So the reviews are in - William & Catherine: A Royal Romance is unsurprisingly a dud. To those who don't know, this is the second telemovie about the prince and his new missus. It stars Dan Amboyer (huh?) and Alice St. Clair (ditto) as the titular couple, while the cast is rounded out by excellent character actors who really should be avoiding such piffle. The fantastic Jane Alexander (Kramer Vs. Kramer) plays the Queen. She has four freaking Oscar nominations. This isn't going to be her fifth.
Anyway, with this and the similarly rubbish William & Kate released earlier this year to general befuddlement and/or hatred, I thought it was worth finding out where they went wrong. And who better to guide me than someone who starred in one of the better modern royal films. No, not Helen Mirren. Pippa Hinchley is a Brit actress and writer who now resides in Hollywood doing comedy with her up-and-coming sketch troupe Live!Sex!Girls!
But back in 1992, she starred as Sarah Ferguson in an NBC movie of the week called Fergie & Andrew: Behind Closed Doors, released mere weeks after their break-up. I stumbled across on the True Entertainment channel the other day and though not a masterwork, it's certainly a lot better (and has more fun) than this recent pair of stinkers. The following is the key to making a quality film about the Windsors (when you don't have Dame Helen or that bloke who got an Oscar nom for writing it)...
• Look who else is up for your part
"I went and auditioned for it," says Pippa. "I only went once and I saw Jemma Redgrave was the on the list and thought if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me. It's still to this day the most money I've ever earned for a single job.
• Make sure it's shown as little as possible. Ideally, dis-invent the internet
"It was at a point in my career when we did think could this be damaging. But then I came to the conclusion that I'm going to go and do this extraordinary job. It's going to be shown on primetime TV in America, but it was never intended to be shown in Britain. It was all filmed in the U.K. and was supposed to be quite clandestine. Eventually it got released on video about six months later. I think they sold three."
• Don't be afraid to rewrite the script yourself
"Really and truly and I thought it was sort of a plus point [the writer] had lifted everything from one or other of these two biographies of Fergie. It had some terrible Americanisms which I rewrote myself with Fergie saying 'gee I'd love to get my buns out of here'."
• If you make a sequel, do it with comedians
(Big laugh), "There was a point last year when there was all that scandal. I can't say part of me thought 'goody there's going to be a sequel', though I'm sure I could be persuaded. I did think 'great they're going to put it on as a topical sketch and I'll get a call to play Fergie in one hilarious sketch.'"
• Don't waste time doing much research/training
"I think I had ten days to prepare from when I got it to when we started. I remember a scene with the Queen when we're both on horseback. Fergie's a very good horsewoman and I don't know one end of a horse from the other. It's very hard to get two horses to walk side by side, so there's this two-shot where I'm actually on the grip's shoulders. It's waist up and I'm doing the motion and the woman playing the Queen was on a horse. I'll never forget that, it was hilarious."
• Make the film before the real story comes out
"To play a person whose story was still unfolding...they announced their divorce and that script must have been written within three weeks. Coming in during the morning and seeing the toe-sucking thing in the papers, the drama was really just beginning."
• Get your boyfriend to do your dirty work
"NBC sent a camera crew to do a behind-the-scenes and the cameraman doing that shoot ended up going out with me for three years. Six weeks later he told me he was going to film Fergie. He couldn't resist saying 'my girlfriend's just been playing you'. She asked for a copy of the video and if we wanted to come to tea. We sent her one and then never got a phone call!"
• When someone asks you about it, say 'yep, that was me' without any shame
"It did get reviewed by the world and his wife and it was very good for me, even if they trashed the film. I did quite well by it. People hadn't even seen it, but they'd seen reviews. It certainly didn't hurt me. I was seen as tasteless for sure, because I had 53 changes of costume and I think (laughs) I liked two! She had an appalling dress sense."
• And finally...
" Take the money and run...[These films] are sort of tacky by nature. We Brits don't like them because they're too close to the event. In thirty years time, there will be a BBC version and everyone will go marvellous and I don't think it will be that much better."
You can see Pippa alongside Jon Favreau and Olivia Wilde in buzzy indie Welcome To People next year, or on the net at: www.livesexgirlscomedy.com Her turn as Fergie crops up from time to time on telly. Trivia fact: The bloke who plays Andrew ended up directing This Life.
Follow Ben Falk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/benfalkwriter