ApproximationDocumentary, History and Staging Reality

Performative Mimicry

Real people in fictionalised situations

Mimicking real people

The approximation of real people, especially politicians, is an increasingly popular narrative form in film and television, inviting us to look at the ‘real’ events as appendices to their subsequent re-enactments.My main object of analysis here is the multiple versions of the UK’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair has appeared in many guises in film and television, from his factual appearances (news and campaign videos; appearing on David Letterman, 2009; testifying before the Iraq Inquiry in January 2010) to impersonations, notably Michael Sheen’s as Blair in The Deal, The Queen and The Special Relationship (Richard Loncraine, 2010), to hypothetical fantasies such as Tony Blair Rock Star (Alison Jackson, 2006), The Trial of Tony Blair (Simon Cellan Jones, 2007) and Robert Harris’ political thriller The Ghost. In unravelling the layers of performance that collectively now comprise the media presence ‘Tony Blair’, the effect of approximation can be seen to be kaleidoscopic: leading to an ultimate understanding of ‘Blair’ as the unstable conglomeration of his approximate constituent parts.


The Deal, The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2003, 2006), W (Oliver Stone, 2008), Milk (Gus van Sant, 2008), Frost/Nixon Ron Howard, 2008), The Ghost (Roman Polanski, 2010), David Frost’s 1977 interviews with Richard Nixon, The Times of Harvey Milk (Robert Epstein, 1984).


Stella Bruzzi FBA

Stella Bruzzi

Stella Bruzzi is Professor of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick and was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 2013. She was Head of Department 2006–2008 and Chair of the Faculty of Arts at Warwick 2008–2011. She lives in Oxford with her husband and two children.


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