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Thursday 29th May 2014

4204/17123

I am starting to get my head down with the Rasputin script and still hoping to have a first draft together by Monday. This does not seem a realistic proposition as I am only 15 pages in (and I guess I am going to need 80) and there's a bewildering amount of info that I need to collate. But I don't have much on over the weekend, so you never know. Some chinks of light are starting to appear and the main characters are beginning to feel real. Once I have a handle on how they speak and behave the rest should come relatively easily. And so far I really like them.

It's interesting that when I first read Yusupov's biography that the thing that jumped out at me as a setting for a drama was the interviews for the 1967 film also called "I Killed Rasputin". It merited no more than a page in the book, but I sensed that this was the way to tell the story. Mainly because it just seemed so impossible that one of Rasputin's killers would still be alive in the late 60s, but also because almost imperceptibly his mask was beginning to slip. Having gone back to the source material - the interviews made by EM Halliday and Peter Lennon of the Guardian, there is still very sparse information. Halliday only makes a few comments about the actual interview (his article is about Rasputin in general - though I think he does nail that as far as is possible) and Lennon writes a light piece of about 1000 words. But there is enough in this (and in the brief email that Halliday's son sent me about his father) to open a window to these characters. Yusupov's asthmatic dog, his supportive and loquacious female friend and Lennon's faux pas in shaking the Princesses hand rather than snapping his heels and kissing her hand.

Beyond these brief flashes of rather evocative detail I have to make the rest of it up (though obviously the various versions of the Rasputin story are on record) and my Yusupov will, by necessity have to be a little more together and talkative than the real one. But the hub of it is all there. It's strange that this dark subject: the brutal murder of Rasputin and the collapse of the Tsarist regime, becomes light-hearted in its portrayal. Yet that's one of the fascinating things about it for me. Yusupov got away with murder (if he even really had anything directly to do with it) and spent the rest of his life dining off and making a living from his actions. And is a slightly comedic hero as a result.

Thematically there's so much to get in to this. But what I was enjoying today was the fact that by demonising Rasputin in the frankly unlikely murder story, Yusupov actually guaranteed that he would be remembered (I am not sure he'd be any more than a minor footnote in the history books without his dubious indestructibility). Yet his own fate as a historical character is so tied into the story that admitting the truth would diminish himself as well.

So today felt like a little step forwards, though I did get distracted at about 7pm and decide it was time to sort out the contents of the kitchen and basement cupboards.

If I can have a good three days on this then I might be in the luxurious position of having a month to edit and perfect it. I am sure it won't end up like that. And the next big step is to cast the thing, with only a partial script and me saying that I think it could be really good to tempt actors in.

Here's my June newsletter.



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