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Copenhagen HomeInterviewsScene StudyBackstoryTimelineAbout the ShowResourcesGlossary
The Director
The Playwright
The Play
Finding the Focus
Characters & Structure
The Learning Curve
The Controversy
The  Actors
The Learning Curve

History  vs Fiction 

I knew that whatever I did, however much I read or studied, I would not be able to catch the manner of being of Heisenberg and Bohr, let alone Margrethe who is much less well recorded in historical record.

I was inhibited when I began to write... it was the first time I based fictitious characters on real people.

But after a time the characters do what fictitious characters always do, they begin to take on a life of their own.

One of the more chastening, and also one of the most intelligent things that was said about the play, happened the first night in New York. I went backstage and I met a very tall, very charming young man who said, I am Werner Heisenberg's son.

'Of course your Heisenberg is nothing like my father,' he said, 'I never saw my father express emotion about anything except music.' Well that was quite a chastening reminder that I was not actually going to have hit the real characters.

But then he continued, 'But in a play, I recognize you have to have characters who are rather more forthcoming than that.'

And I thought that this was a terrific understanding of what plays are doing. They are not just recording the historical record... but trying to find the truth that never quite got expressed in life.

Learning The Physics 

I knew nothing about science at all.

When I began to do the play, I read everything I could possibly read about the subject comprehensible to a lay audience.

When I finished the play I sent it to two scientists to check the physics. One of them made some suggestions which I adopted, but there were still mistakes that survived.

In the early months of the production in London, I kept getting letters from scientists who said often, very sweetly and very politely, I think you should take another look at this section. 'I don't think you mean atoms of water vapor, I think you mean molecules of water vapor.' And of course I adopted these suggestions too.

Michael Frayn

Filming the Play 

When the proposal came up to make a film of this I was extremely cautious...

I was very reserved about making a film of Copenhagen. But I was convinced by Howard Davies, who is directing it, that he could see a way of making it work.

He adapted the script for television, and he has had to cut a great deal out including a lot of the science. But I think it still makes sense.

It is a pretty bold venture. It uses film in a way in which its not normally used.

Naturalism is the natural mode for film it seems to me. But you can't really stick to naturalism in this film, if only because everyone has come back from beyond the grave to have this conversation.

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Playwright Michael Frayn



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