21 May 2007
From travelling in time to shooting in real time, Life on Mars actor John Simm is to star in a Channel 4 drama by director Michael Winterbottom which will take five years to make. Charting the experiences of a UK prison inmate and his relationship with his wife and four children in the outside world, it will not be seen on television until at least 2012.
Winterbottom previously fictionalised the story of Factory Records founder Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People and made the award-winning docudrama Road to Guantánamo about the Tipton Three. He said:
“I wanted to make a film that showed the relationships within a family growing and changing over a long period of time. Rather than compress the time period or resort to using technical ways of showing them ageing and time passing, I wanted to take a group of actors and work with them in a real timescale, giving an authenticity and depth to their performances.”
Channel 4 said the director planned to encourage the actors and non-actors who make up the cast of 7 Days to improvise in an effort to “bring the story to life”. The drama will begin shooting this year, with Shirley Henderson co-starring as Simm’s wife, and Winterbottom hopes to film much of it in a working prison.
Winterbottom said 7 Days was
“the story of four children growing up with a dad in prison and a family surviving and supporting each other through a five-year separation”.
The move by Channel 4 controller of film and drama Tessa Ross is brave because some of the staff who commissioned the project may not be around when it makes it to the screen, and the broadcaster itself could look very different after an Ofcom review of its future.
Simm, who was widely acclaimed for his role as the time-travelling cop Sam Tyler in Life on Mars, previously worked with Winterbottom on 24 Hour Party People, when he played New Order lead singer Bernard Sumner.