In her Desert Island Discs, Bookworm reveals that the Damian Lewis character she would take to her island is… Paul Reynolds! Have you ever met the guy? If not, it’s TIME you meet him!
Bookworm, in fact, identifies Paul Reynolds with the Queen hit: Don’t stop me now! She says: “What to say about Paul from Friends and Crocodiles? Paul has a big personality and the house to match. He has big dreams and plenty of ideas, but lacks the ability to coherently organise his life at all. He is known as a great host of great parties and has many colourful people in his life. Paul likes to enjoy himself and not really think too far ahead.
“Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time.”
Judging by one scene he certainly did and if you want a good time pick up the phone and call Paul.”
Is Bookworm’s tease good enough to make you want to meet Paul? Or re-visit him if you have already met and loved him?
Friends and Crocodiles is a BBC drama that tells the relationship between two colleagues whose personalities cannot be more different: the inspirational yet maverick Paul (Damian Lewis) and the more pragmatic and sensible Lizzie (a wonderful Jodhi May). The story is set against the backdrop of the rapidly changing business environment of the 1980s and 1990s.
The film was written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff for BBCOne and aired for the first time in January 2006. Here is how Poliakoff outlines his film:
“It’s about work, ambition, aspiration, respect, self-esteem, which are all things that motivate us as much as, if not more than sexual love.”
So… If you are expecting a love story here… please don’t! And, in fact, Damian thinks this is brilliant:
“It’s an extraordinarily ambitious premise for today’s film world because the perception is that audiences want romance, that romance sells and that love sells. But what is brilliant about this is that it demonstrates that love can manifest itself in many different ways.”
Wouldn’t you agree?
And it seems Damian genuinely enjoyed working with the director:
“There is no doubt that Stephen is one of those names on any actor’s list of people to work with. I enjoy acting for him because he genuinely understands and enjoys the process of acting. Maybe, that’s because he’s a writer as well as a director – he knows what it takes to make a character credible.
He gives a lot of leeway but he’s also very good at steering you in the right direction. The fact that he’s spent so much time writing something means that he’s got very definite ideas about how he wants it to work.”
Well, the movie starts in 1990s. We witness an awkward meeting between a wealthy-looking old man and an almost-homeless-looking young guy where you can see that the two have known each other for a long time, but the old man looks a bit out of his comfort zone as he talks to the young guy whose name turns out to be… Paul.
…we travel back to 1981 and meet Paul Reynolds: He owns a magnificent house, hosts crazy parties and collects interesting people — a Gatsby-like figure as one of the people in his “collection” describes him. And, as much as he is someone that wants to have a good time and not really want to think too far ahead in his life, Paul has some creative vision. He dreams of wind power, airships, and new urban landscapes… Another big question that keeps his mind busy is the reason why the crocodile has been able to survive unchanged against the evolutionary odds for two millenia… well, this Radio Times cover from the time Friends and Crocodiles premiered on BBC obviously seconds that 🙂
As Paul is having this posh life, Lizzie Thomas (Jodhi May) walks into his life. Well, she literally walks into his life — Paul’s having some picnic on his land and Lizzie’s walking across his land to work, a local real estate agency.
Intrigued by Lizzie, Paul persuades her to come and work for him as his personal assistant and bring some order to his chaos, in particular some order to THE room in which he keeps his ideas — you really really have to see that room!
This is the beginning of their decades-long interesting relationship 🙂
Lizzie, as much as she is inspired by Paul’s endless imagination and his extreme enthusiasm, she is also frustrated by his carelessness and his destructiveness, which, at one time, forces her to call the police as some local troublemakers invade one of the crazy parties at Paul’s house, seemingly with Paul’s tacit approval. The two have a terrible fight and part ways vowing that they will never see or speak to each other again.
But their paths cross again and again, as Lizzie, with good help from some of the brilliant people in Paul’s “collection”, rises through the NEW corporate world in Britain where as Paul changes his lifestyle again and again in some unpredictable ways — no spoilers!
Here’s a little Friends and Crocodiles promo video for BBC America and the movie is available on DVD and also for streaming on Amazon.
Now… what does Damian think about the movie?
First, he finds the script gripping.
“It portrays a profound intimacy between two grown-ups without ever turning it into a love story. There is never any flirtation or come-hither from either character. It’s very much a platonic relationship. That’s vital to the piece.”
Then he reveals that, one he read the script, the maverick nature of his captivated him:
“Paul is the son of a Dagenham car plant worker. He has got rich through property and leads a Gatsby-esque life in this fabulous mansion. There he surrounds himself with the talented and the beautiful.
There is evidence that he enjoys the trappings of success, the ubiquitous women, the suggestion of drugs.
But what sets him apart from the crowd is that he’s a man of ideas. What drives him in life is not women or drugs, but creativity.
Having around him those who are brilliant, he creates an environment where people can have time to think, debate and discuss, which is so crucial.
The film laments the lack of time given to individual thinking. We’re in the grip of think-tank-ism and the general dumbing down of original thought. But nothing ever stays the same in this drama, or indeed in life itself.”