EXCLUSIVE: More than fifty years after its first publication, British writer Robin Maugham’s controversial 1967 novel The Wrong People is getting a movie adaptation.
Arthouse outfit Peccadillo Pictures, the UK’s foremost distributor of LGBT movies, is teaming up on the project with veteran UK screenwriter David McGillivray (Schizo), who has adapted the novel and will make his directorial debut.
Set against the backdrop of 1960s Tangier, the thriller tells the story of Arnold Turner, a repressed English schoolmaster on holiday in Morocco, where he meets Ewing Baird, a wealthy American expat with a dark secret. As Turner becomes more involved with Ewing he realizes he has been lured into a dangerous trap.
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Maugham’s first explicitly gay-themed novel was critically praised but also garnered controversy. Homosexuality was still illegal in Britain for most of the 1960s.
The book was reprinted several times, including in the Gay Modern Classics series, and was once optioned for a film version by Hollywood star Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause).
“Maugham created a moral dilemma in 1967” says McGillivray about the openly gay writer. “He handled it brilliantly, but the subject was so taboo that a film was out of the question. Now, because we’re so aware of what’s been covered up for years, I want to remind audiences of what this great writer said so long ago. And in addition to the issues raised, The Wrong People is also a superb suspense thriller.”
War veteran and politician Maugham (pictured above, centre), the nephew of popular British playwright and novelist Somerset Maugham, is probably best known in film and literary circles for his novella The Servant which was the basis for the 1963 Jospeh Losey film of the same name with Dirk Bogarde, James Fox and Sarah Miles. He died in 1981.
McGillivray, best known for his 1970s collaborations with director Pete Walker on movies including House of Whipcord and Frightmare, was inspired to tackle the project after reading a biography of Mineo, who had optioned the book as a potential directing vehicle before his murder in 1976. McGillivray secured the film rights and wrote a screenplay that is said to have the blessing of Mineo’s former partner Courtney Burr and Maugham’s former partner William Lawrence.
The Wrong People is currently in pre-production. The aim is to shoot in the UK and Morocco in 2020. Casting discussions are under way.