C4 wheels for ‘Deal’

Web will back Frears' controversial telepic

LONDON — U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 will bankroll Stephen Frears’ telepic “The Deal,” about the relationship between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, after rival ITV pulled out because of its sensitive subject.

The Granada-produced drama, which starts shooting in May, focuses on the pact Blair and Brown agreed to over dinner at the north London restaurant Granita when both were rising stars of the opposition Labor Party.

Brown agreed to step aside from the race for the Labor leadership in return for a promise from Blair to resign in his favor after two terms as Prime Minister.

But with a majority of Brits opposing Blair’s stance on the war in Iraq, ITV reportedly felt that his position had become too vulnerable to justify going ahead with the production.

The decision was triggered by the departure of David Liddiment as ITV’s director of channels, who commissioned the show. His replacement Nigel Pickard questioned whether Blair would still be Prime Minister when the show came to be aired.

Channel 4 had no such doubts, picking up the project within 24 hours of its rejection by ITV. It will star Michael Sheen as Blair and David Morrissey as Brown.

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