Chris Langham is to make his first screen appearance since his arrest for downloading child pornography.
The Thick Of It actor says he hopes the low-budget British comedy-drama Black Pond – which also marks Simon Amstell’s film debut – will help rehabilitate him in the minds of the film and TV industry.
‘Everybody wants to see me working again – and nobody wants to hire me,’ he said in an interview in which he claimed directors were terrified of casting him for fear of a backlash.
In Black Pond, which debuts at the Raindance film festival in London next week, Langham plays a well-meaning middle-class father whose family are accused of murder when a stranger dies at their dinner table.
Amstell – whose previous acting credits are limited to his own sitcom Grandma’s House – plays a ‘sinister and prodigiously frank’ therapist. Dr Eric Sacks.
The film revolves around how the facts of the death are bent and spun by newspapers, which 62-year-old Langham clearly identifies with.
‘The tabloids are a bit like the secret police,’ he said in today’s interview with The Guardian ‘Everyone despises them but everyone's terrified of them at the same time, and so everybody was frightened of professional association with me, in case some tabloid said you're obviously soft on paedophiles.
‘Because that's the big lie – that I am one. It is a lie. That's one of the things that I've struggled with forgiving. The judge stated really clearly that I'm not a paedophile – and then the policeman said afterwards that I was – and that's what the press have run with ever since.’
Langham was jailed for ten months in 2007 for downloading 15 graphic videos of extreme child abuse. The sentence was reduced to six months on appeal.
He said it has been ‘terribly painful’, that he has not been allowed to work since his 2005 arrest, but added: ‘If people think I should do longer of not being allowed back in the room, as it were, then that's not my choice, it's their choice, and I have to respect it. Some people will think it's probably not an idea to be in my orbit until the dust settles and it's all right.
Guardian interviewer Decca Aitkenhead called Langham’s performance in Black Pond as ‘comical and heartbreaking, utterly absorbing and unnervingly naturalistic, like the best of Alan Rickman and Steve Coogan fused into one’.
But the film’s directors Will Sharpe, 24 and Tom Kingsley, 25, have admitted that one reason for casting Langham was that he came cheap – and they had a total budget of just £25,000.
Sharpe, who also wrote the script, has said: ‘We thought, “Chris is perfect for the part, so why not?” Presumably he's not been inundated with offers and he'll do it for a modest fee.’
In a combined statement Sharpe and Kingsley – former members of Cambridge Footlights, where they performed alongside The Inbetweeners' Simon Bird and Joe Thomas – said: ‘We cast Chris because he was the best possible person available for the role.
‘We were fully aware of his legal history. He had broken the law and he'd served his sentence.
‘The judge clearly stated in his verdict that Chris Langham is not a paedophile. He is a good person, a loving father and a great actor.
‘We are proud to have him in the film and hope this performance serves as a reminder to audiences that he is an irreplaceable talent.’
Comic Arnab Chanda also has a small Black Pond in the film, which has a limited nationwide release on November 11 following its festival screenings. Here’s a trailer: