“Oh not another bloody thing about the Profumo Affair!” – that was apparently Christine Keeler’s reaction when she heard the BBC were making a new drama about the scandal that shocked 1960s Britain and was a defining moment in her life.
But though Keeler died in 2017 at the age of 75 before filming actually began, the team behind BBC One’s The Trial of Christine Keeler say they used her insistence on not being seen as “a victim” as their mantra for making the show.
Writer Amanda Coe revealed: “When it was at the stage when it looked like we were going ahead, we had quite a few interactions with Christine’s legal representative, who was also a close friend of hers.
“She was still alive at that point, and then she died just after the project had been green-lit, but she knew about it – and I think her attitude was one of resignation. ‘Oh not another bloody thing about the Profumo affair!’ But she was aware that our take on it was different, and the thing that she really communicated was that she didn’t want to be seen as a victim, which we took as our mantra about the way the story was handled.”
As for whether Keeler would have liked the finished product, Coe said: “Hope so! It’s certainly a very sympathetic, hopefully humane treatment of her and all the characters.
“And I think by the end of her life she had a very different view of what had happened to her than she obviously did at the time. Because she was in it – in this extraordinary series of events, and she was incredibly young. I think the drama conveys how overwhelming that must have been. ”
Executive producer Rebecca Ferguson agreed, saying: “I think she would have been proud that we haven’t made her a victim, and that was her key thing… I don’t want to say I think she’d love it, but I think what we’ve done is we’ve been really true and honest about keeping her not as a victim, not as a prostitute, not as a call girl. And looked at why things happened to her, and looked behind the story.”
Coe added: “”I think it’s really made me interrogate what we mean by ‘victim’ – because it is possible to be a victim of exploitation and intimidation and misrepresentation, all of which she was – but if you just say someone is ‘a victim’ you rob them of agency.
“And I think that was the thing that she most hated, was that feeling that she’d been appropriated, so even people who were ostensibly sympathetic were going, ‘Oh Christine’ – and she was a living person, who lived most of her life after the events of this drama. So I think it’s possible to have an empathetic, nuanced account of what happened without saying… ‘victim’ is a very powerless [word].”
The Trial of Christine Keeler begins on Sunday 29th December at 9pm on BBC One