He’s a swaggering billionaire businessman, once dubbed King of the High Street. For 30 years, he has ruled retail fashion, investing money in off-shore tax havens while shamelessly flaunting his wealth on board his superyacht.
Sir Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie is the focus of new film Greed, which tells the fictional story of a self-made tycoon planning to celebrate his 60th birthday with a lavish star-studded toga party.
If all this sounds familiar, the resemblance to Sir Philip Green is entirely intentional.
Art imitating life: Coogan as Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie with wife Samantha (Isla Fisher) in the new film (right) and Philip Green with wife Tina (left)
In the movie, which opened last night, Alan Partridge star Steve Coogan ruthlessly sends up the 67-year-old mogul in a take-down so obvious, one critic says: ‘If the lawyers looked away, you might call it a biopic.’
Stars who once quaffed champagne on his yacht even return in the film to lampoon Green. So who’s on board?
From bullying behaviour to bacchanalian parties, TANITH CAREY reveals how Greed revels in the story of one retailer who really pushed the boat out.
RISE AND FALL OF MAN THEY CALL ‘SIR SHIFTY’
The film tells the story of Richard McCreadie, a perma-tanned bully with dazzlingly white teeth, as he shares his life story with journalist and would-be biographer Nick, played by David Mitchell.
This allows for colourful flashbacks to the early days of McCreadie’s empire building.
One turning point is the moment McCreadie learns that Sri Lankan garment workers live on wages of just 50p a day and it dawns on him how much profit he can make.
However, his business methods come under growing scrutiny, so McCreadie plans a flashy 60th birthday bash as a distraction, themed on his favourite movie, Gladiator.
However, his business methods come under growing scrutiny, so McCreadie plans a flashy 60th birthday bash as a distraction, themed on his favourite movie, Gladiator
Green celebrated his 50th birthday with a lavish star-studded toga party
The lavish toga party, on the Greek island of Mykonos, bears more than a passing resemblance to the Roman-themed 50th birthday celebrations. of ‘Sir Shifty’.
There is also McCreadie’s belligerent performance in front of a parliamentary select committee where he is asked to answer questions about the collapse of his business — and tells an MP to stop staring at him.
Green was called before MPs in 2016 to explain the collapse of BHS with the loss of 11,000 jobs and huge cuts to the pensions of 20,000 employees’. During the hearing, he told MP Richard Fuller to stop staring at him in a ‘disturbing’ way.
BULLYING BOSS AND HIS LEGENDARY LASHINGS
Green’s outbursts have become legendary — so it’s no surprise that McCreadie has a bullying side, too.
The film was inspired by a conversation between director Michael Winterbottom and journalist Peter Oborne in which the latter revealed that Green would ring in the middle of the night to harangue him about his articles.
As McCreadie’s biographer, journalist Nick is in for similar tongue-lashings.
There is also a scene where McCreadie gets in a scuffle with a journalist just as Green did with a Sky reporter in Greece in 2016
The film also gives a flavour of Green’s attacks on employees.
In one legendary diatribe, Green was said to have told a manager: ‘You’re f***ing useless. I should throw you out of the window but you’re so fat you’d probably bounce back up again.’
In the film, McCreadie reduces one hapless employee to a quivering wreck for using the wrong colour on a window display.
There is also a scene where McCreadie gets in a scuffle with a journalist just as Green did with a Sky reporter in Greece in 2016.
THE WIFE WHO IS ALSO CASHING IN
In the film, McCreadie’s wife Samantha, played by Isla Fisher, is seen gleefully accepting a giant cheque for £1.2 billion.
The sum is the exact amount Green banked when he gave himself the biggest pay cheque in British corporate history. He paid the whopping dividend to his wife Tina, a resident of tax haven Monaco, so it wouldn’t be taxed.
In the film, McCreadie reduces one hapless employee to a quivering wreck for using the wrong colour on a window display
Just like Tina, 70, Samantha is a hands-on player in her husband’s businesses. Isla said: ‘She’s the kind of person who’s proud of being greedy, and enjoys very much the spoils of luxury.’
In real life Tina is known as the ‘blonde hurricane’ who loves huge diamonds, a deep tan and ‘a his ‘n’ hers Bentley’ lifestyle.
To perfect the look, Isla took inspiration from the TV’s Billionaire Wives. She said: ‘I just tried to give Samantha as much of a plastic look as possible.
RETURN OF REAL EX-BOYFRIEND
Art also imitates life in the character of McCreadie’s daughter Lily, played by Sophie Cookson, who recently starred in BBC drama The Trial of Christine Keeler.
In the movie, Lily longs to be in a reality TV programme such as Made In Chelsea — a show Green’s daughter Chloe appeared on in real life, alongside Ollie Locke who she dated in 2011. Ollie agreed to appear in the film as Lily’s boyfriend.
Sadly this leaves no room for a portrayal of how ‘Sir Shifty’ welcomed ex gang member and so-called ‘hot felon’ Jeremy Meeks into the family — he and 28-year-old Chloe went on to have a son together.
Green’s daughter Chloe appeared on Made In Chealsea in real life, alongside Ollie Locke (left and right) who she dated in 2011. Ollie agreed to appear in the film as Lily’s boyfriend
FLOATING PALACE THEY CALL HOME
Of course, it wouldn’t be a film about a retail billionaire without a huge yacht.
But even the filmmakers had trouble matching the splendour of Green’s luxury cruiser. Indeed, his current superyacht Lionheart is so lavish, observers say the £75,000-a-day craft the producers rented for those scenes doesn’t come close.
Journalist Simon Mills, who spent a ‘champagne-soaked’ day on one of Green’s previous vessels, along with Little Britain star David Walliams in 2006, said Green’s opulence at sea is hard to match.
He says: ‘Winterbottom’s film has major flaws: its budget isn’t big enough, its lens not wide enough and its boat not long enough to capture the sheer rubber-necking, car-crash ghastliness of the super-rich at play.’
Indeed the specification of Green’s current £100 million vessel, which is moored in Monaco, would be hard for anyone to equal. Four storeys high and 295ft long, the cruiser boasts three lifts, a plunge pool, hot tub, helicopter pad, indoor beauty salon and outdoor barbecue.
Not to mention the flotilla of jet-skis moored James Bond-style in a bay deep inside the hull.
SERIOUS MESSAGE BEHIND LAUGHS
The film opens on Mykonos where ‘Greedy’ McCreadie is building a Roman amphitheatre for the amusement of the guests he has flying in from around the globe.
After filming on the Greek party island for a month, shooting moved to Sri Lanka. The crew visited clothes factories where female workers are still paid no more than £2.50 a day.
Despite the laughs, one of the themes of the film is the gulf between the lives of these women and the lifestyle McCreadie can afford thanks to their labour.
To drive home the point, the film was supposed to end with facts on the current state of wages in the clothing industry, designed to show that truth is even harsher than fiction.
The original version ended with a series of cards pointing out that workers in Myanmar and Bangladesh earn £2.74 and £2.10 a day making clothes for British High Street brands, while H&M’s owner, Stefan Persson, is worth around £13 billion and Zara’s, Amancio Ortega, £51billion.
Winterbottom has since told how Sony Pictures, who financed the film, would not let him put them in, in case it damaged the company’s relationship with the brands.
THE CELEBS WHO PLAYED ALONG
It’s not just greedy tycoons who get skewered in the film. So do celebrities who were only too happy to accept Green’s hospitality before he fell from grace.
For his 60th birthday, he hired two private jets to carry 150 A-list friends to Mexico. Guests included Leonardo DiCaprio, Gwyneth Paltrow and Katherine Jenkins.
Stevie Wonder, Rihanna and Bruno Mars were reported to have been lined up for entertainment.
Singer James Blunt, who partied with Green on his yacht in 2006, turns up in the film, playing himself being paid a handsome sum to serenade McCreadie’s wife.
Singer James Blunt, who partied with Green on his yacht in 2006, turns up in the film, playing himself being paid a handsome sum to serenade McCreadie’s wife
A source told The Sun: ‘James is known for his self-deprecating sense of humour, so he jumped at the chance to star in a comedy.’
Other Green guests, including Rod Stewart and Simon Cowell, are sent up when the film shows a desperate McCreadie having to hire their lookalikes.
However Fatboy Slim, Stephen Fry and Pixie Lott do appear as themselves, even if this time the luxury was pared down.
As the budget for the £5million film was less than the cost of one of Green’s parties, Coogan has joked they did it for ‘expenses and a sandwich’.
Director Winterbottom said: ‘We got a few people in to do cameos. We had people like Fatboy Slim, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Chris Martin and Stephen Fry.
‘But, strangely, celebrities on the whole would rather go to a billionaire’s party than a low-budget British film set.’
CAROLINE FLACK’S LAST APPEARANCE
Tragic Love Island presenter Caroline Flack also makes an appearance in the film.
In scenes shot last year, she appears as herself in a black leather strapless dress introducing McCreadie, saying: ‘Now time for the man you’ve all been waiting for, the King of the High Street.’
Caroline is also pictured handing over the £1.2 billion dividend cheque to his wife Samantha.
Caroline is also pictured handing over the £1.2 billion dividend cheque to his wife Samantha
WILL ‘SIR SHIFTY’ BE WATCHING?
‘Sir Philip was a dream to play,’ says Coogan, who says he also admires him for being more honest than some of his peers about how he spends his money.
‘The thing about Philip Green is that his overt nature is more honest than the more clandestine people who do exactly the same thing as him and he just sticks his head over the parapet. However objectionable he is, he’s charismatic and quite funny, too. Having the character be funny makes you want to spend time with him.’
But though he may have a private cinema on board his yacht, friends of Green claim he will be giving the film a miss.
‘He says he’s not interested in it.’ a friend told the Sunday People. ‘And I don’t think it’ll be on at his local cinema in Monaco.’