Fellowes' Titanic Tales
Published Friday, 13 April 2012
Julian Fellowes is a man with a lifelong interest in Titanic. He's also a man who loves to chat. I've met him a number of times, most recently at the launch (unfortunate choice of word but there you go) of his ITV drama.
His interest in the doomed ship was sparked by watching A Night to Remember as a young boy, and his knowledge of Titanic is vast.
He had no hesitation is signing up for the small screen version of the story and, knowing his budget could never hope to match that of James Cameron's special effects, he set out instead to faithfully recreate the factual characters, righting a few wrongs along the way.
But this is a story and without the benefit of video footage or first hand accounts from those who didn't survive, fictional characters are brought in to fill in the gaps of the tale.
And Lord Fellowes isn't afraid to mix and match. There's the romance between the real life Harry Widener and the made up Mistress Manton. The writer says he doesn't think anyone would mind, there's no hostility from his pen, and it is within the realms of possibility.
And that's the poignancy of the Titanic story, and the one retold by Julian Fellowes. Who knows what sort of lives those who were lost might have had?
Would we be familiar with their names for very different reasons? The sad reality is that we will never know.
We are well informed however, about the ship herself. And this is possibly where Fellowes had his greatest challenge.
Titanoraks everywhere were on the look out for errors on the part of the writers, something he was more than aware of. But if the incorrect lights were seen to be on, or if they gaffed on the rights and wrongs of walking your dog on the promenade deck it was a minor detail compared with the portrayal of the actions of those on board on that fateful night.
Fellowes' philosophy was simple - if they were good people in life, they'll be portrayed as good people.
You can't help thinking that this is a writer's dream, especially one of Fellowes pedigree.
But while he's happy writing about the "Uppers" he's also done his homework on the steerage passengers ("Why should they have all the good tunes?").
The tragedy may have happened 100 years ago but I wonder if in another century from now we'll shake our heads in wonder at the circumstances surrounding the sinking of Titanic as well as the class system that dominated life in 1912 that has been Julian Fellowes' Oscar winning bread and butter.