I heard this on the Telegraph podcast for last Thursday, and I tried finding it in the Spy archives online, but it doesn’t seem to be there. So here’s a transcript of the conversation between Guy Ruddle, the podcast editor, and Celia Walden, who writes the Spy column, who is in this fresh from Cannes:

Guy: Let’s talk about these stories, and first of all, about plans to make a film… about Mao Tsetung.<br/> Celia: Yes.

The Hollywood production about Mao Tsetung.<br/> Yeah.

Good or I mean, you know, Mao Tse-tung, good man or Mao Tse-tung, bad man.<br/> Well, um, one would think really that there’s only one way to go with this, umm…

Yes.<br/> But no! The uh… in true American style, they doing a sort of, it seems they’re after a sort of collaboration with the, um, Chinese government,

Oh right, well in that case–<br/> Who won’t have a bad word said about him. Um, and, uh, it’ll be, um, the producer has said himself ‘it’ll be a very positive take on Mao’s life.’

So whah… I mean… <br/> Which has absolutely enraged the author of Wild Swans, Jung Chang, who’s a wonderful woman, and of course, you know, went through it all, and had parents who became, sort of, demented after the things that they’d suffered throughout his regime. So she was appalled by this, and said it’s a typical thing where the Chinese communist regime has become so adept at just sort of brainwashing their own people, and now they’ve managed to get foreign lackeys as well.

Yeah. It does sound rather like if it’s going to be with the help of the Chinese state,<br/> Yes.

It’s going to be from the Ministry of Propaganda, basically. Anyways-<br/> And of course very conveniently I think just after the Beijing Olympics.

Oh dear. And this is being made by Steven North, the producer?<br/> Steven North, yes.

Do we know him from any other…?<br/> Well I don’t think so, I sort of looked up various things that he’d done, but um, nothing I think that we would know.

Maybe this is why he wants to do it, then.<br/> Mmm.