I didn’t mock Richard III, says academic as he vows to sue Hollywood filmmakers

The cast of The Lost King including Steve Coogan who plays Richard Taylor, an academic from the University of Leicester - Invision
The cast of The Lost King including Steve Coogan who plays Richard Taylor, an academic from the University of Leicester – Invision

An academic is preparing to sue the makers of a new film about Richard III, insisting  he had never mocked the king’s curvature of the spine.

Richard Taylor was a member of the University of Leicester team behind the excavation of the king’s skull from a council car park in 2012.

The Lost King, released on Friday, tells what is billed as “the remarkable true story” of Philippa Langley, a member of the Richard III society and the driving force behind the quest to dig up the remains of the last Plantagenet king.

Mr Coogan, who plays Ms Langley’s ex-husband said: ‘The university are responsible for their own undoing.’
Mr Coogan, who plays Ms Langley’s ex-husband said: ‘The university are responsible for their own undoing.’

The film, co-written and co-starring Steve Coogan, depicts Mr Taylor as “obstructive, manipulative and sexist”, according to reports. It suggests he was initially dismissive of Ms Langley’s claims but then tried to ensure the university took all the glory.

One review described him as “the villain of the piece”.

Mr Taylor, former deputy registrar at the university, said he felt “absolutely shell-shocked” about the way he was portrayed, describing the writers as “very reckless”.

His requests for one scene to be removed and a note added to the credits to make clear the character was not based on him were refused.

He told the BBC: “The film is littered with inaccuracies.

“It makes up a scene where I mimic Richard III’s disability, and have to be told by Philippa that it’s wrong to equate physical characteristics with evilness.

“That is the most hurtful personally and the most damaging reputationally. It is not true; it did not take place.”

Richard Taylor was a member of the University of Leicester team behind the excavation of the king’s remains in 2012
Richard Taylor was a member of the University of Leicester team behind the excavation of the king’s remains in 2012

He added: “I’d hoped my concerns would have chimed with Steve Coogan, who had his privacy invaded by newspapers over phone hacking.

“To see him on the other side of the fence now, doing this to me is quite frustrating. I feel kind of powerless in the way Steve would have felt.”

Mr Coogan, who plays Ms Langley’s ex-husband, told BBC Radio 4 last month: “The university are responsible for their own undoing.”

He added: “They’ve played this quite badly. Had they at the start been generous towards Philippa, and elevated her to the front and centre position, which is where she deserves to be, this film wouldn’t have been necessary.

“But at every turn they marginalised her, edged her out, because she wasn’t cut from the right cloth.”

Ms Langley has claimed she was “sidelined and marginalised”.

She said in a recent interview: “I was hugely vulnerable. Because I’m not a doctor. I’m not a professor. But in the end, I came to find my voice.”

Mr Taylor, who was deputy registrar at the university until 2013, has consulted libel lawyers.

He said he had sought to engage with the producers to gain changes in good faith but as his pleas had fallen on deaf ears, “legal action is now likely”.

Sally Hawkins plays Philippa Langley in The Lost King which is released on Friday - Graeme Hunter
Sally Hawkins plays Philippa Langley in The Lost King which is released on Friday – Graeme Hunter

A spokesperson from the University of Leicester said it had funded the bulk of the excavations. It insisted that Ms Langley was not sidelined, noting that rather, she formed part of the team interview panel for every single press conference connected to the excavation.

“The university made an offer to The Lost King production team, in good faith, to help it establish the correct factual basis of the project that discovered and identified Richard III,” they said. “This offer was not taken up.

“We understand the portrayal of Richard Taylor in the film does not in any way resemble the reality during this period.

“Our records point to a colleague engaging constructively, collegiately, fairly and professionally throughout the project.”

Dan Winch, the film’s producer, told the BBC they had been in contact with the university but explained that the story they wanted to tell was Ms Langley’s.

A spokesperson for the film-makers said: “We stand by our film and Philippa’s narrative.

“The university and Richard Taylor have a different narrative, much of which is factually incorrect.”

Richard III’s remains, found on the site of a friary where it is believed he was buried, were laid to rest at Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

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