Steve Coogan, Baby Cow & Pathé Sued Over ‘The Lost King’, Pathé Responds

Steve Coogan, Baby Cow & Pathé Sued Over ‘The Lost King’, Pathé Responds

Steve Coogan and the makers of The Lost King are being sued over the portrayal of a university official in their Richard III film.

Richard Taylor, a former University of Leicester deputy registrar is suing the actor-writer, his production BBC Studios-owned company Baby Cow Productions and Pathe Productions, claiming the performance presents him as “dismissive, patronising and misogynistic.”

Lee Ingleby played Taylor in the film, which was about the real-life discovery of Richard III’s remains under a council car park in Leicester in 2012.

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The Stephen Frears-directed film focuses on the role played by historian Philippa Langley (played by Sally Hawkins) in the discovery, and debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022.

Coogan starred as Langley’s husband, and produced and co-wrote the film with Jeff Pope, who also co-wrote Coogan’s multi-Oscar-nominated 2013 film Philomena. Coogan did not attend the High Court hearing.

Taylor’s barrister claimed the performance made him look “weasel-like” and “devious” as he began legal action in London yesterday.

In written submissions widely reported yesterday, William Bennett KC said: “The relevant context is the ‘good versus bad’ narrative, which runs through the film. Ms Langley is portrayed as the gutsy underdog heroine struggling against opposition and the claimant as the arrogant villain.

“He not only takes steps to make sure that people do not know about her role but takes the credit, which was rightfully hers, for himself and the university.”

Andrew Caldecott KC, who is representing Coogan and the companies, said in a written statement: “It is a feature film, not a documentary. It would be clear to the ordinary reasonable viewer that the film is not a documentary, it is a dramatisation of events.

“The concept of fictional films based on real events is not a new one.”

He added film stated it was “based on a true story”, was not “a literal portrayal of exact words” and “would be understood as putting forward Ms Langley’s perception.”

The barrister also denied that Taylor was shown to be sexist or misogynist, saying the filmmakers showed his concerns about Langley’s amateur historian status and lack of expertize, “not her gender.”

“Whilst the film is clearly strongly critical of Mr Taylor and the university for sidelining Ms Langley at the dig and after the discovery of the body and not giving her sufficient credit, his clear motive is to exploit the discovery to further the university’s commercial interests,” added Caldecott, who also denied the film portrayed Taylor as mocking disabled people.

According to the BBC, a judge will give a ruling on the preliminary issues in the claim at a later date.

Pathe said in a statement: “Pathe has a long, respected and successful history of financing and distributing dramatic motion pictures based on real people, events and stories (including The Queen, The Iron Lady, Philomena, Selma, Pride, Judy and The Great Escaper) and we stand by our decision to finance The Lost King, to give Philippa Langley a voice and to bring her story to the screen.

“We will respect the judge’s decision and are confident that the film doesn’t bear the meaning which Richard Taylor is alleging. It was never Pathe’s intention to misrepresent anyone and we believe we will succeed in defending the film and Pathe’s position.”

BBC Studios and Baby Cow declined to comment during the legal process. We have contacted Coogan’s representatives for comment. Taylor could not be contacted before press time. His current employer, the University of Loughborough, declined to comment.