Three men with a single vision
Three men with a single vision
Bringing David Peace's noir Red Riding novels to TV has been superbly achieved by a trio of Britain's brightest talents. Euan Ferguson meets them
Red Riding is a trilogy of films commissioned by Channel 4, based on the novels by David Peace. Each film is directed by a different directors, (l to r) Julian Jarrold, Anand Tucker and James Marsh, photographed at the Covent Garden Hotel, London Photograph: Karen Robinson
Ah, freedom. Freedom from the Hollywood machine, from stultifying script meetings, from the damp-toes feeling of constant compromise. These three have been given freedom, trusted to work on their own instincts and surrounded by a blunderbuss of talent, and, despite a faint residual tiredness - all are in various busy stages of post-production - you can see the delight in their eyes.
The three individual directors of Red Riding, the C4 trilogy adapting David Peace's haunting evocations of 70s and 80s Yorkshire - interlinking tales of very fallible coppers, very noir hacks, very human killers - are sitting down talking about the process for pretty much the very first time. They had a couple of suppers together way back at the beginning, but today, they're talking, really talking, for the first time.
Julian Jarrold, James Marsh and Anand Tucker, three very different directors, were trusted by producer Andrew Eaton with his long-term labour of love: the on-screen evocation, after it had been wrestled into a blinding screenplay by Tony Grisoni, of Peace's sprawling, unforgiving series of books set loosely around the time of the Yorkshire Ripper. The result is whatever the plural is for more than one tour de force. We're only in March, but if it doesn't clean up at next year's awards I'll eat that chintz. The filming, of three discreet but linked films (1974, 1980, 1983), had, by definition, to dovetail, collide, overlap, but the directors didn't.
"We tried not to liaise too much, really," says Jarrold. "The freedom we've been given is incredible. But, in a way, the script was so strong that it would have been hard to misinterpret."
"I noticed a few things in your art department, walking through some mornings," adds Marsh, looking towards his colleague, "and thought, 'Oh ho, he's going that way, is he? Good, good.'"
"Did you, did you really? And I saw you'd left out a couple of the same books I was using for research," says Jarrold. "Which was... interesting. Reassuring, almost." The three begin talking among themselves: about 60s brutalist architecture, about whether West Yorkshire gave "birth" to Peter Sutcliffe or was just "unlucky": about the terrible damage we did, and still do, to children. About the "look" they wanted, brown and grainy and rainy, but riven at times with the sun of human redemption. They pretty much agree on everything, but in hindsight. They talk to each other like people coming up to breathe. I'm just in the way.
"I was also just amazed at the cast, the choices, weren't you?" mentions Marsh, looking round to his fellow directors. "In many ways because of Tony's script, they were just queuing up for it, the best in the land: what a joy." Sean Bean is perhaps the highest profile, but you also have among so many others, Andrew Garfield, David Morrissey, Rebecca Hall, Warren Clarke. Did the subject matter - corruption, child murder, prostitution, rain and ultimately a sort of redemption - ever send them home gloomed?
"Almost the opposite," says Marsh. "Sometimes, when you're dealing with these subjects, it's so intense you must let it go. Make jokes. Walk home light. It could be the only way to do it justice."
Since I spoke to them, Britain, and crucially, the highly individual, non-corporate trusting of highly individual talent, has pretty much cleaned up at the Oscars. (And Andrew Garfield has won a Bafta for Boy A, Rebecca Hall has been feted for Vicky Cristina Barcelona; oh, and the charming James Marsh has taken an Oscar for Man on Wire.)
If there are any lingering doubts, after Slumdog's triumphs, of the roiling tranches of talent in this country, they can only be dispelled - bleakly, darkly, with complexity, but ultimately with glory - over the next three Thursdays.
Red Riding begins on Thursday, C4, 9pm
Born in Thailand in 1963, Tucker moved to the UK aged 18 and later began working in TV production, winning a Bafta for a Bookmark profile of author Anne Rice in 1993. His film credits include Hilary and Jackie (1998), Shopgirl (2005) and an adaptation of Blake Morrison's memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father? (2007).
Jarrold's TV directing credits include Cracker, Silent Witness and an adaptation of Zadie Smith's novel, White Teeth. Born in Norwich in 1960, he made the transition from TV to film with Kinky Boots (2005) and has since directed Becoming Jane (2007) and an adaptation of Brideshead Revisited (2008).
Marsh recently won an Oscar and a Bafta
for his documentary Man on Wire. Born in Cornwall in 1963, he
cut his teeth making documentaries for the BBC's arts strand
Arena (Wisconsin Death Trip and The Burger and the King, about
Elvis Presley's life). His feature debut came in 2005 as writer/director
of The King.