By Matin Durrani
The story of Paul Frampton is so incredible that it’s hard to believe it really happened. How could anyone have been so foolish and left his family, colleagues and students in the lurch?
In case you don’t remember, Frampton is the 69-year-old British-born US-based theoretical physicist who in early 2012 travelled to Bolivia expecting to meet a 32-year-old woman he’d struck up a correspondence with on the Internet, who claimed to be the Czech-born lingerie model Denise Milani.
But when he arrived in Bolivia, Milani was nowhere to be seen and Frampton was instead met by a man who asked him to take what was supposedly Milani’s suitcase to Buenos Aires, where she would then meet him.
When Milani didn’t show up at Buenos Aires Airport either – and there has been no suggestion that she knew that her identity was being used – Frampton tried to board a plane back to the US but was arrested after airport-security officials discovered 2 kg of cocaine in his checked luggage. Although he insisted the drugs were not his, Frampton was sentenced in November 2012 to 56 months in jail, despite a campaign by physicists to clear his name.
But now, as if to underline the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, Frampton’s story could be made into a movie. In fact, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox Searchlight has already asked Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch from the US film-production company Film Rites to produce it. The company was inspired to act after Frampton’s tale was told in a 5700-word feature published in the New York Times last March, entitled The Professor, the Bikini Model and the Suitcase Full of Trouble.
Fox Searchlight and the producers are, apparently, already looking for a writer to adapt the story after taking out an option on the New York Times article.
But the question for us is: who could play Frampton? We’re looking for someone who is British and can play a bit of a bumbler. Sadly my first choice – Richard Briers – died earlier this year. Bill Nighy is one option, as is Michael Gambon, even though he’s Irish.
I’m left to conclude that there’s only person with the right track record. He’s British. He’s good at playing bright but love-sick fools. And he’s been in a famous spot of bother himself once before.
Step forward, Hugh Grant.