In Britain, A Judge Rules That A Character In Steve Coogan’s ‘The Lost King’ Is Defamatory

Portrayal of character in Steve Coogan’s film The Lost King is defamatory, judge rules

Coogan, production company Baby Cow and Pathe, the distributors of the 2022 film, will now face a full trial

The portrayal of a former university official in Steve Coogan’s film about the discovery of the remains of Richard III is defamatory, a high court judge has ruled.

Richard Taylor, a former deputy registrar at the University of Leicester, is suing Coogan, the production company Baby Cow and the distributors Pathe.

He claims the 2022 movie The Lost King shows his character, played by Lee Ingleby, behaving in an “abominable way” towards the amateur historian Philippa Langley, played by Sally Hawkins, who spearheaded the dig.

Taylor claims the film shows him taking credit for himself and the university that was rightfully Langley’s for the 2012 discovery of Richard III’s remains in a Leicester car park more than 500 years after the king’s death.

The defendants denied that the film portrayed such a “saint and sinner” narrative but, in a judgment published on Friday, Judge Lewis said its portrayal of the former university employee was defamatory.

Lewis said: “The character Mr Taylor was portrayed throughout the film in a negative light. At no point was he shown in a way that could be described as positive, or even neutral. Whilst an individual scene may not in itself cross the threshold of seriousness, taken together the film makes a powerful comment about the claimant and the way he conducted himself when undertaking a senior professional role for a university.

“The poor way in which he was depicted as behaving towards Ms Langley was contrary to common shared values of our society and would have been recognised as such by the hypothetical reasonable viewer.”

However, he rejected Taylor’s argument that the hypothetical reasonable viewer would have come away from the film thinking he was misogynist or sexist.

Lewis’s ruling after a preliminary hearing means that the case can proceed to a full trial where Coogan, Baby Cow and Pathe will have to defend the defamatory portrayal.

The film shows Langley, who has ME, becoming obsessed with Richard III after seeing Shakespeare’s play about him and then thinking that the bones were buried in a local authority car park.

Taylor is shown as being initially sceptical but later turning up at the dig with a film crew, explaining to the crew that it was the university that was “leading” the search for Richard III.

After the discovery of the king’s remains, the film shows the university arranging a press conference at which Langley is not invited to speak – despite a belief that she would be – and posters proclaiming that the university had found the bones.

Having watched the film, Lewis concluded that the natural and ordinary meaning in respect of Taylor was “(a) The claimant knowingly misrepresented facts to the media and the public concerning the search for, and discovery of, Richard III’s remains. He did so by presenting a false account of the university’s role in the project, and marginalising Ms Langley’s role, despite her major contribution to the find. (b) The claimant’s conduct towards Ms Langley in respect of the project was smug, unduly dismissive and patronising.”

Coogan, who played Langley’s husband, co-wrote the script with the television producer and screenwriter Jeff Pope.


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