Martin Amis on why the BBC dramatisation of his novel Money is great television
Watching an adaptation of your novel can be a violent experience: seeing your old jokes suddenly thrust at you can be alarming. But I started to enjoy Money very quickly, and then I relaxed.
It’s a voice novel, and they’re the hardest to film – you’ve got to use some voiceover to get the voice. But I think the BBC adaptation was really pretty close to my voice – just the feel of it, the slightly hysterical feel of it, which I like. It’s a pity one line wasn’t used. Speculating about whether Charles slept with Diana, in the book the barman says, “He’s the heir to the frone. I mean, he’s got to know what he’s getting, hasn’t he?” I was waiting for it and it didn’t come. But that’s just a tiny lost opportunity. You sort of let it go and think it’s not going to be the book, it’s someone else’s idea of the book, the basic difference being that a novel is about interior life and a film about exterior life, and you accept that.
The Martin Amis character isn’t in it and I’m relaxed about that – I don’t think self-referential stuff works on the screen. They did want me to sit on the plane but I thought it would be disgusting to have a 60-year-old me, and said, “Why don’t you get a nice, handsome young actor who might look a bit like me?”
There was a time when Money was going to be made in the late 80s and we’d lined up Gary Oldman for John Self. It was a great missed opportunity. Nick Frost, though, is remarkable. I found him a joy to watch. He brought a lot of pain to the role, undemonstratively, holding it in, with not a hint of self pity. In my imagination Self was not long-haired and he didn’t have a moustache, but Frost has taken over from that.
I never thought of Money as a book about the 80s, except for the royal wedding and the rioting, the bunting and the barricade – that was very expressive of the time. But greed doesn’t go away. And it was lovely to see Self drinking himself senseless on an aeroplane. As he’s about to fall asleep, the stewardess very tenderly puts out his cigarette. It made me feel so nostalgic – you fully expected to be able to smoke on an aeroplane. That’s very true to the time.
As told to Alison Flood. Money concludes tonight at 9pm on BBC2.