Chris Tarrant has said he hopes Michael Sheen does not do a Rory Bremner-style impression when he portrays him in the TV series Quiz.
Sheen will play the former Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? host in ITV’s forthcoming dramatic adaptation of the show’s famous cheating scandal, and a photograph of him in character has just been released.
Tarrant, 73, said he is “thrilled” that the Hollywood star is portraying him in the series – as long as he does not follow the lead of Bremner, who previously impersonated him on satirical comedy show Bremner, Bird And Fortune.
He told ITV’s This Morning: “I didn’t make (Sheen) do me. I’m thrilled that he’s doing it, he’s a brilliant actor. I just hope he’s not going to do the sort of Rory Bremner (impression) and all that stuff.
“I don’t think he will, he’s an actor you know. Very good, very good.”
Recalling meeting the actor, Tarrant said: “I met Michael Sheen at the Pride of Britain Awards. Now this guy has been looking at tapes of me for weeks and weeks and suddenly this great big lump taps him on the shoulder and he goes ‘Oh!’. It’s really weird.”
The newly-released photograph shows Sheen in character arriving to give evidence at Southwark Crown Court in the 2003 trial of former Army major Charles Ingram, who won £1 million on the quiz show.
Dubbed the “Coughing Major”, Ingram was found guilty along with his wife, Diana, and their accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, of cheating their way to the top prize on the show in 2001.
Ingram, who will be played by Matthew Macfadyen, was accused of listening out for coughs from college lecturer Whittock, who was sitting in the studio audience, to signal to him which answers were correct.
Whittock will be played by Michael Jibson and Ingram’s wife, Diana, will be played by Fleabag actress Sian Clifford.
The trio maintained their innocence in the high-profile trial, but were convicted and the Ingrams sentenced to 18 months in jail, suspended for two years.
Tarrant said of the programme, based on a play of the same name, that he hopes “they don’t make a big deal of that the Major might be innocent”.
“I have sat through so many hours with the police and the Fraud Squad of tapes of the Major’s show. He is so guilty. Once you lock into it, it’s like ‘Oh, for God’s sake’.”
Tarrant’s son, Toby, commented on the transformation, tweeting: “This photo of Michael Sheen as Dad is brilliant. If there’s a scene where he passes out on the sofa watching TV with a glass of whisky and mumbling to himself then it will be like I’m 12 years old all over again.”
ITV’s Quiz will be a three-part series directed by Stephen Frears, whose other credits include The Queen and A Very English Scandal.
Other names listed for the drama’s cast include Aisling Bea and Helen McCrory.
The script has been written by James Graham, whose play of the same name ran in the West End.
The original picture of Tarrant was shot in 2003 by award-winning PA news agency photographer Stefan Rousseau.
Quiz is due to air on ITV in 2020.