Michael Sheen Talks About Becoming Tony Blair One Last Time In ‘The Special Relationship’

Arguably one of the most well-cast roles in recent memory is “Twilight” actor Michael Sheen as former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in a series of films written by Peter Morgan. The so-called “Blair trilogy” started in 2003 with “The Deal,” directed by Stephen Frears, a dramatization of the series of events leading to Blair being named prime minister. “The Queen” followed in 2006, with the Frears/Morgan combo proving a potent one for examining how the aftermath of Princess Diana’s 1997 death unfolded within the highest levels of UK government.

The “Blair trilogy” concludes tomorrow night when HBO airs the Morgan-scripted, Richard Loncraine-directed drama “The Special Relationship.” Rather than dealing with Blair’s bell curve popularity during his time in office, “Relationship” charts his career from his appointment as prime minister, through the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Kosovo Conflict, and finally onwards into the first days of George W. Bush’s presidency. The aim is to implicitly show how the “special relationship” between Blair and President Bill Clinton informed the PM’s missteps in the later years of his political career when he applied the same approach with President Bush.

Sheen told MTV in a recent interview that this specific approach wasn’t always the plan, only the general themes. The “Blair trilogy” was meant to be just that, and the basic framework was mapped out in advance. As things came together for “The Special Relationship” however, it was deemed more interesting to put forth the foundational story that eventually led to Blair’s later decisions.

“What we always talked about was the third film would be Blair’s decision to align himself with Bush over Iraq,” Sheen said. “And in talking about it and thinking about it, Peter realized that the answers to all those questions about Blair and Iraq lay in his relationship with Clinton. So this is the film about Iraq, it’s just all the most intimate points about why [Blair’s choices seemed] out of character and very inconsistent.”

“What this film explores, I suppose, really is that there was nothing inconsistent about it at all,” he continued. “It seems far more interesting to watch a man who is gaining confidence on an international stage, realizing that he can have influence over an American president and realizing the power that he can wield. And him growing in stature and his relationship with Clinton changing over time. So at the end of the film when Clinton is saying, ’Which way are you going to go? Are you going to go with Bush or not?’ We sort of start to see why he might make the decisions that he did go on to make.”

Even with the implicit commentary on Blair’s political future, it’s hard to watch “The Special Relationship” and not see an opportunity for one last story. If Blair’s performance as prime minister can be viewed as a bell curve, “Relationship” covers half, with the credits rolling as the PM reaches his career peak. Charting his downfall and eventual exit from office seems like a natural follow-up.

That said, Sheen doesn’t see it happening. “I think if we’d wanted to tell the story of Iraq in terms of showing what happened during the Iraq war, that’s what this film would have been,” he said. “I can’t see how we would return to Blair’s story again. I can’t see what would draw us to do that. I don’t think Peter would want to go back and I don’t think I would want to play the character again. I think three times is enough. That was always what we talked about, it would be three films.”