anthony Jones for LTC, and Piers Wenger for the BBC.

The series has been commissioned by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content.