Lady Chatterley’s Lover is the story that shocked a generation, sparking decades of controversy after its initial publication in 1928.
DH Lawrence’s tale of an illicit affair crossing social boundaries is making a return to our screens this weekend, with Game of Thrones star Richard Madden as groundskeeper Mellors.
It won’t, however, be dropping any jaws this time around, says Madden.
“I don’t think it can shock. From 12-years-old you can go on the internet and find anything you want so I don’t think there’s much to shock anyone anymore,” the 29-year-old says. “Hopefully this story is just going to bring a grit to these characters that is real and actually very moving, to see people struggling through life and despite all the odds trying to find beauty and hope.”
But it does go without saying that there will be scenes of a sexual nature that some people will find shocking…
“It’s not one for my mother I don’t think!” he laughs. “There’s not much nudity per say but she said, ‘Will there be noises?’ and I said, ‘There might be’, so she said, ‘Well, I’ll not watch it then.’”
For Madden, there is more to those intimate scenes than deep breaths and bared flesh. “It’s a connecting of two souls that are in lots of ways misplaced in this world. She’s misplaced in lots of ways, being part of that society and it not being right for her, and he’s misplaced in this world where he doesn’t feel like things should be the way they are.”
And much more to the relationship between Mellors and Lady Chatterley than just lust.
“You know when you’re really in love with someone and you have that great intimate relationship? It’s not just great sex or lust, it’s a real connection,” says Madden.
It’s important to the Cinderella star that the sex scenes have an important part to play in the story: “There are certain sides of you that come out when you’re post coital, or during sex, that you don’t get in other scenes or in other company. There’s a huge vulnerability. There’s a huge joy, as well – I think that’s when [Mellors is] at his best,” he says. “There’s line in the film where we are talking about his penis and he says, ‘He’s got his root in my soul, that gentleman.’”
“Everything I’ve done sexually on screen is because it’s essential to the story. And even though I was in Game of Thrones which, you know, there’s quite a lot of gratuitous sex in that. Anything I did was purely character based and character driven.”
Talking of Thrones, Madden decided not to ask his on-screen father Sean Bean, who played Mellors in the iconic 1993 BBC miniseries, for advice when he bagged the role.
“I didn’t want to! I have watched his version, [but] I’ve blocked it out of my mind because it was a while ago and I didn’t want to revisit it again just to prevent myself being influenced by it in anyway.”
“I really had to try and find ownership over this because there are so many people who have owned this character before me,” says Madden.
His Mellors, written by Line of Duty’s Jed Mercurio, is “fresh and real and human.”
“It’s not very clear cut. You’re not on her side or on his side. Everyone’s just trying to do the best with the lives they’ve been given.”
And for Mellors that involves a choice to live his. “He’s a very damaged man in lots of ways. He’s much older than he is physically because of what he’s been through. He’s been really hard done by, by life, by the First World War – as many men were – by society and class. When we meet him at the start of the film he’s given up on trying to be part of this world. He’s a man who just wants to live out the rest of his days in quiet.”
Until Lady Chatterley walks into his world, that is. “It drives him and takes him out of this place of death and resignation.”
Lady Chatterley’s Lover is on Sunday 6th September at 9:00pm on BBC1
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