Memories of a Murderer director “impressed” by David Tennant’s performance in Des but didn’t let it influence documentary

Michael Harte, who directs Netflix's upcoming Dennis Nilsen documentary, spoke to about David Tennant's performance as the serial killer.

Dennis Nilsen

The director behind Netflix’s Memories of a Murderer: Nilsen Tapes says the ITV drama Des didn’t influence his documentary in anyway, although it was “quite a shock” to see David Tennant’s accurate impression of Dennis Nilsen.


Michael Harte, who directed the one-off film featuring tapes recorded by the serial killer, told in an exclusive interview that, while he did watch the ITV drama starring Tennant, Daniel Mays and Jason Watkins, he didn’t take inspiration from it when making Memories of a Murderer.

“I had been in production for about seven months before the drama came out. We hadn’t really shot anything yet because the lockdown had happened, so I’d been through my process with the tapes and I knew his voice inside out by the time it came out.

Des David Tennant
David Tennant as Dennis Nilsen in Des

“When I heard David Tennant, I was so impressed by it because I thought he had the rhythms down perfectly, so that was quite a shock to see him play that.

“However, I didn’t let it influence me because, by the time the drama had come out, I had formulated my own idea of what the documentary was going to be at that point.

“And this is a documentary, this isn’t a drama. These are two completely different formats and that’s a three part series. We wanted to tell a one-off, very tight film that was thematically tight as well and so I watched [Des], but in no way did I let it influence how we made [Memories of a Murderer].”


The documentary takes a fresh look at Nilsen, one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers, who is known to have killed 12 men and boys and attempting to murder seven others at his Muswell Hill flat in 1978.

Memories of a Murderer: Nilsen Tapes arrives on Netflix on 18th August. Looking for something else to watch? Check out out the best Netflix documentaries. You can also plan your viewing with our TV Guide or visit our dedicated Documentaries hub for the latest news.