Former music journalist Christopher “Push” Dawes lives in Brentford, London. His neighbour is Rat Scabies, former drummer with punk legends The Damned, best noted for setting his drums on fire while still playing them. Life with the erratic Rat as a neighbour isn't run-of-the-mill, but things turn even stranger when Rat announces that he (and Push) are going on a search for the Holy Grail as he reckons he knows where it’s stashed.
The treasure has managed to elude the
greatest minds in society for the past
Two-Thousand years, so maybe it’s time
to let the idiots have a crack!
Once Push and Rat have written a list of things to do ("Buy metal detectors!"), they need only unravel the 2,000 year old mystery involving Jesus Christ, Leonardo Da Vinci, Jean Cocteu, Nicholas Poussin, some opera tart called Emma, several Popes, one of the King Louis, llamas, Visigoths, the Masons, the Knights Templars, a bunch of medieval heretics called Cathars and a bloke who wrote episodes of Dr Who. Their quest takes in Paris, Edinburgh, Lyon and the heart of Cathar country – Rennes-le-Château in France, where in 1891 a local priest discovered a huge treasure whose origin remains unsolved, if they can avoid the growing attentions of the suspicious locals, the police and the CIA (possibly).
It was all Captain Sensible's fault -
he was being stupid!
The legend of the Holy Grail is far from unknown, but this is the first time the quest has been given the punk rock treatment. “Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail” is a psychedelic, anarchic road trip, with the strains of a new friendship thrust at the centre, will they find the Holy Grail or will their friendship implode before they can? The Da Vinci Code goes punk! “Rat Scabies and The Holy Grail” is a very British comedy, a testimony to the sometimes odd nature of friendship, and a rich historical yarn…and as Rat says, most of it is true!
When I first saw the spine of this book nestled on a creaking wooden bookshelf in a small gift shop set up inside an empty garage in the hilltop village of Rennes-le-Château I knew immediately it was a film I not only wanted to make but simply HAD to make.
Four years later I met the book’s author Christopher Dawes and persuaded him to allow me to adapt the script without paying him a penny upfront, he muttered something about an agent but that conversation didn’t last long.
This is a book and screenplay unlike any other, one that is so outrageous that if it wasn’t true it would be deemed too bizarre to be credible – but it IS true. Some of the events have been moved around chronologically and some dialogue added but I would estimate that 80-90% of the screenplay is pulled directly from the pages of the book, anything else (such as the darker side to Push’s character story) was derived from real events not in the book.
In developing this project I have spoken to and been given the consent of all the main characters involved, Rat, Push, Henry Lincoln, Richard Belia, Mad Dog and Joan and the late John Millar (Rat’s parents). I have been on the now legendary Rat coach trips and have visited every location in France, spoken to permit holders, land owners and local Mayors. Everyone involved is very keen to see this film made. I have also spoken at length to the Languedoc- Roussillon Film Commission who have also not only given their backing to the film, but will provide all their services for free, including local casting, crew, location hire, permit negotiations, police support, road closures and kit hire.
The reason why I need to make this film is that I not only know the area well but I actually live there. I have been living with my French wife in Carcassonne (the nearest big town some 30km away) since 2009 and we have made an incalculable number visits to the area. My wife is also a Grail Hunter.
I am just about old enough to remember punk (I watched the Sex Pistols on the infamous Ted Grundy broadcast as a young kid) and used to delight in playing The Damned loudly during my stint as Early Breakfast Show presenter on BBC GLR (now BBC London) in the late 90s.
The production will be done on a low budget (circa £495k), I have experience of low budget filmmaking and getting the most from limited resources, we as a company also have experience in shooting in France. Our attitude will be along the lines of sticking 2-fingers up at the establishment in the UK film world and doing it our way, just like Rat Scabies and the original punks did 40 years ago. What we could really do with though is our equivalent of Virgin records signing the Pistols.
We promise not to trash your office…. much.
Jonnie Hurn 2016
“A genuine English eccentric whose appetite for life and
thirst for mischief look to be undiminished by age.”
“You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.”
Video courtesy of Rockmother Films
Legendary drummer with punk band The Damned
famed for setting fire to drum kits and inciting riots,
now a fultime “Grail Hunter”. A larger than larger
than life character Rat won’t take “no” for an answer…
unless it is in French when he won’t understand and
CHRISTOPHER “PUSH” DAWES
Music journalist and sceptic. The tumour in his eye
that developed during the events that lead to the
book may or may not have been the cause of the
visions that changed his view of the world - he refuses
to return to Grail country.
Prickly natured world authority on Rennes-le-
Château. Ex Dr Who writer and co-author of the
book “The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail” which
inspired Dan Brown to write “The Da Vinci Code”
(for which we just about forgive him) he launched
the whole Rennes-le-Château cult. Have to love
that safari jacket.
French music photographer & lothario, doesn’t
believe in the Holy Grail, he’s just there for the
women. A long-standing friend of Push and is their
eyes and ears on the ground in France helping Rat &
Push out of brushes with the French Police,
suspicious villagers and irate market stall holders.
SO…WHO IS RAT SCABIES…?
So, you've never heard of Rat Scabies ? You must have heard of The Damned, right? Okay, a brief musical history lesson. You know Punk? You know The Sex Pistols? You definitely know The Clash? Well The Damned were the third, most prolific and arguably the most authentic of the 1970s UK punk bands. Their single "New Rose" was the first punk record released in the UK. They also out-lived the others, albeit with the occassional line-up changes when Rat quit --- several times. Famed for riotous gigs and rampaging audiences, Rat Scabies was the driving force behind the band, with his pounding backbeats and propensity to set fire to his drum kit whenever he felt like it. A documentaryfilm "Bet You Wished We Were Dead" is released in 2016.
The film opens with one of their most notorious gigs, Peterborough, October 1978. A gig witnessed by a music-obsessive teenager by the name of Christopher Dawes. So inspired by it was he that he wrote his first ever gig review which lead him to a career in music journalism. 30 years later the man he witnessed on stage attempting to burn down the building was to drag him kicking and screaming on a journey that would change his life forever... again!
THE DAMNED ORIGINAL LINE-UP
Dave Vanian – vocals / Brian James – guitar / Captain Sensible – bass Rat Scabies - drums
Damned Damned Damned (1977), Music For Pleasure (1977), Machine Gun Etiquette (1979), The Black Album (1980), The Best of The Damned (1981), Strawberries (1982), Live in Shepperton (1982), Live in Newcastle (1983) Phantasmagoria (1985), Damned But Not Forgotten (1986), Lively Arts (1986), The Captain's Birthday Party (1986)*,
Not The Captain's Birthday Party (1986)*, Anything (1986), Mindless, Directionless, Energy (1987), The Light At The End Of The Tunnel (1987), The Long Lost Weekend (1988), Final Damnation (1989), The Collection (1990), History Of Rock (1990), Ballroom Blitz - Live At The Lyceum (1992), I'm Alright Jack & The Beanstalk (1997), Grave Disorder (2001)**, Live At The 100 Club (2007), Live At Woolwich Coronet (2007), The Snivelling Shits (2007)**, The Chaos Years (2007), Nasty Damned (2008), So, Who's Paranoid? (2010)**
*Not featuring Rat after he quit the first time.
**Not featuring Rat after he quit the second time.
That’s how it starts. First it is interesting then it gets weird!
“One outrageous legend….In search of another!”
“Solid proof that reading The Da Vinci Code need not induce brain necrosis."
Director: Paul Hills
Screenplay: Jonnie Hurn
Producers: Jonnie Hurn & Ian Manson
Adapted from the book by: Christopher Dawes