In a N.Y. Times profile of In The Loop director-writer Armando Iannucci, Sarah Lyall riffs on Peter Capaldi‘s throttled portrayal of the sewer-mouthed Malcolm Tucker — a senior British government official and spinmeister. “Few can match [him] for sheer verbal brio,” she writes. “He uses his dark arts to fine result when he persuades reporters to backtrack on stories critical of the government. ‘Whether it has happened or not is irrelevant — it is true,’ he yells in one scene, making the case for reporting something that did not in fact happen.

Peter Capaldi in In The Loop

“Capaldi is perhaps best known to Americans as the geekily adorable Scotsman in the 1983 film Local Hero. This makes for something of a mental disconnect.

“‘I find it quite exhausting because there is a considerable distance between him and me,” Mr. Capaldi said. “But being given this opportunity to play someone who is so Machiavellian and nasty and shouty is great.”

“It has long been assumed that Malcolm is based on Alastair Campbell, former Prime Minister Tony Blair‘s all-powerful strategizer, spokesman and interference blocker. (Mr. Campbell is credited, among other things, with coming up with Mr. Blair’s description of Diana, Princess of Wales, as ‘the people’s princess.’) Mr. Iannucci said Mr. Campbell was an influence on, but not the only model for, the character; Mr. Capaldi said he looked elsewhere for inspiration.

“‘I didn’t know how he spoke or how he behaved,’ he said by telephone, referring to Mr. Campbell. “The only people I knew who spoke in this way with great torrents of verbosity and very aggressive techniques were American agents. You think back to the old days of I.C.M. and C.A.A. and all those guys in power suits bursting into immense volcanic eruptions of foul language.'”