The Scapegoat (2012 film)

The Scapegoat is a British film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's 1957 novel of the same name. The drama is written and directed by Charles Sturridge and stars Matthew Rhys as lookalike characters John Standing and Johnny Spence. It was broadcast on ITV on 9 September 2012.

The Scapegoat
Based onThe Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier
Written byCharles Sturridge
Directed byCharles Sturridge
StarringMatthew Rhys
Eileen Atkins
Theme music composerAdrian Johnston
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Producer(s)Sarah Beardsall
Dominic Minghella
CinematographyMatt Gray BSC
Running time108 minutes
Production company(s)Island Pictures
Original networkITV, STV, UTV
Original release
  • 9 September 2012 (2012-09-09)

The novel was first adapted into film in 1959 by director Robert Hamer, with Sir Alec Guinness playing the parts of John Barratt and Jacques de Gué.


There are significant differences between this adaptation and the original novel. Whereas the action of the novel takes place in France, this screen version is set in the UK in 1952 as Britain prepares for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Teacher John Standing, who has just lost his job, meets his doppelgänger Johnny Spence, a failed businessman, in a hotel. Standing is encouraged by Spence to get drunk and the next morning wakes without his clothes and wallet and with Spence gone. Collected by George, the chauffeur to the Spence family, he has difficulty explaining himself and is taken to the family's grand home. He is quickly drawn into family and business affairs and is forced to deal with Spence's business problems and the women in his life: his wife, mother, sister, young daughter, and two mistresses (Spence's sister-in-law Nina, and Bela, a French artist who lives in the nearby town).

The family glass business is failing, and Standing staves off the inevitable by pretending to have signed a contract with a major customer. He finds that Spence's younger brother, Paul, is capable but lacking in confidence, whilst his sister, Blanche, hates Johnny, whom she blames for the suicide of her close friend. Standing discovers that the only money available to save the business is a trust fund belonging to Spence's neglected wife, Frances, but the trust pays out only if Frances has a male heir or she predeceases her husband. Spence, curious as to what is going on in his absence, returns to the house to retrieve his gun and sees Standing sleeping with Frances. Astonished, he uses their (John and Frances') improved relationship to his advantage.

While Standing is out at a shooting party lunch with the rest of the family, Spence manipulates Frances into taking an overdose of morphine so that he can claim the trust fund and save the glass business. She willingly submits, sacrificing herself to save her family. Her daughter, "Piglet," sees them together and confronts Standing, still mistaking him for her father. Standing rushes to the house to find Frances barely alive; he revives her with help from Charlotte, Spence's mother's caretaker.

Standing confronts Spence at the glass foundry. Spence offers him a share of the money, but Standing refuses, so Spence forces him at gunpoint to exchange clothing, planning to kill him and dispose of his body in the foundry. A struggle ensues, and Spence is killed. Standing returns to the house, intending to disappear, but is dissuaded by Charlotte, who has seen through him. In the final scene, Standing is seen with the Spence family, including a pregnant Frances, watching the Coronation on a newly acquired television set. This ending differs completely from the novel.



The Scapegoat is the first film production[1] for Sarah Beardsall and Dominic Minghella's production company, Island Pictures.[2] Filming on The Scapegoat began in London in November 2011.[3]

Location filming for the film was carried out mainly at Knebworth House in Hertfordshire.[4]

Home media release

A region 2 DVD was released on 10 September 2012.

See also


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