David Hare has written his first television serial at the age of 70, writes Dominic Maxwell for the Times: Collateral, his new four-part thriller for BBC Two.
Decades before #MeToo, [the British playwright and screenwriter] was writing leading roles for women in plays such as Plenty (1978), The Secret Rapture (1988) and Amy’s View (1997). His 1975 play Teeth ’n’ Smiles had Helen Mirren fronting a rock band on the stage of the Royal Court in London.
Even so, was it important to give Collateral a female protagonist after focusing on a male MI5 agent, played by Bill Nighy, in his Worricker trilogy for the BBC? No, Hare says, that was less important than making sure there were women in key roles throughout. And although Mulligan’s character is pregnant — as was the actress when she filmed it — there is barely any mention of that in the show.
“I am sick to death of hearing about the need for strong women as protagonists. It’s a boring cause. What’s a much more important cause is to show women doing jobs equally, as the normality of the thing. Throughout the cast list.”Hare can come across as touchy in interviews, but today, over a pot of tea in a hotel bar, he’s a relaxed, smiling presence even as he dishes out his pointed pointers and cheerful heresies with daunting fluency. Why are strong female protagonists a boring cause? He answers without drawing breath.
“It’s very limiting to say you only want to see strong women. I have claimed, because I have written so many women, that I have the right to represent all kinds of women. If I want to represent a murderess, I want that right. Without being called misogynistic. Similarly I want to be free to portray silly women and weak women and clever women; I want to be able to portray all women. When we can portray all women equally, that will be equality. Having just women who storm through the film or play being rude to everyone, and that’s called ‘strong women’, that’s not my idea of equality.
“Women should not be presented as the moral conscience of men’s actions either. I hope I have 100 per cent avoided portraying girlfriends saying to men, ‘Are you sure you’re doing the right thing, darling?’ ”