Not only does Emily Mortimer write, direct and act on the highly anticipated show, she also appears to have employed at least 12 members of her family and close friends in the production, including her mother, two children and two cousins.
It wouldn’t be the first time the acting profession has been labeled incestuous.
But a look at the star-studded cast for new BBC drama The Pursuit Of Love suggests some of them were extraordinarily well known long before the series started filming last year.
Not only does Emily Mortimer write, direct and act on the highly anticipated show, it appears that she has employed at least 12 members of her family and close friends in the production, including her mother, two children and two cousins.
The three-part series, starting next Sunday, is based on Nancy Mitford’s classic novel and tells the story of the Radletts, a family loosely based on Mitford’s with its six aristocratic siblings.
It features famously colorful characters such as the oft-married Bolter, played by Mortimer, and Uncle Matthew, who chases his children through the Oxfordshire countryside with bloodhounds.
But as The Mail on Sunday can reveal, the connections between Mortimer’s cast members are almost as close and confused as those between the Mitfords themselves.
Tongues started wagging when two of the show’s A-party leaders, Lily James and married Dominic West, were photographed cuddling at an alfresco lunch in Rome last year.
While their fellow players may not have attained such a degree of intimacy, they are certainly closely related by blood or long-term family ties.
Those appearing in the credits include Mortimer’s Lifelong Friends, the aforementioned West and Dolly Wells, her bridesmaid Martha West, and two members of the famed Fox Acting Dynasty, who are close to the sprawling Mortimer clan.
Even Mortimer’s brother-in-law plays a role in the inter-war years, one of the first to be filmed amid Covid-19 restrictions, which are said to have added nearly £ 2m to the final cost of £ 10.8m.
The recruiting policy for the series may seem pretty cozy, if not convenient, to some.
But Mortimer – the daughter of the late Rumpole author John Mortimer – has openly admitted that she enjoys a director’s freedom to ‘choose who they want’ for roles and is known to have friends and family alongside her on set. .
Some were also cast in her 2013 sitcom Doll & Em, which suggested her childhood friend Dolly Wells as her assistant. Others contributed behind the scenes.
West, 51, (left) star of The Wire, Les Miserables and The Affair, is more in demand than ever. But he was happy to clear his busy schedule for his old friend Mortimer, whom he has known “for years.”
In a recent interview, she admitted that casting her own children could be seen as “ total nepotism and much disapproved, ” but argued that they were both “ good actors ” cast in a major Hollywood movie.
No rules have been broken, but credits for The Pursuit Of Love may seem difficult to reconcile with the BBC’s guidelines on the matter, which state that productions “ should always be accessible to everyone to ensure we get the best of the very best , diverse talent ‘.
Charles Collier, founder of the production company behind the drama, Open Book, said: ‘As an artist, you must reserve the right to be inspired by the people you know and the people who are the inspiration in your life.
‘You can’t just tick boxes all of a sudden and say: it doesn’t matter. It in no way removes opportunities from others.
Emily’s kids Sam and May topped her list but had to go through the same rigorous casting process.
“Their mom wouldn’t have asked us to see them and we as producers would have said ‘On your bike’ if they hadn’t been good. It is truly a creative community. It’s definitely the way theater, film and TV have always worked. They are not jobs for friends, it is because they are suitable for the role. It is completely normal to have creative communities that naturally come together. ‘
So who made Mortimer’s exclusive director’s cut? How are they all connected – and with whom?
In-demand 32-year-old Lily James (right) shares a talent agency, Tavistock Wood, with Mortimer and four other cast members, including Dominic West, Freddie Fox and his mother, Joanna. Lily knows Freddie through drama school
DOMINIC WEST: Uncle Matthew
West, 51, star of The Wire, Les Miserables and The Affair, is more in demand than ever. But he was happy to clear his busy schedule for his old friend Mortimer, whom he has known “for years.”
The original link was with Polly Astor, the daughter of Conservative MP Michael Astor, one of Mortimer’s childhood best friends. West was in a relationship with Polly before marrying landscape designer Catherine FitzGerald, and they had a baby together in 1998 – a daughter named Martha.
MARTHA WEST: Jassy Radlett
That baby is now 23 and an actress in her own right. And, thanks to her mom and dad, her connections to Mortimer are deep as well. She was chosen as a bridesmaid at Mortimer’s wedding in 2003 to actor and producer Alessandro Nivola, and is also godmother to their 17-year-old eldest son Samuel. Martha plays the youngest Radlett daughter, Jassy, whose childhood ambition is to run away from home.
FREDDIE FOX: Tony Kroesig
Fox, 32, is part of the Fox family’s acting dynasty, son of Day Of The Jackal star Edward Fox.
Emily’s cousin Felix (pictured) is on the show, but she hasn’t said what role he’s playing
He is the godson of Mortimer’s late father, Sir John, the celebrated lawyer and author who wrote Rumpole Of The Bailey. Fox attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Lily James, who plays the lead role in The Pursuit Of Love. Fox, who starred as convicted murderer Jeremy Bamber in ITV’s White House Farm, will play Tony Kroesig in Mortimer’s drama, the enigmatic heir to a wealthy banking family who falls in love with Linda Radlett.
JOANNA DAVID and PENELOPE GOLLOP (Bitchy ladies at Ritz)
As a sign of the closeness of the Fox and Mortimer families, Freddie’s mother, actress Joanna David, plays a role on the show. She starred in two episodes of the 1980 television adaptation of Mitford’s second Radlett novel, Love In A Cold Climate. This time she only has a small portion – as ‘bitchy lady in the Ritz’.
She is joined on screen by a cameo from Mortimer’s mother, Penny.
She and Joanna have been friends for years and once lived side by side in West London.
Emily’s cousin Felix is on the show, but she hasn’t said what role he’s playing.
Felix had a small role on Doll & Em. Another unnamed cousin will also appear in the drama.
Dolly, 49, (right) and Emily co-wrote and starred in the Sky series Doll & Em and Dolly has appeared in Bridget Jones’s Diary and the horror parody Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
DOLLY WELLS (Aunt Sadie)
One of Mortimer’s best friends, they’re “ so close to the point where it’s almost weird, ” Emily has said.
They have known each other since they were seven, thanks to the friendship between their fathers – Dolly’s father was the late John Wells, the actor, satirist and collaborator of Private Eye.
Dolly, 49, and Emily co-wrote and starred on the Sky series Doll & Em, and Dolly has appeared in Bridget Jones’s Diary and the horror spoof Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
SAM AND MAY NIVOLA (Matt and Jassy Radlett)
The two children of Mortimer and her husband Alessandro have not been overlooked. Sam, 17, plays teenage Matt Radlett, while 11-year-old May stars as young Jassy. The siblings will also appear in an unnamed Hollywood movie, which is still in production.
The two children of Mortimer and her husband Alessandro have not been overlooked. Sam, 17, plays teenage Matt Radlett while 11-year-old May (pictured) stars as young Jassy
GEORGE VJESTICA (helped compose soundtrack)
Vjestica is married to Mortimer’s younger sister, Rosie, and happens to be the guitarist for rock group Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. He recruited some of his high profile music mates to form a ‘great band’ to play their arrangement of ‘D’ye Ken John Peel’ for a scene at a ball where Linda Radlett meets Tony Kroesig.
This improvised set-up featured members from The Pogues, The Specials and The Bad Seeds.
Vjestica (pictured) is married to Mortimer’s younger sister, Rosie, and happens to be the guitarist in rock group Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
DOMINIC GERAGHTY (fascist banker)
Another old friend of Mortimer’s attended Trinity College, Dublin with Dominic West. The pair starred in a number of college shows together, and Geraghty also introduced West to his wife FitzGerald.
Geraghty is an actor and producer, known for the British comedy Churchill: The Hollywood Years, starring Christian Slater as Churchill.
LILY JAMES (Linda Radlett)
The in-demand 32-year-old shares a talent agency, Tavistock Wood, with Mortimer and four other cast members, including Dominic West, Freddie Fox and his mother, Joanna. Lily knows Freddie through drama school.
It has been reported that Lily, star of The Dig and Rebecca, will not co-promote the Mitford drama with Dominic West, following the publication of those photos of them together in Rome.
Meanwhile, the connections don’t end with the cast.
Lily’s agency Tavistock Wood is part of Open Book – a joint production ‘company’ between BBC Studios and The Curtis Brown Group, and Open Book is one of the production companies that… The Pursuit Of Love!