An ex-KGB spy has bought the Evening Standard. If only this were 1969, not 2009…
[AFTERNOON. INTERIOR. A CAVERNOUS OFFICE LINED WITH GIANT PORTRAITS, MURALS AND LANDSCAPES; A CHANDELIER HANGS FROM THE CEILING. AT ONE END, A HUGE MAHOGANY DESK. TO ONE SIDE, A FIREPLACE BLAZES. BAY WINDOWS OVERLOOK LONDON’S SKYLINE. THERE IS FADED CARPET ON THE FLOOR. A GRANDFATHER CLOCK TICKS. A MAN SITS SILENTLY IN A SWIVEL CHAIR BEHIND THE DESK, HIS FACE OBSCURED.]
[THERE IS A KNOCK ON THE DOOR]
PATRICK WYMARK: Enter!
[THE DOOR SWINGS OPEN. AN ENORMOUS MAN IN A FUR COAT AND TALL HAT STEPS INSIDE, WAITS, THEN WALKS VERY SLOWLY INTO THE ROOM. HE STOPS IN THE CENTRE. HE CRACKS HIS KNUCKLES, THEN CLEARS HIS THROAT]
PATRICK: Can I…help you?
PETER USTINOV: That…depends.
PETER: Excuse me, may I have the pleasure of knowing to whom I am speaking?
PATRICK: For now it is enough that you know I am who you believe I am.
PETER: Then let me extend the same courtesy to you.
PATRICK: [SWINGING ROUND IN HIS CHAIR TO FACE HIS VISITOR] That will…not be necessary.
[PETER SHUFFLES OVER TO THE WINDOW]
PETER: Oi-yoi-yoi. London in January is so beautifully decadent, my Western comrade. Why, I think I can ever see from here the, how do you say, the dolly bird?
PATRICK: Come come, I never put your sort down for coyness. Why start now?
PETER: Things…are different now…
[HE PICKS UP A FRAMED PHOTOGRAPH AND, SIGHING, PLACES IT FACE DOWN ON HIS DESK. HE SHAKES HIS HEAD]
PATRICK: The days of the true imperialist are, I fear, long gone.
PETER: [LIGHTING A CIGAR] But I think you will agree that some imperial habits die hard, comrade? [CHUCKLES]
[PATRICK RISES FROM HIS CHAIR AND WALKS TO THE FIREPLACE, WHERE HE POKES AT THE EMBERS DISCONSOLATELY]
PATRICK: My dear fellow, there comes a point in any man’s life when even the most imperial of habits have to be broken…
PETER: …Yes, yes…
PATRICK: …If only to…
PETER: See what is left amongst the pieces? [HE SETTLES INTO A HUGE ARMCHAIR AND DRUMS HIS FINGERS ON THE ARMREST]
PATRICK: I believe you have a proposition, and I would be grateful if you would state it, then get out.
[A KNOCK ON THE DOOR. A WOMAN ENTERS]
BARBARA MURRAY: It is customary the world over to stand upon the entrance of a lady.
[PETER RISES, SHEEPISHLY]
PETER: Madam. One hundred apologies.
BARBARA: For your remiss etiquette or for your country’s outdated cultural barbarism?
PETER: What creature is this, that doth have such a barbed tongue?
PATRICK: The one who fixed up this whole damn deal. Now let’s get to business – the Secretary of State is keen to have this settled before the US market opens.
PETER: Ever the kindly thought for our American cousins.
BARBARA: A few more kindly thoughts from your country, sir, and they would be your cousins too.
PETER: What…are your terms?
[PATRICK PACES AROUND THE ENTIRE ROOM, HANDS BEHIND HIS BACK, CHIN SUNK INTO HIS STOMACH, BEFORE SUDDENLY STOPPING AND POINTING AT PETER]
PATRICK: The whole operation. Every last printing press and stencil. Yours to do what you like with.
PATRICK: No! Hear me out! My mind is made up.
BARBARA: Surely you…
PETER: Control yourself my dear. You heard the man!
BARBARA: I just don’t think…
PATRICK: No. No, no, no. I’ve decided. There’s just too much to lose, what with the Congo, American Tobacco, that ghastly foul-up in Laos…
BARBARA: But yesterday you…
PATRICK: Heavens woman, yesterday was 24 hours ago!
PETER: I congratulate you on your grasp of metaphysics, if not your sense of realpolitik.
BARBARA [FALLING TO HER KNEES, SOBBING] I beg of you…please…think of…
PATRICK: Think of what? Think of Oxford after the war? Think of the Isis in the moonlight, lying in each other’s arms while discussing the putative decline and fall of neo-fascist totalitarianism?
PETER: You have to admit, my lady, he does make a powerful case.
PATRICK: Please believe me. I have no choice. It’s just…it’s just…a matter of expediency…
[THE DOOR FLIES OPEN]
MICHAEL JAYSTON: Stop! Don’t sign! You mustn’t! I’ve…
[A SHOT RINGS OUT]
PETER: Expediency, you say?
[MICHAEL COLLAPSES ON THE FLOOR]
PETER: Hurry now. Name your price.
[PATRICK WALKS BEHIND HIS DESK, OPENS A DRAWER AND PULLS OUT A PIECE OF PAPER. HE SCRIBBLES SOMETHING ON IT, THEN WALKS OVER TO PETER AND HANDS HIM THE DOCUMENT]
PATRICK: My final offer. And believe me, I’ve sacrificed far more for far less.
BARBARA: [HYSTERICAL] What’s the matter? Lost for words, you filthy man?
PETER: One English pound sterling?
PATRICK: Hand it over!
PETER: You will not regret this, comrade.
[HE HANDS OVER ONE POUND NOTE, THEN, CASTING ONE LAST GLANCE AT BARBARA, HURRIES OUT OF THE DOOR]
[INSTANTLY, ANOTHER MAN RACES IN]
PETER BARKWORTH: [PANTING] Was that who I think it was?
PATRICK: Alas, yes. That was the new owner of…the London Evening Standard.
CLIFFORD EVANS [STEPPING OUT FROM BEHIND A PILLAR, WHERE HAS BEEN SECRETLY WATCHING THE ENTIRE SCENE]: And may God have mercy on our capitalist souls.
[CUT TO BLACK]