In the autumn of 2008, Edward Daley’s great aunt died and left him most of Shropshire. Overnight, he became a seriously rich man.
In truth, all hyperbole aside, the legacy provided him with a bank balance close to three hundred million pounds; along with a Regency mansion and four hundred thousand acres of real estate, encompassing the seventy-five hectares surrounding the house, twelve miles of the River Severn and four villages clinging on to the hillside east of Offa’s Dyke. Of the six thousand two hundred and thirty souls who inhabited this enclave, a couple of dozen worked for him, the rest paid him substantial rents for the privilege of living within his fiefdom.
By profession, Edward Daley was an accountant. By inheritance, lord of the manor. By ambition, a feature film producer. To facilitate the latter, he bought New Century Studios, which sits just west of the M25 on an up-market stretch of River Thames hinterland. He set up New Century Pictures with enough enterprise to rival DreamWorks as a producing studio.
Whilst not exactly Howard Hughes, Edward Daley behaved just like the movie mogul of legend. He famously booked out the whole of a Cap D’Antibes hotel for the summer of 2009, so he could be sure to use it exclusively for ten days during late August. He allowed nothing and no one to get in his way. There were no consequences resulting from anything he set out to do. He was, quite simply, more infallible than the Pope.
He married Gloria Farnham on the first of April 2010; a bash so exclusive that even Hello magazine couldn’t blag its way in. By all contemporary accounts, he loved her to pieces. In return, she gave him all the credentials his money, his manner and his reputation lacked. Quite simply, she made him look good. To the casual observer, the match was made in movie heaven. Gloria was one hell of a catch; a graceful indie goddess, with a CV and style that no actress had matched since Ingrid Bergman. Standing on the red carpet, the pair looked glorious.
* * *
I entered their orbit after the success of Dark Stain, a television mini-series which garnered three Baftas and two Emmys. Edward Daley called. He introduced me to David Shannon, boss of Rosebud Films, who had a development deal with New Century Pictures and offices on the studios lot.
“Write whatever you like,” David said. “We have the budget and we have Gloria Farnham.”
Rosebud Films was housed on the top floor of a three storey building on the corner of Lean Road and Reed Avenue – the studio lanes are named after British film directors. My office looked out onto Reed and across the lane to Sound Stage 5. It was fifteen feet square and furnished from the prop and furniture store. All the stuff was too big for the room. The desk, the armchairs and the sofa looked like they had come from the set of The Magnificent Ambersons. My personal contribution to the ambience consisted of my desk chair from home, laptop and printer and a poster for Dark Stain, a lurid, gothic confection, produced by NBC for the US transmission.
And there I sat for some weeks, every day from nine to six, trying to prove I was the shit-hot new screenwriter the publicity machine vouchsafed.
It was inevitable that Gloria Farnham and I should meet at a moment of pure melodrama. I remember the date. Friday September 13th.