'Queer as Folk' writer to pen screenplay

LONDON –- U.K. producer Celador Films has commissioned award-winning British scribe Russell T. Davies (“Queer as Folk,” “Bob and Rose”) to pen a screenplay based on the events surrounding the recent “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” fraud case that made headline news in Britain last month.

Davies said he is approaching the story as a comedy of errors detailing the obsessions, rivalries and high hopes of the central characters. “Like most people in Britain and around the world I have been riveted by the unfolding story of this bizarre, doomed and oddly endearing escapade. I have always loves tales of hare-brained eccentrics, and I am having enormous fun working on this story.”

After a much publicized monthlong trial, Major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana and college lecturer Tecwen Whittock were convicted of cheating their way to the coveted £1 million ($1.56 million) prize. Whittock used coded coughs to signal the answers to Ingram during the show, it was found.

Ingram and his wife were each sentenced to 18 months in prison and each fined $23,400 plus $15,600 in costs; the prison time was suspended. Whittock got a 12-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay $11,700 in costs.

Shortly after the trial ended commercial network ITV broadcast 90-minute doc “Millionaire: a Major Fraud” which drew almost 17 million viewers (55.9% share), the biggest for a nonsoap this year, beating “Living With Michael Jackson,” which attracted 14.1 million (54%) on Feb. 3. ABC in the U.S. is due to air the doc tonight (May 8) at 9p.m.

“The recently screened documentary revealed the bare facts but it didn’t get inside the heads of the three people involved,” said Paul Smith, chairman of Celador Films. “We have no wish to vilify the Ingrams or Mr. Whittock, and now that the court case is over, there is a wonderfully funny and engaging story to be told.”

“Millionaire” pic (working title) will be Davies’ debut feature, and Celador’s second following urban thriller “Dirty Pretty Things. Pic is one of a number of projects in development.

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