"It’s amazing how fast a rumour, published as “fact”, takes hold, especially in the internet age: a story appeared in the Daily Mail that the original screen Billy Elliot, Jamie Bell, is to take over from Daniel Radcliffe in Equus – and before you know it, it’s everywhere. A Google search turns up 14,700 results already that links Bell and Equus. But a fact check with the show’s London PR elicited this response: “I can confirm that Jamie Bell is NOT going into Equus - it’s a rumour and it’s incorrect!”
An availability check may have well have been run on him, of course – I’m sure the producers are running availability checks on every eligible young actor (and even some who are not eligible) whose nude appearance would sell tickets – and the word could have been put out (if it was) as a piece of wish fulfilment; say it often enough, and he might actually be seduced by the interest that has been shown in him. Of course, it’s a dangerous game – it pushes his negotiating price right up.
Alternatively, the producers might not be the source of the rumour, but the star himself: if his “people” put it out there, the producers might bite. It’s an established practice – not by Bell, I hasten to add, but by agents of actors trying to stir up interest in their client for a particular role, and by demonstrating the interest taken in him, will convince the producers to consider him.
But wherever it originates, the press, of course, lap it up. We become complicit in playing their games for them. It would be wonderful, of course, if journalists reported news – but in the days of Popbitch and Talkin’ Broadway, we’re now chasing stories that are merely conjecture, in the hope that the conjecture then becomes fact. Last year another theatre website was so keen to “get the scoop” on opening dates for the revival of The Sound of Music that they published ones that turned out to be wrong, as I blogged here at the time. But they had previously insisted they had “written – official – confirmation” of its “fact”, even though the producers had not yet decided the date themselves.
Of course, “facts” can change – but a date that hasn’t been announced in the first place can’t later be deemed to have been “moved forward”, as the website concerned later wrote when their original “written – official – confirmation”, was proved to be incorrect. And Bell may yet, of course, sign for Equus now that the interest has been so overwhelming – but for now, the sites “confirming” him for the role are premature."