AMC+’s ‘Rogue Agent’ is the story of a man who has the talent of manipulating people into his lies. He goes about masquerading as a spy and recruits three college students to help him keep an eye on the members of the IRA in their college. One night, he runs away with all three of them, claiming that their cover is blown and the IRA is on their tails. The story picks up a decade later, with a solicitor named Alice Archer, falling for his lies. Directed by Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson, the film spins such a fascinating story of lies and control that one can’t help but wonder if a story like this could be picked up from real life. If you are thinking about the same, then we’ve got your back. Here’s what you should know about the film.
Is Rogue Agent Based on True Events?
Yes, ‘Rogue Agent’ is based on the true crimes committed by conman Robert Freegard. The film uses Michael Bronner’s unpublished article, ‘Chasing Agent Freegard’ as its source material. The film begins in 1993 and ends with over a decade of Freegard’s actions taken into account. In real life, too, he was active during these years. In 1993, Freegard got three college students- one man and two women- to believe that he was working for MI5 and kidnapped them by convincing them they were being hunted down by the IRA. He kept the ruse up for the coming years where he exploited them to extort money out of their families, with whom he also convinced them to cut ties.
He also “trained” the students, moving them through “safe houses”. He had sexual relations with the two women; one of them had his children as well. In the early 2000s, he convinced a solicitor, Caroline Cowper, of his spy story and borrowed large sums of money from her. He also got engaged to her but disappeared before the wedding could take place. Sometime later, he got an American psychologist, Kimberley Adams, into his trap and made her ask her family for money, so that she could work for the secret service too.
In the film, we see Gemma Arterton’s Alice Archer chasing after Freegard. In real life, Adams’ family was also involved in catching Freegard, who was located after months of surveillance, which lead the cops to his arrest at London Heathrow airport where he’d arrived to get money from Adams’ mother.
When actor James Norton, who also plays Freegard in the film, came across the story, he knew it was something that he wanted to be involved with. For the preparation of the role and the film, he relied on Bronner’s heavily researched article with victims’ accounts. The filmmakers didn’t directly speak to the victims to be respectful of them and not to drag them through the horrifying ordeal they’d been through.
As for Freegard, Norton suggests that there might have been some communication from his end. “If you are a narcissist or the kind of manipulator and control freak that Freegard clearly is, and you hear in the trades that a movie is being made out of you, well, what do you do? I’m sure you try and ingratiate yourself with that movie. So there were a number of moments where a couple of producers put the phone down [and said] “I think I might have just been speaking to Robert Freegard. How bizarre.” So those were quite chilling. But no, we haven’t had any direct contact with him, and I don’t think we would really want to either,” he said.
While this is the story of a conman and how his actions destroyed many lives, for the directors of the film, it wasn’t Freegard that they wanted to be the focus of the film. It was Alice Archer. Through her, they wanted to represent all the people that’d fallen into Freegard’s trap, focusing on how he manipulated the situation to make the smartest of people fall for his ruse. “She’s a formidable and smart character. So you have this man and woman in a cat-and-mouse chase in real life and we thought that was the basis for a great story. It was right up our street,” said co-director Declan Lawn. “What we found equally fascinating was what makes people fall under their spell. Our film sets out to say that it’s not a case of a master conman and a bunch of idiots. It’s a case of a guy who is so good at what he does in terms of manipulation, that anyone could fall under his spell,” he added.
Rather than focus on the crimes, they chose to take the story in the direction that would show the resilience of the people who’d fallen victim to him. “She picks herself up and helps to bring him down in the end. That’s why it interested us; not so much the fascination with the mysterious conman but how people manage to recover when they end up meeting someone like this,” said Lawn.
Read More: Where is Robert Freegard Now?