Sir Christopher Hampton decries ‘incompetent government’ and ‘casual racism’

Oscar-winning screenwriter Sir Christopher Hampton said his TV adaptation of JG Farrell’s colonial satire The Singapore Grip is relevant today because of an “incompetent government” and “endemic, casual racism”.

ITV’s period piece based on the 1978 novel boasts a stellar cast of David Morrissey, Luke Treadaway, Elizabeth Tan, Jane Horrocks, Colm Meaney, Charles Dance and Georgia Blizzard.

An epic period piece set during the Second World War, the series focuses on a British family living in Singapore at the time of the Japanese invasion, a disastrous moment in British military history.

Sir Christopher Hampton
Sir Christopher Hampton

Sir Christopher, 74, knew Booker Prize-winning novelist Farrell in Notting Hill during the 1970s and said the series, while dealing with a colonial past, speaks to the modern day.

He said: “I think it does, really, because you have a sort of remote, complacent, self-satisfying, incompetent government.

“You have an unjustified sense of superiority over other nations. You have kind of endemic, casual racism.

“All of those things are still very much with us.”

Sir Christopher is one of the nation’s most successful dramatists, winning a best adapted screenplay Oscar for 1988 period drama Dangerous Liaisons and earning a nomination two decades later for the film adaptation of Atonement.

However, the writer said winning an Academy Award can be “a bit of a curse” as he reflected on how the triumph affected his career.

He said: “Well, the Oscars can be a bit of a curse, and after I won it, it took me six years to get another film made, and then I was forced to direct it myself.

“What happened after the Dangerous Liaisons Oscar, was one’s salary goes shooting up, but you also find yourself in the world of the studios, where on the whole, they’d rather not make a film than make it.

“So, you find yourself embarking on huge jobs which never see the light of day. Some of them you feel are your best work. But you have to sort of learn to roll with that.”

Sir Christopher, who was knighted in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to drama, said he has gravitated back towards English and European films after a period of working on American scripts, which he said brought “mixed results”.

He added: “So it (an Oscar win) certainly does alter your life in many ways; some good, some not so good.”

The Singapore Grip starts on ITV on Sunday September 13.