Watch: Steve Coogan discusses the backlash to The Lost King
Steve Coogan was left unsurprised by Leicester University's strong adverse reaction to his new movie The Lost King.
Penned by Coogan and Philomena co-writer Jeff Pope, the film aims to restore credit to amateur historian Philippa Langley for leading the search that led to the discovery of the remains of King Richard III.
Coogan told Yahoo Entertainment UK that Langley — played in the film by Sally Hawkins — was subjected to "unfair treatment" by the university in the wake of the search, with the institution taking credit for finding the king.
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Richard Taylor, former deputy registrar at Leicester University, told the BBC this week that the movie is "inaccurate" and accused the writers of being "reckless" in their attitude to the facts.
He said he is even considering legal action around a scene which shows the character based on him, played by Lee Ingleby, mocking Richard III's disability — an incident which Taylor claims "did not take place".
"I think Leicester University assumed that their narrative would stand unchallenged for all eternity, which was an unwise thing for them to think," said Coogan.
The writer, who also plays Philippa's husband John, said: "I'm not quite sure why they decided to relegate Philippa, who should have been front and centre, to the margins, and why she was not up there on the panel when they made the announcement that they could confirm through DNA analysis that it was indeed the body of Richard III.
"That should have been the crowning moment of a journey that she had started. They didn't. She didn't walk behind the coffin, all the academics did."
In a statement to the BBC, the university said that the film's portrayal of them is "far removed" from the reality of what happened.
The spokesperson added: "We worked closely with Philippa Langley throughout the project, and she was not sidelined by the university. Indeed, she formed part of the team interview panel for every single press conference connected to the king."
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An on-screen declaration at the beginning of The Lost King declares that the film is "based on a true story — her story" and Coogan said he knew the approach would trigger a response from the university.
"At every point, she has been relegated to a footnote," said the 56-year-old star.
He added: "So I knew that [Leicester University] would be rattled when someone came along and challenged their version of events.
"And no one has to be honest. Even the press have sort of just unquestioningly echoed their point of view. So I wasn't surprised and I was ready for the onslaught, which indeed we have received."
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The Lost King also stars Game of Thrones actor Mark Addy as an archaeologist employed by the university, while Harry Lloyd portrays an actor in a stage production of Richard III who Philippa subsequently interacts with as an apparition of the king.
The Lost King is available in UK cinemas from 7 October.
Watch: Trailer for The Lost King