Friends and Crocodiles

Written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff, ‘Friends and Crocodiles’ traces the changing relationship of maverick entrepreneur Paul Reynolds (Damian Lewis) and his assistant Lizzie Thomas (Johdi May) over a period of 20 years from the beginnings of the Thatcher era to the bursting of the bubble.

Saturday 23 December, 10.30pm TV One

The moment he read the script, actor Damian Lewis was captivated by Paul’s non-conformist nature. “Paul is the son of a Dagenham car plant worker. He has got rich through property and leads a Gatsby-esque life in this fabulous mansion. There he surrounds himself with the talented and the beautiful.

“There is evidence that he enjoys the trappings of success, the ubiquitous women, the suggestion of drugs. But what sets him apart from the crowd is that he’s a man of ideas. What drives him in life is not women or drugs, but creativity. Having around him those who are brilliant, he creates an environment where people can have time to think, debate and discuss, which is so crucial. The film laments the lack of time given to individual thinking. We’re in the grip of think-tank-ism and the general dumbing down of original thought.”

Lewis was equally drawn by the highly unusual nature of the relationship between Paul and Lizzie. “Stephen writes sophisticated characters with a lot of ambiguity,” asserts the 34-year-old actor, who has previously starred in such well-regarded work as ‘Band of Brothers’, ‘The Forsyte Saga’ and ‘Colditz’.

“What is gripping about the script is that it portrays a profound intimacy between two grown-ups without ever turning it into a love story. There is never any flirtation or come-hither from either character. It’s very much a platonic relationship. That’s vital to the piece.

Lewis adds that, “‘Friends and Crocodiles’ is the absolute opposite of ‘When Harry Met Sally’. It demonstrates that there can be love and intimacy and respect between a man and a woman, which doesn’t necessarily lead to sex. The reason Paul and Lizzie come together is not because one fancies the other, it’s because they utterly respect each other.”