Author Archives: Damian Michael Barcroft

About Damian Michael Barcroft

Writer/historian of Detective Fiction and the Victorian Gothic. Also cultural observations and interviews from literature, stage and screen.

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2019: Russell Lewis Part I

Cavendish, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Cowley anymore…

THE PROLOGUE

1969: It is a new year; a new era for Oxford’s finest. A new unit base houses the set of the new police station where both old and new characters have been gathering since just before 8am in readiness to shoot scenes for Film 1 of the sixth series of Endeavour. Oh, and of course, Endeavour is sporting a new moustache.

It’s the 21st day of shooting for this film although it’s the 44th in total thus far as Film 2 was shot beforehand. Unlike my previous visit to unit base which was in Beaconsfield last year and its location safe to disclose as it would be used for the final time to make way for the redevelopment of the property, I’d better not reveal where we are this time. However, I can tell you that filming today at the impressive Thames Valley Police Station set are interior scenes in various individual offices as well as CID and the lobby with an equally impressive roll call including Shaun Evans, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser, Simon Harrison, Richard Riddell and Colin Tierney who plays a character called ACC Bottoms.

Bottoms! Despite various attempts, Anton gets the giggles every time he has to say the name ‘Bottoms’ and after one particular take, Shaun and the rest of the cast and crew are treated to him doing impressions of Frankie Howerd. Now, if you’ve never heard Anton Lesser, the great RADA-trained actor and former associate artist of the RSC, do Frankie Howerd while in costume as Reginald Bright, then you’d better hope and pray that ITV/Mammoth Screen include the outtakes on a DVD release one day as evidence of this most momentous of moments in television history.

Putting such titters aside, in many ways ‘69 is a new beginning for the series and yet, one can’t help but feel -my glass eternally half empty- that this might just be the beginning of the end. Shaun Evans seems to be increasingly interested in directing while Roger Allam is in constant demand across film, television and theatre. Besides which, would Endeavour really be the same show that we have come to know and love if it were set during the seventies?

I can think of no one better to ask than the man who devised the show and has written every one of its 27 episodes, please join me in paying attention to the man behind the curtain – the wonderful wizard of Oxon – Mr. Russell Lewis…

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SLAUGHTERHOUSE

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview with Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2019

DAMIAN: Russ, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that Endeavour has millions of worldwide fans who would be absolutely devastated if the show were to end any time soon. However, realistically, how much longer can it go on for?

RUSS:  I don’t think there’s a danger of running out of stories — but for various reasons it’s probably safe to say that we’re closer to the end than the beginning.  There’s a little way to go yet, but, for better or worse, we are starting to say goodbye.

DAMIAN: Could the show still work if set during the seventies?

RUSS:  I don’t see why not.  I’d always thought ‘69 was a natural terminus – but my long term partner in crime Damien Timmer [executive producer and co-managing director of Mammoth Screen] has always felt that we could move into the early 70s quite happily.  He’s usually right about such things. So we shall see. There’s something that appeals to me in leaving things a little ragged at the edges.

DAMIAN: Why was Film 2 shot before Film 1, don’t you usually shoot in chronological order?

RUSS:  Well — it’s no great secret, now – but Shaun Evans directed FILM 2, and that needed to shoot first so he had time to prep the film.  He couldn’t have prepped his film if he was busy shooting FILM 1.

DAMIAN: And why has Endeavour grown a moustache this year?

RUSS:  Mmm. I hope this will become clear in the watching. I’d seen Shaun do Miss Julie/Black Comedy at Chichester a few years ago — he sported a tache and, I think, a little soul patch, goatee number — and that look stuck in my head.  There may also – subconsciously – have been some wish to reflect the change from the lovable mop-tops of the early part of the decade to the altogether hairier gentlemen striding across the zebra crossing outside Abbey Road.

People change hair styles – hair colour – try a beard for a while – all the time. You might keep it a month or two – or a year or so, and then change your mind, and move on to something else.  It didn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility that it’s something he might have tried. It seems odd to me that – when it comes to their look — all fictional characters should have to be set in aspic.  That’s their look in Series 1, and that’s what they look like through to Series whatever. Particularly as Endeavour’s always been about a young man becoming an older man. We change – we evolve. So should characters.  It shouldn’t just be confined to the clothes somebody wears. Endeavour’s wardrobe – Thursday’s Wardrobe – Strange, Joan, Dorothea, Win — their clothes are subtly updated as each year rolls by.

But as I say — there’s a deeper reason for it too.

DAMIAN: I thought that last year’s scripts were arguably the best example so far of you structuring the various story and character arcs across the series. Do you think this might be because you knew that all the events had to lead up to the end of Oxford City Police and Cowley station, you had to write out two of the main characters, you had an extra two films to work with than usual, or simply that you’re becoming a more skilled screenwriter?

RUSS: Thanks – that’s very good of you to say – I think.  It was nice to have a larger canvas – so one could let things breathe a bit more.  We always know where we’re going to end up each Series – but the changes at the end of 1968 were perhaps seismic.

DAMIAN: Let’s focus on MUSE, the first episode from series 5 which in addition to the usual abundance of assorted cultural references, showcases an impressive knowledge of art including works by Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Now, I hope we know each other well enough by now that you won’t be offended when I mention that you didn’t receive the best education. Indeed, your days at school were rather sporadic (transcendental apex predators and suchlike) and I don’t think you ever went to college or university. However, it’s immediately obvious to anyone speaking to you in person or reading your scripts that you are undoubtedly an extremely knowledgeable and cultured man. I’m sure the internet has proved invaluable for research but you have to know what to put in the search engine in the first place (for example you wouldn’t just come across Weibermacht/Power of Women or something relevant to the theme of sexual hierarchy by chance) so where does all this knowledge and culture come from?

RUSS:  The only thing of which I’m acutely aware are the vast gaps in that which passes for the things of which I have a rudimentary grasp.  I always read a lot. One book begets another. Something catches one’s interest – and one reads around the subject. But like most con-men, frauds, bluffers and lawyers, I have a nose for knowing how to find things that are useful to my purposes.  And across 5 & 6 I’ve been aided and abetted by Amy Thurgood – who has a very fine story mind, and is very good at chivvying things out that we can press into service.

DAMIAN: You originally wrote a beautifully detailed and wonderfully epic opening for MUSE set in Russia featuring the Romanovs and Bolshevik soldiers. Did you not anticipate that all this information could be more economically conveyed to the audience in a slideshow lecture as it appears in the broadcast version?

RUSS:  Ha! Sometimes things are not realised to quite the degree one would wish.  The lecture was a late additional pick-up. But in intention at least there seemed to be a interesting parallel between 1918/1968 and knowing it would transmit in 2018.  Revolution, political upheaval, extremism of one sort or another in the air. A sense of some sort of history repeating. Prague, &c.

DAMIAN: As most Endeavour films do, MUSE begins with scenes intercut with the opening title cards which often serve to set up the story, its various subplots and characters but I was particularly intrigued with two juxtaposing scenes of the aforementioned lecture on the Fabergé egg (called ‘Innocence’ also known as ‘Nastya’s Egg’) and the demise of Oxford City Police. In addition to the more obvious parallels with the call girls and exotic dancers, was the egg also a deliberate way of symbolising the end of innocence for Endeavour and his colleagues at Cowley or a foreshadowing of new life and rebirth into Thames Valley?

RUSS:  The egg arose from wanting to include the fate of the Romanovs.  I had a dig around some of the missing eggs – and those commissioned and undelivered at the time of the Revolution — and it felt like we had the wriggle room to arrive at something meant for Anastasia.  The parallel between what had happened to her, the issue at the heart of the matter, and Artemisia Gentileschi. All of these things felt complementary – connected in some way. The Me Too Movement. Where we’d left Joan at the end of 1968.  All of that was in my mind. I wanted to do a collect the set serial killer type number — but I didn’t want to add to the long catalogue of dead women as entertainment. I think with the exception of SWAY, where it was germane to what we were about, we’ve always tried to be an equal opportunity slaughterhouse.

DAMIAN: Given that we’ve touched on the subject of James Bond so many times in our previous interviews (indeed, there’s another reference in MUSE with the Maurice Binder style of projected images onto the women at the party), might I be forgiven for thinking of Roger Moore in Octopussy every time the Fabergé egg is mentioned?

RUSS:  Yeh — it was absolutely Maurice Binder, and specifically From Russia With Love I’d had in mind.

But the idea of these images projected onto a woman’s body seemed in keeping with the general theme of the piece.

The Thomas Crown Affair
The Thomas Crown Affair

The Male Gaze, etc. We were playing around also with The Thomas Crown Affair.

MUSE
The Thomas Crown Affair
MUSE
The Thomas Crown Affair
MUSE
The Thomas Crown Affair

INT. GYMNASIUM – NIGHT 1

Boxing match. Two AMATEURS knock seven bells out of each other for the entertainment of a roaring crowd. Blood and resin.

RINGSIDE — EDDIE NERO (50s), a small town big cheese who saw too many George Raft movies. Flanked by ICE CREAM BLONDE brasses, and a COHORT of arm-twisters and jaw-breakers, EDDIE seems to live every punch; ducking and weaving in his seat, regretful that he’s not the one in the ring dishing it out.

With his bared teeth, and goading, ‘Have him!’, EDDIE’s relish of the violence borders on the edge of something carnal.

DAMIAN: We’ve often seen rather polite and cultivated villains across Inspector Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, so I’m wondering if the creation of a character like Eddie Nero, combined with the following description early in the script for MUSE: ‘The decade has turned. The promise of the Summer of Love withered upon the vine. Comedown faces. Sour. Sallow. Tired.’, is evidence of you attempting to paint a more bleak and gritty portrait of Oxford than we are usually accustomed to?

RUSS:  I think we’ve always tried balance the ivory tower/college side of things – which is Endeavour’s world – with Thursday’s slightly more grounded world of cops and villains.  But, yes – looking at period material – newsreels, cultural material – I certainly picked up on a sense of comedown after ‘67. Hope deferred. Paradise indefinitely postponed. The Garden of Eden become rank with sedge and weeds.  The aspiration was a beautiful thing, though it took one hell of a beating – Vietnam; Doctor King; Bobby Kennedy. For a long time it’s felt as if – to borrow a phrase – ‘John Doe has the upper hand.’ The Man. The Establishment. Lately, the gangster states.  Call it what you will. But the dream endures. The reverses are painful, but temporary. ‘All you fascists bound to lose.’

DAMIAN: Didn’t Emperor Nero also have a gym?

RUSS: Up at the Golden Palace?  I don’t think he used it much.

DAMIAN: Personally, one of the highlights of series 5 were the scenes between Endeavour and Strange sharing a flat together. A beautiful example from this film would be Endeavour trying his best to focus on his Times crossword while Strange is reading a tabloid newspaper and slurping tea from the other side of the breakfast table. All a bit Morecambe and Wise wasn’t it?

RUSS:  We were going for Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple (1968) throughout.

DAMIAN: How did you come up with the wonderful idea of Strange playing the trombone?

RUSS:  It seemed his natural instrument.  

DAMIAN: Thursday was shot at the end of the second series and the third picks up months later after all the drama of his recovery and the reaction of his family happens off-screen, similarly and also off-screen, Endeavour discovers Joan is pregnant and asks her to marry him at the end of series 4 but months later, we learn in MUSE that she ‘slipped’. Would it be fair to say that you’re better at creating dramatic and emotional cliffhangers than you are at resolving them in an equally dramatic and emotional way?

RUSS:  Mmm. Well — that would be one way of looking at it.  My feeling is that a lie agreed upon – that Joan ‘slipped’ – says a deal more than a plonky, ‘well – this happened, then that happened.’  There are months of story between series — things to which we’re not privy. I find it more interesting to offer glimpses and clues, and give the audience room to draw their own conclusions.  Back to Thursday’s ‘not every question gets an answer.’ Life more often messy than coming with pat answers and tied up with a bow. Things like that… life experiences are an ongoing thing. Part of us.  There isn’t a moment where a line is drawn. Things fade – but it’s a slow, soft fade. But each to their own.

EXT. LONSDALE/QUAD/CLOISTERS – NIGHT 1

Quiet and still. Nothing stirs. Moonlight over the chimney stacks and towers. A shape takes substance. THE SHADOW.

A FIGURE IN BLACK — night’s dark agent, in balaclava and rope soled shoes, moves with feline stealth across the cloister…

Dr.ROBIN GREY, (40s), crosses the quad with the MASTER. He glances upwards, and reacts to something o.s. [off screen]

ROBIN: Good Lord. Master…

MASTER: Ho, there! You! Up on the roof!

THE SHADOW — spotted, turns and melts into the darkness.

DAMIAN: ‘Night’s dark agent’ and ‘melts into the darkness’. I think the more I do these interviews, the more elusive your intentions and motivations become. Are you being genuine or is there a certain sense of irony when you write stuff like this or simply trying to evoke pulp fiction, spy novels and other genres such as your references to the Pink Panther movies elsewhere in the script?

RUSS:  It’s important to convey to everyone what I’m trying to invoke – an atmosphere; a vibe – to spark their imagination, and to do it with a certain economy.  So – I guess that’s where such things come from. It’s not the job of the writer to fill the screenplay out with Camera Directions or block the scene on the page — and to do so is looked on pretty dimly by those wearing the Von Stroheim pants and hunting boots.  But what one can do is suggest mood and describe the action as elegantly as possible. The golden age of Pulp writers were brilliantly economical, so maybe the pulp thing comes from that. You know, real estate on the page is at a premium. We’re not describing every location or character in minute detail — so we have to present thumbnail sketches of whatever it might be.  And hopefully that gets across to the director what one’s about – and the Heads of Department – and will set their motors running. Then, as we get closer to the first day of principal photography, we get together for a tone meeting or two, and everyone presents what they’ve drawn from the text – costume, design, hair and makeup.

You have to be prepared to be flexible – I’ve probably said it before — a location falls through, or actors’ availability changes due to unforeseen circumstances, or the schedule means you can’t get a scene – so you might have to conflate a couple of things.  What I’m saying is unless it’s specific to the plot, you might not be able to realise everything that’s on the page, but so long as what is substituted is true to the intent and the tone of the original design… Which is why those little florid, mauve passages of stage direction can be useful.

It’s as much To Catch a Thief as anything else – but, yes, the shadow of the Lugash Diamond looms large.  I think something we’ve done across the various series – and something that I find an interesting and enjoyable process – is recasting something conceived elsewhere as light or comedic in intention into something darker.

DAMIAN: It’s interesting that Endeavour mentions Simon Templar in reference to the Shadow. Do you happen to know the title of the book in which Templar made his debut?

RUSS:  Not offhand.  But having googled it, I can see why it would amuse you.

DAMIAN: Small things Russ, small things. In addition to perhaps foreshadowing the relationship between Morse and Lewis, was the creation and one of the primary functions of George Fancy to die and thus set up a chain of events that will be followed up in series 6?

RUSS:  George Fancy served a number of purposes – but you’re correct about an early incarnation of the Morse/Lewis dynamic.  We thought it would be interesting to see how Endeavour took to the role of mentor that came with his slightly more senior rank.  There was also a wish to give Dakota Blue Richards/Trewlove something to play beyond her more familiar role, and a fitting departure. We only got the word that Dakota didn’t want to do any more on the day we wrapped Series 4.  It seemed a shame that Trewlove wouldn’t get to say goodbye properly — so Damien Timmer and self had tea with Dakota and outlined what we had in mind. Thankfully, she was agreeable. Series 5 was very much about saying so long to Shirley.

DAMIAN: I loved the editing in the scene between shots of Endeavour reaching to unveil the bedsheet under which is the decapitated body of Simon Lake and Thursday reaching for the silver platter covering the severed head. Was it a dramatic or financial decision not to show any graphic detail or simply a matter of taste?

RUSS:  A matter of the Watershed.  Though we run from 8pm to 10pm — we are bound by the strictures of Ofcom for the whole running time as we start before 9pm.  The mind of the viewer can always be relied upon to come up with something more horrific than we would be able to present to them on screen.

DAMIAN: Can you describe the reaction at the readthrough to The Berserkers and what they did to the pig’s head centrepiece at the Shiplake Chase Hotel?

RUSS:  There may have been a certain amount of laughter.  Likely of the hollow variety.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about the first film of series 6, PYLON ?

RUSS:  Things have changed.  The death of one of their number, the end of Cowley, the decade guttering to a close…  it all seems to mark a certain end of innocence. For us, too. ‘68 was the end of the Second Act.  Endeavour was notionally mid-twenties when we began – knocked about a bit, but still with something of the puppy about him.  Eager. Optimistic. Hopeful. For all his protestations to the contrary, the murder of George Fancy affected him deeply. We have, I think, said goodbye to the boy.   

Creating an iconic ENDEAVOUR poster

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2019

All original images courtesy of The Red Dress Studio

Looking through the many impressive images on the website of The Red Dress, the London based illustration and commercial artists studio run by Olivia Chancellor and her husband Oliver Bland, I’m immediately drawn to their retro, film noir and pulp aesthetics.

Image for music festival Standon Calling.
The Kane Slayer for Empire Magazine
The Kane Conspiracy for Radio Times Magazine
Farewell my Lovely for Radio Times Magazine

Little wonder that their clients include Radio Times, Time Out, Total Film, Empire Magazine and Arrow Films, one of my favourite distribution labels of classic and cult Blu-Ray releases. And most recently, of course, Mammoth Screen with the stunning new poster for Endeavour. I spoke to Olivia about the classic film posters that influenced this as well as the art that inspires her…

DAMIAN: Thinking back to when you were a child, were there any particular book covers, film posters or art in general that you think may have inspired your early career aspirations and later setting up of The Red Dress?

OLIVIA: I remember having Philip Castle’s poster for Clockwork Orange on my wall as a teenager and loved the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Ollie has always loved the National Lampoon’s Vacation artwork by Boris Vallejo and all the old James Bond posters. I think that sums us up quite well.

DAMIAN: You have a passion for vintage posters, especially B-Movies, Film Noir and Pulp Fiction illustration, but when do you think that you really began to notice and appreciate these?

OLIVIA: Probably not really until we were at Central St Martins doing our degree. We’d scour charity shops and car boot sales for pulp fiction, vintage mags and annuals, choosing the ones with the best looking covers.

DAMIAN: If you had to choose a favourite image or one that best represented the work of The Red Dress studio, what would it be?

OLIVIA: Our favourite of recent years, apart from the Endeavour artwork, is the Empire subscribers cover we did last year – Bad Times at the El Royale. Though really we should choose our first and original poster The Red Dress as it sums up the sort of work we hoped to get when we first set up 13 years ago. It also is a daft double portrait of us both!

DAMIAN: What was the brief when you were commissioned to design the Endeavour poster and was there any explicit information given regarding the look and tone they were after?

OLIVIA: The brief was to stay true to the time period, position Morse and Thursday as a duo, exude the show’s high quality production and embrace the Oxford setting. Images referenced were Dr No artwork by Paul Mann, Get Carter poster illustration by Arnaldo Putzu and Coffy artwork by George Akimoto.

These poster examples share a montage style inclusive of larger sized main characters with smaller stories and action scenes happening around them. They all fade to a plain white or black background.

DAMIAN: After presenting some early concept designs, I believe the only notes given from the writer and Mammoth Screen was the inclusion of Bright and the Jaguar, but stylistically, it was very much the artist’s vision?

OLIVIA: Yes, as jobs go there were very few changes, but time was short as we only had two and a half weeks from briefing to final print deadline and this covered Christmas and New year.

We went to Oxford to take photos of the architecture which we worked from as well as screen grabs from the edit and some behind the scenes photography.  We spent quite a while positioning who and what we wanted to go where, how the lighting was going to work etc. A little later comes in the muted colour palate.

DAMIAN: Was there any research into either the art of 1960s period posters or marketing for the  crime/detective TV and film genre more generally?

OLIVIA: Apart from the reference given in the brief there were no particular film posters that we took direct inspiration from, but as we specialise in painting vintage style posters the knowledge is there in our heads from years of producing similar artwork.

Someone [actually, lovely chap and Endeavour scholar, Ian Baker] on social media pointed out the similarity between the Endeavour poster and the 1974 Chinatown poster, but that wasn’t on purpose. Thinking about it now though there are perhaps elements from Out of the Past poster by William Rose but again it wasn’t part of the plan.

We definitely wanted to make sure that the beautiful Film Noir style of how Endeavour is filmed was mirrored in the image, so the smoking gun, profile of Thursday with trilby, and the interrogation room scene play up to that.

To find out more about Olivia and Oliver’s artwork see The Red Dress and there is a limited run of 50 Giclee Endeavour prints signed and numbered by the artists available via Etsy


Arnold Bennett’s Shawport

Interviews and article © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018
Header image by Howard Coster (July 1929) © National Portrait Gallery

I’ve been a regular passenger on the Derby to Crewe line for the last ten years and it was initially something of a lovely novelty to pass through the stations and see some of the old haunts of my childhood and teenage years such as Stoke, Longport (or, rather more accurately, just up the road in Burslem) and also Kidsgrove. Since 2012 however, I’ve had the immense privilege to conduct a series of interviews with the cast and crew of two television shows which has led to other writing opportunities that I could never have imagined possible when I first stepped on board. The daily commute has become valuable reading and research time and the approximate forty-minute journey each way a means of doing some work that I’d otherwise have to do at home. In point of fact, so committed am I to my research that my head is frequently found stuck in the pages of books, scripts or various old periodicals connected to Victorian or sixties era policemen that I often neglect to even look out of the window anymore.

Indeed, both the settings of Whitechapel and Oxford have almost become second homes to me but I wonder if, in researching and writing about these places and the characters that inhabit them in such painstaking and intense detail, I’ve somewhat neglected to acknowledge and appreciate the historical and cultural heritage right here on my own doorstep of the Potteries. And so, when I first heard that a blue plaque was to be unveiled at Longport train station to commemorate its inclusion in the novels of Stoke-on-Trent’s most famous literary son, Arnold Bennett, I saw it as a timely opportunity to make amends.

I began by contacting the novelist, critic and biographer of Bennett, Dame Margaret Drabble, or, Lady Holroyd as she is also known. Now, Dame Margaret may well be a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a Cambridge Honorary Doctorate of Letters and winner of both the St. Louis Literary Award and Golden PEN Award, but I’ll always remember her as the editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature which helped me to blag my way through a university degree on more than one occasion when the list of required texts proved just a little bit too exhausting to read them all. I asked Dame Margaret for her thoughts on the unveiling: “I’m happy to learn that a Bennett plaque is to be placed at Longport station. Arnold Bennett was both the chronicler and the creator of the Five Towns as we know and remember them, and it is good to know that his name lives on in the topography. His many admirers will be delighted with this tribute. His sense of place and evocation of the atmosphere of the Potteries were superb. He loved train journeys and often wrote about the joys of reading a good book in a comfortable carriage. The railway romance inspired him.”

The Five Towns to which Dame Margaret refers are comprised of Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke and Longton (Stoke-on-Trent is actually made up of six towns but Bennett somewhat controversially left out Fenton) and renamed them Turnhill, Bursley, Hanbridge, Knype and Longshaw respectively, featuring in a number of his novels including Anna of the Five Towns (1902), The Old Wives’ Tale (1908), Clayhanger (1910) and The Card (1911). These, and many of his other novels were enormously popular during the period in which they were published, and yet, for an author who was one of the leading English novelists of his day and almost as big as Dickens at one point, I wanted to learn why, in comparison to his contemporaries, his work remains largely forgotten. Indeed, ask the average person on the street if they are familiar with the writings of Arnold Bennett and I suspect they might, at best, suggest you mean Alan Bennett.

To get a better understanding of Bennett and his neglected literary legacy, I interviewed Dr Catherine Burgass, a lecturer in English and an Honorary Research Fellow with a specialism in local literature and culture of Stoke and Staffordshire. Initially interested in regional writing as a category and in Bennett as the foremost writer from the Potteries, she runs the course ‘Pits, Pots and Poets: English regional writing from 1900 to the present’ at Staffordshire University. Additionally, last year Catherine was asked to choose items from the Arnold Bennett Archive at the university for an exhibition to mark 150 years since his birth. Her selection was designed to reflect Bennett’s diverse interests along with various aspects of his personal and professional life which included letters to his family, his school record book, reviews, poems, obituaries and even his introduction to one of Marie Stopes’ books on contraception!

DAMIAN: Why does Arnold Bennett remain so neglected today?

CATHERINE: One issue which affects Bennett’s reputation and readership is categorisation – he doesn’t fit neatly on a Victorian or Modernist course and consequently is little studied in schools and universities. He kept one foot in the Victorian past and was never part of the literary avant garde. He never subscribed to the starving artist ideal, and always balanced serious literary work with a more commercial output – something else which has not worked in his favour, reputation-wise.

DAMIAN: To what extent was there a certain intellectual snobbery regarding the fact that Bennett was born and bred in an area typically perceived as lower class and known for its economic deprivation in him not receiving more acceptance and recognition from his literary peers?

CATHERINE: The London literati were incredibly snobbish about Bennett himself while Stoke-on-Trent may as well have been Timbuktoo. T.S. Eliot described Bennett as ‘a red-faced, sprucely dressed man with an air of impertinent prosperity and the aspect of a successful wholesale grocer’.

DAMIAN: And were the negative opinions of other people like Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group towards Bennett’s work really that damaging to his reputation or do you think it’s possible that his writing simply fell out of fashion?

CATHERINE: Virginia Woolf’s comments certainly did damage Bennett’s reputation. It is worth remembering though, that Bennett was still studied in schools and universities until the 1950s and later and Margaret Drabble has made the point that when she was at Cambridge Woolf was nowhere to be seen on the syllabus. The advent of postmodernism in the 1970s was probably the final straw but there may yet be a renaissance!

DAMIAN: Is there a sense that Bennett betrayed the Potteries by choosing to live in more glamorous and romantic locations such as London and Paris?

CATHERINE: At the time Bennett was writing, and even now, literary life revolved around the Capital, so Bennett’s removal in itself should not be seen as a rejection of his home town.

DAMIAN: But to what extent do you think Bennett wished to escape his background in Stoke and reinvent himself in London and Paris as a literary gentleman?

CATHERINE: Bennett exited the Potteries as soon as he possibly could, clearly propelled by ambition. He had to earn his living – for a while as editor of Woman magazine – but clearly had designs on the literary life from early on, collecting books, seeking out like-minded companions, and so on.

DAMIAN: Do you think Bennett became disenchanted or perhaps lost the romance and nostalgia with which he imbued some of literary depictions of the Five Towns in later life?

CATHERINE: Once he had left, Bennett’s attitude to the Potteries was always ambivalent – he defended it frequently against the ignorance and prejudice of ‘outsiders’, but was also often critical himself. His last novel set in the Five Towns was These Twain, published in 1916, and after this he rarely visited the Potteries in person or in print. His diary entry referencing the Manchester-London train journey in 1927 – “The sight of this district gave me a shudder” – suggests an almost oedipal connection and revulsion to his place of origin.

DAMIAN: As social commentary or otherwise, what does the writing of Bennett tell us about his attitude to his contemporaries living in Stoke on Trent?

CATHERINE: Bennett consistently described the Potteries and its people as distinct in their behaviour and attitudes from the metropolitan/South, but possessed of the same grand passions and producing drama worthy of equal attention. An often-quoted remark encapsulates his attitude: “To take the common grey things which people know and despise, and, without tampering, to disclose their essential grandeur . . . is art precious and indisputable.” In terms of social class, Bennett was most comfortable with the representation of his own – middle – though he was keenly aware of the ironies and injustices of class relations.

DAMIAN: And is there a contradiction between the writer and his writing regarding his attitudes to Stoke and the ordinary, daily lives he described there?

CATHERINE: Though Bennett wrote of Stoke only after he had left for London, this is a common phenomenon – not only is the provincial writer required to move to further his career, the prerequisite artistic perspective is often achieved via the same means. Arguably, an artist of any calibre possesses the imagination to inhabit lives other than his own so there is no contradiction in Bennett enjoying the high life while depicting the ‘ordinary’.

© The National Portrait Gallery

From Staffordshire University and Stoke-on-Trent train station just opposite, it’s just one short stop away to Longport station which, Carol Ann Gorton, Honorary Secretary of the Arnold Bennett Society, informs me features in Helen With the High Hand, Anna of the Five Towns and Clayhanger.

Longport, view of platform 1 possibly during the 1920s

Now this could get confusing but please bear with me. As with his renaming of the five towns, Bennett also renames Longport and refers to it as Shawport. OK? That’s simple enough so far, right? However, Longport station, which is obviously located in the Longport area, was originally actually called Burslem station when it opened in 1848 as the town of Burslem (about half a mile up the road) didn’t have a station of its own until 1873. So, it was only then that Longport station became known as such.

Longport, view of platform 2 during the 1950s

It’s a lovely little station with red brick, blue diaperwork, Tudor-style mullioned windows and Dutch gables. And, it is just me but, when viewed from the side, doesn’t the building look a little reminiscent of an old steam engine complete with chimney, cab, smoke stack and steam dome? However, since the cutbacks that were introduced by British Rail in the early nineties, the booking office, toilets and waiting rooms have all closed and the station sadly looks somewhat neglected with the windows boarded up.

Longport as it looks today from platform 2

Crossing the bridge over to platform 2, and there it is – the beautiful ceramic blue plaque commemorating the station’s literary references in Bennett’s Five Towns novels. I spoke to local artist and co-director of Middleport Matters, a community business that works to make the area a better and safer place for its residents, Allison Dias, who, along with the financial backing of the Arnold Bennett Society and National Rail installing the plaque, made it all possible: “Arnold Bennett in his inimitable style managed to weave our history and heritage into his novels bestowing a poignant vignette of days gone by. Arnold Bennett’s works remind us how Longport Station was once the hub of a great era of change, prosperity and innovation. The station stands today as a testament to its glorious past, a heritage gem and a precious resource.”

Just behind, and only a few minutes walk away, is the aforementioned Middleport with its Pottery factory; home of the world-famous Burleigh earthenware and where the BBC2 TV series The Great Pottery Throw Down was filmed before it was unfortunately axed only last month. I spoke to a lovely lady who has her own special reasons for remembering Middleport well.

As a young girl, Iris Farnell first lived in Wolstanton (just over a mile away from Longport) and then Poolfields, (also in the Newcastle-under-Lyme area), where she lived with her mum and, a little later, three sisters. Her dad was away in the war and didn’t meet him until she was four. The family never had much money but her mum and dad did everything to ensure their four girls had the very best that they could afford and Iris remembers having a wonderful childhood going on family walks together and playing games on the Marsh across the road from their house. However, what they really enjoyed was putting on concerts in the back garden where they would use the washing line to hang blankets on as the curtains and invite neighbours to watch while mum provided refreshments.

In those days, creating your own entertainment was almost a prerequisite in a home without any books (apart from those given to her from Sunday School) and no television set until Iris was a teenager. However, they did have a wireless and she loved to listen to the Ovaltineys and the top twenty on Radio Luxembourg which often featured her first crush, Tommy Steele. Iris also spent a lot of her childhood at her nan’s house in Stanfield where her Auntie Doris and Uncle Len also lived, and one of the reasons Iris liked to stay there so much was because they did have a television set and could watch Muffin the Mule on Sunday evenings.

As Iris spent so much time at her nan’s with Auntie Doris and Uncle Len, she had a special relationship with them and they would often take her on seaside day trips to places such as Llandudno, Blackpool and Southport, often travelling by train from Longport. Just up the road from the station in Middleport, Auntie Doris’ brother, Uncle Charlie, lived at 42 Spencer Street. Typical of the area at the time, it was a tiny two-bedroom terraced house with a small living room and kitchen. There was no running water, only a tap outside which was shared with neighbours along with a toilet at the bottom of the yard. Gas lamps still had to be used as there was no electricity either.

However, for distinguished filmmaker, Ronald Neame, who had worked on several George Formby films, Powell and Pressburger’s One of Our Aircraft Is Missing and collaborated with David Lean on some his finest early British films including This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, Uncle Charlie’s modest little home proved to be an ideal location for a film he made in 1952 based on Arnold Bennett’s The Card and starring acting legend Alec Guinness.

Although she was only ten at the time, Iris remembers the filming well: “Auntie Doris was very excited that the film company were using her brothers house for the film and it was her idea for us to pay Uncle Charlie a visit. I was in the living room and in walked Alec Guinness! In the film he is a rent collector and they used the house as one of the houses he collected from”.

Iris also watched as they filmed some exterior shots including the scenes outside Uncle Charlie’s house: “He [Guinness] came in a cart pulled by a donkey which was very stubborn and when he jumped in to leave, the donkey wouldn’t move so they had to coax it with a carrot.”

Guinness, of course, appeared in many true cinema classics over the years including The Ladykillers, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and the original Star Wars trilogy, but even prior to 1952, he had already amassed quite an impressive filmography with credits such as the aforementioned Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, in addition to Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Man in the White Suit, so it must have been something of an honour to meet the famous and celebrated actor. Iris recalls, “To be honest it was quite a surreal moment but he was very friendly towards me in a gentlemanly way. Auntie Doris asked him [for his autograph] for me as I was quite shy. I can remember being thrilled. That was why I bought an autograph book and stuck his in it with pride.”

Iris kept Sir Alec Guinness’ autograph for many years until, in 1998, she had it framed and gave it to her grandson who she knew was a great admirer of the actor.

It now hangs proudly on the wall of my office.

So, despite remaining somewhat neglected by the general public, Arnold Bennett and his writing still continues to touch our lives in different, and sometimes, quite personal ways. Furthermore, the Arnold Bennett Society is committed to promoting the study and appreciation of his life and work, putting on various events throughout the year while also supporting local authors. In addition to the blue plaque at Longport, the society has also previously erected one at his former home at 205 Waterloo Road, Cobridge in 2014 and both last year, another plaque at Moorland Pottery in Burslem (known as Chelsea Works in the novels) and a magnificent two metre high bronze sculpture of Bennett outside the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. If you’re ever in the area, it would be lovely if you have a look for these yourself. And, if you’d like to learn more about Bennett, why not join the society by following the link here ?

Finally, I asked broadcasting legend and great admirer of Bennett, Gyles Brandreth, for some closing thoughts: “In my view, Arnold Bennett is one of the great English novelists. I’d argue that The Old Wives’ Tale is the finest novel written by an Englishman in the twentieth century. The humour, the humanity, the heart of the man, combined with a wonderful capacity as a story-teller and a stylist, put him in the forefront of the first rank. I love his Journals, too. He’s been out of fashion for a while, but then so has Thackeray. In a way, that makes discovering him all the more exciting. You can feel you’ve stumbled on a secret treasure. And you have. Bennett is, quite simply, one of the best.”

Gyles is right. In discovering more about the Potteries’ most famous literary son, I’ve also stumbled across my own cultural, and indeed, family history that I shall endeavour to treasure forever. Soon though, I’ll be boarding the train again with my head stuck in various books and scripts once more, eyes down for a full house because there’s a certain detective I’d really like to tell you about…

~

Very special thanks to:

Gyles Brandreth Writer, broadcaster, former MP and Lord Commissioner of the Treasury

Dr Catherine Burgass Lecturer in English, Honorary Research Fellow at Staffordshire University and committee member of the Arnold Bennett Society

Bill Cawley Historian and Leek West Councillor

Allison Dias Artist, board director of Middleport Matters

Dame Margaret Drabble Novelist, biographer and critic

Mervyn Edwards Author, historian and Sentinel columnist

Carol Ann Gorton Trustee and Hon Secretary of the Arnold Bennett Society

Dr Leslie Powner Author, Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University and Chairman of the Arnold Bennett Society

John Shapcott Literary scholar, Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University, committee member of the Arnold Bennett Society, author and/or editor of several books on Bennett

Jason Sherratt “Maker”

& Iris Barcroft

~

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Series 5 Set Report: Part II

PREVIOUSLY…

We meet at the train station where the tannoy system blasts out its arrivals and departures but, as I notice his car parked and waiting for me outside the booking office, all I hear is Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2…

DAMIAN: Morning Lewis, much in? Oh, before I forget, Dolly Messiter sends her regards. Now then, tell me a little bit about Endeavour HQ and how long you’ve been based there.

RUSS: We’ve been at a place called Wilton Park – a former Tri-Services Language School in Beaconsfield – since Series 3 — so… three years, more or less.  Our standing sets – Cowley nick; Strange and Endeavour’s flat; the Thursday house; mortuary, &c. — are housed in a couple of buildings.  The gymnasium – having the most floor space – taking the lion’s share. However, our current home is now being redeveloped so – should we return – we’ll be looking for a new base to house those sets…

If you the missed the first part of this set report you can catch up with it here: Set Report Part I

~

195: PART II

An Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Set Report

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~~~

Walking into the main building, we soon find ourselves standing in what was a large gymnasium and there are various clues providing evidence of its previous purpose including a retractable basketball goal suspended from above, a climbing wall to the left, some wooden gym benches scattered about and a sad, solitary pommel horse looking rather lost and out of place among all the camera and lighting equipment that has been set up for today’s shooting of the final episode of series 5 on this penultimate day of filming.

In the centre stands what looks similar to, at least in its approximate dimensions, a mobile home but one made of wood and propped up by various coulisses or flats. The entrance is fitted with two wooden doors with aquatex or minister-type glass windows but as we open them to walk inside, this almost surreal scene soon becomes much more familiar upon seeing the corridor complete with noticeboard warning, quite poignantly and with a sense of foreboding considering a certain future remorseful day, excessive drinking can cause serious illness.

Taking a few steps further along the corridor and then turning right, there’s a locker marked “evidence” and a crime board behind with various mugshots. I am, of course, now standing in CID, Cowley Police Station, the home and heart of Endeavour with its writer and executive producer, Russell Lewis.

Strange’s desk

You might want to pay particular attention to the names listed here.

DAMIAN: That’s Strange’s desk in front of us, Endeavour’s to the left of his and Thursday’s office behind that. Although I now realise that Bright’s office is in a completely separate building in real life, where do you imagine it to be in your head and in relation to where we are now?

RUSS:  Around the corner.

DAMIAN: When you’re writing a scene at home, and let’s use Thursday’s office as an example, do you see a computer screen splashed with courier font or do you actually see Roger Allam, his fedora hanging on the hatstand next to him and all the little details such as the pipe stand, lighter and ashtray?

RUSS: That’s the devil of a question. Because it’s really ‘how do you write a scene?’  It’s difficult to describe something instinctive. And also tricky to describe a process one doesn’t analyse in the moment without sounding absolutely crackers. You’re in the Twilight Zone. A sort of disassociated mental state. The physical act of moving fingers over keys is more or less unconscious. I can hear Rog being Thursday, or Shaun being Endeavour in my mind’s ear. There’s probably two or three points of visual focus — the screen; a space about a foot in front of one’s head – midway between the eyes and the screen; and maybe off to the side. One of the things said about lying is that people look to the right when constructing a falsehood, or look to the left when recalling an actual event. Writing a scene – you’re creating something fundamentally untrue, but you have to believe in it to make it credible.  So… I said it was hard to describe — you’re working in an arena of feeling, rather than something you see in your mind’s eye. You feel the scene – from each character’s point of view. Slipping between one and the other or however many of them there are in the room. You’re all of them at the same time — and still in control of directing what they say and do.  So – as I’m writing a Thursday line, I’m already aware of what Endeavour will say in reply – and back to Thursday, and so forth. But the process is a kind of conscious and focussed dreaming. A performance – of sorts. Private – mercifully – and it would be very boring to watch. But a performance all the same. You just attack it line by line. Get it down. Some scenes write themselves — others…  it’s pulling teeth.

I’ll let the characters run on. Find out what they’ve got to say. You might write a speech of half a dozen lines until you find the thing that character’s really trying to say. Often it’s the thing you’ve been fighting against letting them say. Because – in the end, they’re all extensions of one’s personality – aspects of it at least. And that’s what you’re resisting. Exposing yourself – emotionally. All those places one would sooner not go. You have to dredge them up and put them on the page.

As I’ve said before, most of the time it’s the other guy that slips behind the wheel. The dark passenger. He’s the real brains of the outfit. I just do the typing. None of which is helpful, I’m sure.  So – apologies if this isn’t a particularly illuminating answer to your question, but it’s not something I think about overmuch.

The closest comparison I can make is to a jazz solo. It’s an extended improvisation that happens in the moment. There’s technique and experience behind it — but one has to transcend all that, forget it almost, not reach for the riffs that live in muscle memory and fall easily under the fingers — you have to reach for something new, and make it truthful. Speak from the heart, not the head.

You probably won’t find this stuff in McKee.

DAMIAN: It sounds like I’m taking the Michael but I’m genuinely not, do you ever explore or experiment with a line, perhaps particularly some of Thursday’s magical idioms, by saying them aloud to yourself before writing them?

RUSS: Rarely. You develop an ear, I suppose. It helps perhaps that I came to it from the other side of the camera. You know by experience and instinct whether a line will play or not. It’s in your bones. But you don’t need to say it aloud — you can hear the intonation and phrasing – the beats and stresses – the music of the line – in your head. It’s something I remember doing as a kid – I think all kids do it. Play acting. Who wants to play Lost In Space? Or Land of the Giants. I’ll say this — and then you say that. I certainly remember that being part of the playground. Those breaktime visits to Bucks Fizz’s ‘Land of Make Believe.’

Elementary writing and direction, perhaps. You see them do it with toys – playing with dolls and GI Joe or Action Man or whatever — they have them ‘talk’ to each other. That’s either something from life, or something they’ve seen on the box. The toys recreate a scene. This one says this — that one says that.  And the thing being mimicked is expanded upon with a new line or a bit of business. Doubtless that’s an evolutionary mechanism that serves a developmental process – learning and experimenting with language – playing with thoughts and emotions. Now the dolls are fighting, now they’re being friends.

Spielberg was right. If you ever got down to floor level with your toy soldiers, closed one eyed, and look at a battlefield from the perspective of one of those toy soldiers — that is instinctive directing, and probably cinematography too. That impulse. Or perhaps children are just certifiable. The walls between fantasy and reality – magic thinking – seem very thin at that age. Maybe those that work in a creative line hang on to some part of that. At least they keep a key that opens the door to that world.

DAMIAN: I’m presuming that directors don’t just turn up improvising where to put the camera but rather that there is a certain amount of shots that are planned in advance. Therefore, I wonder if directors get to see the set beforehand because the design and setup would exclude certain shots such as a continuous “walk and talk” from here to Bright’s office for example?

RUSS: Oh – absolutely. Directors typically come on with five weeks Prep, across which time — if they’re not already familiar with the show — they’ll acquaint themselves with the topography of the standing sets. I would think 75% of what we do is not at base, though. Which is where the various Recces and Tech Recces are invaluable. You should talk to our directors – get the skinny first hand.

DAMIAN: CID in particular, with all its wonderful props, must be one of the most frequented rooms inside your memory palace. I wonder if, in some peculiar way, it almost feels like home?

RUSS: It’s a fun place to visit – but I wouldn’t want to live here. I guess, a bit — maybe. It’s a performance space. Cast and crew have done wonderful work here. So it’s special for those reasons.

DAMIAN: What it’s like hearing your script back for the first time at a readthrough, do the actors really get into character and is it you who reads the scene headings and action?

RUSS: I love seeing everyone on the day — lots of hellos and how d’you dos — and it’s a privilege to hear them give life to the words. Sometimes if they’re in a puckish mood they’ll have a bit of fun with a line here or there. It’s lovely to hear this or that thing get a laugh in the room – cause you know – you’re playing your stuff to a pro crowd that knows a thing or two. But – there’s always a but – for reasons I’ll spare you, it’s always a very tough day. There’s a lot riding on it. A lot of money has been committed to making it – and a similar investment of time and hard work is resting on whether you’ve done your job properly. You’re usually only a couple of days from shooting – so it’s crunch time.

Either our sainted Casting Director Susie Parriss reads in the action, or the 1st AD for that particular film. You won’t always have a full cast. So some actors will ‘read in’ for other characters — which can be fun.

The seating plan is a bit like that for a Wedding. You’ve got a rectangle of desks around which sit the cast, execs, director, drama heads from the network, &c., and then chairs running around the walls – where the HoDs and their teams are – press department, runners, Production. About fifty to seventy people maybe.

Back in the gym, various members of the crew are now gathered together around a playback monitor to watch the CID scenes about to be shot and also to bask in the glow of a portable heater which has been brought in to combat the November chill. It’s a scene reminiscent of children sitting around a campfire listening to ghost stories and there’s sweets too – courtesy of hair and make-up designer, Irene Napier.

DAMIAN: Irene, is it true that you are one of the very few members of the crew to have worked on every single episode of Endeavour?

IRENE: Yes. Apart from the powers that be.

DAMIAN: That’s quite an achievement and rather something of an honour isn’t it?

IRENE: Yes. Quite often when a new producer takes over they take on a new crew, so I must be doing something right!

DAMIAN: You’ve actually been a fan of Morse since the original show began in 1987?

IRENE: Yes.

DAMIAN: Any favourite episodes that spring to mind?

IRENE: Goodness, I’m not sure. They’re all good.

DAMIAN: And what about Endeavour, do you have any particular favourites?

IRENE: ROCKET, SWAY, RIDE, CANTICLE, and CARTOUCHE.

DAMIAN: You’ve worked on many projects throughout the years including Monarch of the Glen, Rebus, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Bad Girls, Jekyll, Wire in the Blood, Garrow’s Law, Holby City, Shetland and One of Us to name but a few. A lot of your CV is made up detective and crime dramas so I’m wondering if you have a particular fondness for the genre?

IRENE: Not really it was just the way the work came in.

DAMIAN: Also, more than a few of these just happen to be set in Scotland! Hardly a coincidence I shouldn’t think?

IRENE: I actually live in Edinburgh!

DAMIAN: Yes, I know. And then you went to India!

IRENE: [Indian Summers] Was actually shot on Penang in Malaysia. We were there for six months. It was an amazing experience, but very hard work.

DAMIAN: Is travelling a significant factor in your decision to take on a project because they can involve working quite long hours can’t they?

IRENE: Sometime it’s a factor. It depends where you go. You don’t always get to see much of the country because of the hours.

DAMIAN: I also notice you worked on the ill-fated sequel to The Wicker Man but it did feature Clive Russell who I’ve interviewed for Ripper Street and Christopher Lee in a cameo role. What were these two great gentlemen like on set?

IRENE: Yes, that was quite a shoot! I didn’t, sadly, get to meet Christopher Lee as they shot that in London much later. But I’ve known, and have worked with, Clive many times over the years. Lovely man.

DAMIAN: And one more project you’ve worked on that I must ask you about before we move onto Endeavour is Rillington Place which I thought was very good indeed. What was the atmosphere like on that particular dark and dank project?

IRENE: It was as dark as the shoot.

DAMIAN: So, Endeavour, tell me how you got the job in the first place?

IRENE: I’d worked with director Colm McCarthy before and he suggested me to producer Dan McCulloch and we met and he gave me the job.

DAMIAN: What do you think it is that makes Endeavour so successful and well loved?

IRENE: I think the writing is wonderful and the cast are amazing.

DAMIAN: I’m always struck by the friendless of the cast and crew whenever I visit the set but there’s also an almost family bond between them as well isn’t there?

IRENE: Yes. That comes from the top and Shaun and Roger go out of their way to make sure everyone is welcomed and looked after.

DAMIAN: To what extent do you collaborate with Russ, the directors and producers, as well as people like the costume designers to get the right look for all the characters?

IRENE: We all work very closely together. Sometimes what’s written isn’t always possible, due to casting so we all collaborate to get it as close to what’s wanted.

DAMIAN: I imagine you’ve had quite a few stunt doubles over the years, are these a particular challenge from your point of view?

IRENE: Yes but they’re usually shot sympathetically to help us out.

DAMIAN: Abigail must be fun to work with, how would you describe Dorothea’s look?

IRENE: She’s a joy. I’d say it’s a casual look as befitting a working woman of the time.

DAMIAN: Can you describe the average day on set including what time you have to be here in the morning?

IRENE: We usually arrive at 6.45am in time to set up for the artists calls at 7.00. Then we sometimes all go on set, depending on how many artists there are, or someone will stay back to get the next wave ready. The day continues like that.

DAMIAN: How does it work then, do you do the make up for the main cast one by one in their individual trailers?

IRENE: We have a large make-up truck, set up with all our kit so that everything is on hand.

DAMIAN: Some of the cast must be a little grumpy first thing in the morning. Who’s often the grumpiest?

IRENE: They’re all a joy.

DAMIAN: Presumably you have to stay on set throughout the day?

IRENE: I go back and forwards to the truck, depending on what we’re shooting.

DAMIAN: I notice your bag full of sweets that you keep sharing with everyone. Given the fact that you’ve worked on Endeavour since the very beginning, do you have a certain motherly quality about you especially towards the younger and less experienced members of the crew?

IRENE: It’s always nice to have a little treat. Probably have a bit of motherly care.

DAMIAN: Irene, thank you very much indeed.

IRENE: You’re welcome.

The actors are now emerging from the green room and I hear that cough again followed by a clearing of the throat. Roger Allam doesn’t simply walk onto a set, he charges like a man on a mission. I’ve seen him before but once again, I’m reminded of a director whose work I’ve admired enormously over the years, the great Elia Kazan, a proponent of Method Acting alongside Lee Strasberg and director of such classics as A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, On the Waterfront and East of Eden. In his acclaimed autobiography, Kazan writes “‘Why are you mad?’ My wife asks me that, seems like every morning. Usually at breakfast, when my face is still wrinkled from sleep. ‘I’m not mad,’ I say. ‘It’s just my face’.

And so it is with the imposing Roger Allam whose face cannot help but emote absolute intensity and a certain level of ferocity – and that’s before the cameras start to roll – it’s just his face. This is a man you can really believe would have your cobblers for a key fob if you did anything to upset him. Of course, and in complete contrast, everyone tells me – cast and crew alike, that he’s an utter joy to work with and has a wicked sense of humour. Maybe he’ll crack a joke or two later but I won’t be banking on it any time soon.

Shaun Evans also walks by with the usual spring in his step. It’s almost jaunty. As though each step or two forward is a prelude to a little dance number. He immediately starts laughing and joking with the crew. This is the third time that I’ve witnessed him filming and he’s always like this. I like to imagine him as something of a Flâneur as he saunters and strolls around saying hello to everyone. Shaun shows a genuine interest in everyone he meets and has a keen ear for accents and dialect. On the occasion of our first meeting, for example, he instantly knew I was from Stoke. Indeed, chip-eaters all of us, Liverpudlian and Stokie accents are not all that dissimilar in some respects.

And good God man, it’s Anton Lesser! I don’t know if, in addition to Endeavour, you’ve seen many of his other great screen performances such as the Archbishop of Canterbury in The Palace, the Duke of Exeter in The Hollow Crown, Prime Minister Attlee in A United Kingdom, Sir Thomas More in Wolf Hall and, of course, another Prime Minister, this time Harold Macmillan in The Crown and Qyburn in Game of Thrones – two of the biggest shows on the planet right now – but he really is every bit as mercurial and enigmatic in person as he is on screen.

As the three of them discuss their next scene in CID with the director, Russ and I chat to Dakota Blue Richards who’s also just arrived on set. She’s wearing a beautiful long camel coat which the costume designer, Mary-Jane Reyner picked up at a vintage shop in Brighton. Also, having decided to go back to her own natural hair colour before shooting began, Dakota’s also wearing a wig. Indeed, the wig and the cut of the long coat combined, she gives off a cool blonde femme fatale vibe as though she’d stepped out of a Film Noir movie from the 1940s or 50s. We talk about a project that I’d better not mention here just yet but you can read my (previously posted) interview with her here.

We join some of the cast and crew round the monitor to watch as the CID scenes are recorded. Producer Neil Duncan (see previously posted interview) tells me, presumably in reference to the way I’m dressed, that I’d make a good CID officer. He doesn’t offer me a part though. Shame, because I’m sure I’ve heard the name DI Barcroft somewhere before. Talk then turns to what’s on today’s menu (I think I told you about the Shepherd’s Pie, Vegetable Burrito and chips!) and Lewis Peek (see previously posted interview) asks Russ what the difference is between Cottage and Shepherd’s Pie. I resist the temptation to add that an easy way to remember Shepherd’s Pie is to recall a line from Dr Lecter: ‘You will let me know when those lambs stop screaming, won’t you?’

After lunch we visit the art and props department which strikes me as something of a cross between Q’s workshop and the North Pole. This is the magical place where the elves make pretty much everything we see on screen that can’t be sourced from an antiques fair or car boot sale. So every time you see a tax disc in the car window, various police photofits or framed photos on someone’s desk, a packet of cigarettes or a bottle of booze, various letters and newspapers (the articles still need to be written even if you can’t make out way they’re about on screen) and even carrier bags, all these props need to be made by someone and this is where you’ll probably find them.

When he’s not driving around in a bus with the heads of department and key crew during what they call a “tech recce”, scouting every single location or joining his team for shopping trips to buy furniture and furnishings, you’ll also sometimes find production designer Paul Cripps here too. (see previously posted interview) Various artists have contributed to the design of the show over the years so while sets including CID, Max’s mortuary and the Thursday house will pretty much remain the same each series, every new set that we haven’t seen before including the Crossroads Motel (I used to love Benny Hawkins), interiors of the Roxy Cinema, Endeavour and Strange’s shared maisonette, these and so many more all need to be designed, actually built from scratch and then furnished.

Although I’m not allowed to try any of them on, we pass through the costume department on our way to somewhere very special indeed. If the art and props department is where all those wonderful artefacts are designed and made, this is their graveyard where they are laid to rest and kept just in case they ever need resurrecting again in the future. It’s either an Aladdin’s cave of interesting and curious delights if you’ve poured over every single detail of the show as I’ve done for the past few years, or a sixties jumble sale if you’re not quite so obsessive.

Once again however, time is of the essence as all these treasures are being packed away into boxes and the scene will soon resemble the closing shot from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indeed, misquoting Indiana Jones ever so slightly, I say to Russ, as I also did to Paul Cripps, that all this stuff belongs in a museum. He then shows me something that truly does belong in a museum or gallery at least…

Some of you may recall a piece I wrote last March as a tribute to Colin Dexter in which I mentioned that I missed out on meeting him by a mere 24 hours. Well, Russ rifles through a stack of large framed pictures and shows me the portrait of Colin that was on the wall of Dorothea Frazil’s office at the Oxford Mail. I suppose this is as close as I’ll get to the great man. In contrast to the rest of the day’s excitement, this is a reflective and beautiful moment albeit one touched with much poignancy.

DAMIAN: That evening with Colin at the Randolph Hotel where the two of you met to discuss doing a one-off special prequel to celebrate the silver anniversary of Inspector Morse must seem like a very long time ago now?

RUSS: Perhaps – I don’t know. The older one gets, things that happened a decade ago feel like they happened yesterday. So…

DAMIAN: Having Colin’s feedback and input for at least the first couple of series, do you ever stop to wonder what he’d have to say regarding the scripts as you write them now?

RUSS: That way madness lies. We don’t have him beside us any more. I just try to stay true to what we originally set out to do — which was to fill in the blanks.

DAMIAN: When was the last time you saw or spoke to Colin?

RUSS: At Blenheim – appropriately enough. It was where my association with his creation began, as the palace features very heavily in The Way Through the Woods. Me, Shaun and Dan McCulloch did a Q&A with Colin as part of a literary festival held there. And afterwards we spent a very happy hour or so in the cafeteria with him – talking poetry mostly. Passers-by stopped at the table to wish him well. He was in his element. Not in the best of health – but twinkling brightly, as always. And then it was time for him to go. So — the last image I have of Colin is of him taking Shaun’s arm for support as he made his way to a waiting car. It sounds like a movie cliche, but that’s how it was. The creator and the youngest incarnation of his creation, arm in arm for one last time. To the end. Dolly back, and… Fade out.

We’re now outside the main building having a smoke again and there’s another fellow also here wearing a fetching maroon tank top. I walk over to him, shake his hand and say, ‘Hello, matey’. Really rather embarrassing, I know, and yet I find I can’t help myself. He looks at me as though I’ve been let out for the day with Russ acting as my primary caregiver but after a gentle reminder that I’m the chap who did an interview with him a few years ago, he seems to breath (an ever so slight) sigh of relief. The character of Strange has evolved quite a bit since my first interview with Sean Rigby back in April 2014 so we discuss some of the most significant changes.

DAMIAN: In terms of how Strange has developed, the first thing that springs to mind are the events towards the end of NEVERLAND (S2: E4). While I appreciate that he was someone, at that stage of his development at least, who was more of a conformist and rule bound, isn’t it still unforgivable that he hesitated for so long and initially chose to follow ACC Clive Deare’s orders rather than help his friends Endeavour and Thursday at Blenheim Vale?

SEAN: I think unforgivable may be a tad extreme. Strange made the right decision in the end and, hopefully, that is what counts most.

DAMIAN: I think that part of the reason that Strange is such a fascinating character is that he’s often got this deadpan and almost innocently oblivious quality on the one hand (indeed, you described him as having something of the Auguste clown about him in our original interview) and yet, we’ve also seen a more cunning, calculating and complicated side to him with regards to climbing up the ladder in recent years haven’t we?

SEAN: Yes and I think that is all part of Strange becoming a more rounded character as the story progresses. It’s something we’ve seen with all the supporting characters, the duality of their personalities. Bright being impulsive and heroic. DeBryn’s heart and sombreness. Those are the two examples that spring to mind most readily.

DAMIAN: As someone who has been wanting to learn more about the background and personal lives of characters such as Bright, Max and, indeed Strange, I was delighted to see that Russ has finally written some scenes for you that shed some light on this at last. Is this something you’ve also pushed for?

SEAN: I’m not really the pushing sort. “You know what this needs? More of me!” It has been fun exploring how Strange inhabits different spaces, certainly. We all want to know what people get up to behind closed doors and what’s in their shopping trolley.

DAMIAN: Indeed, I was greatly amused and delighted to learn that in the first film of this year’s run that Endeavour has moved in with Strange and although they’re not quite sharing a bed together, isn’t their unlikely partnership beginning to resemble Laurel and Hardy or Morcambe and Wise?

SEAN: We had a great deal of fun filming those scenes. I don’t think their cohabitation will ever reach the harmonious heights of Morcambe and Wise making breakfast together though.

I’m not sure who would be who. I do have short, fat, hairy legs so make of that what you will.

DAMIAN: What’s with the trombone all of a sudden?

SEAN: Ah, the trombone!

DAMIAN: Do you play?

SEAN: Not in the slightest. I used to play the cornet as a kid but I am reliably informed by my parents that I was utterly pants. I had a good whack at the trombone regardless. I produced a sound akin to an asthmatic goose being sat on.

DAMIAN: I absolutely loved the scene in ARCADIA (S3:E2) when Strange, once again, completely genuine but oblivious gives Endeavour the James Last album. Since you’re a young lad, do you even know who James Last is and appreciate how funny it is to give it to someone like Endeavour?

SEAN: I made myself aware after reading the script and I can’t say it lingered on my iPod long afterwards. No offence intended to any James Last fans out there. Shaun is hilarious in that scene, like a young boy unwrapping an itchy jumper from his Gran on Christmas morning.

DAMIAN: And isn’t it fantastic moments like these that economically sum up almost everything we need to know about Strange and his polar opposite relationship with Endeavour?

SEAN: Absolutely. They find each other, for different reasons, quite hard to figure out at times.

DAMIAN: Naturally Endeavour turns his nose up at the gift and in the same episode, when the two are at the pub, he also complains about the pint Strange has got him for being too cloudy and also mocks him for drinking Double Diamond lager. Endeavour is really very unkind towards Strange isn’t he?

SEAN: Yeah, the ungrateful git. It is true to life though, isn’t it? When we feel at odds with the world, or hard done by, we take out our frustrations on those closest to us. Morse’s options are fairly limited in that regard.

DAMIAN: How do you think the relationship between the two has developed since Strange was first introduced in GIRL (S1:E1)?

SEAN: It’s certainly had its ups and downs. There’s more of a shorthand between the two. Not too much, mind.

DAMIAN: And we must mention Strange’s legendary tank tops which he seems to wear regardless to weather conditions as though his mother still dresses him. Is it fair to say he’s a bit drab and frumpish before his time?

SEAN: I think that would be entirely fair to say. The swinging 60’s really passed Strange by where fashion is concerned. Probably where everything else is concerned too!

DAMIAN: Is the maroon tank top his particular favourite?

SEAN: As it’s probably the least flattering of the lot I’m going to say yes.

DAMIAN: In a fantastically tense scene between two men with such loyalty and respect for each other, Endeavour doesn’t approve of Strange punching the informant Bernie Waters in CODA (S3:E4). Do you think that Strange is much closer to, and influenced by the methods of Thursday than Endeavour could ever be?

SEAN: I think by dint of his intellect and abilities, Endeavour stands alone. That’s not to say that there isn’t a great deal Morse can’t learn from Thursday, but he certainly has a few more avenues available to him when it comes to an investigation. Strange is going to take all the help he can get.

DAMIAN: Finally, and I’m not sure who told me this although it was probably Russ, is it true that you regard performing in scenes with Roger Allam and Anton Lesser as masterclasses in acting?

SEAN: I think that was in reference to one particular scene, series 3 if memory serves, where they’re both having a bit of a hoo-ha in Thursday’s office. I had to come in towards the end of the scene and deliver a bit of news of some sort. From rehearsals to the last take I had my nose pressed against the glass in total awe of the pair of them. Not just the acting but the way they communicated with each other, from one actor to another. They both had the goal of making the scene the best it could be, playing together in the purest sense. Ask any actor worth a sniff and they’ll tell you that there is nothing more thrilling than that.

Obviously, apart from that one particular scene, they’re both normally crap.

DAMIAN: Sean, thank you matey!

SEAN: A pleasure!

It’s late now. It’s getting dark and Russ reminds me that I have a train to catch so I’d better shake a leg. There’s been a last-minute alteration to the shooting schedule and so the order in which some of the scenes are shot have changed which means everything will run slightly later than planned and I won’t get to speak to some of the other cast now. However, there might just be time for one more hello and it’s funny because you’d think that with all the questions I’ve asked various members of the Endeavour cast and crew over the years, that I would be more than capable of answering a very simple question myself. Not so.

Russ has arranged for me to have a photo with a hero of mine; a gentleman who asks in that rich and aristocratic voice of his, ‘With or without glasses? – Do you want me as Bright or as Anton?’ I’m flummoxed! Perplexed! Discombobulated! They say never meet your heroes and they’re probably right. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, rather the chances are, if you’re anything like me at least, that you’ll make a complete arse of yourself. After the longest pause in Anton’s lengthy career, I finally make my decision. Without the glasses because, of course, Lesser is always more.

I bid farewell to this wonderful and magical place. Indeed, throughout the day, people have asked if I’m enjoying myself and I’ve given the same response each and every time: it’s like Disneyland to me. Walking back to the car, I consider that must make my host Uncle Russ – grand master and architect of all this beautiful madness.

DAMIAN: Executive producer and managing director of Mammoth Screen, Damien Timmer, isn’t with us this time (perhaps another bout of plot vertigo) but to what extent do the two of you keep in touch throughout the shoot when he has so many other hit shows to oversee including Victoria and Poldark?

RUSS: He is a man of seemingly inexhaustible energy — so, yes — he is across every second of Endeavour. Every story choice. Every creative decision. His level of care for all his creative offspring never ceases to amaze.

DAMIAN: I’m sure it will prove fruitless to ask you about 1969 and the possibility of a sixth series. So instead, can you take me through the process of what usually happens with Mammoth Screen and ITV immediately after a series ends and their decision to commission another?

RUSS: In the beginning, at least after the pilot, which got a green light for going to series the day after transmission, it was a case of see what the figures were. The same as any other show, pretty much. As ever – our future is in the hands of the network, and it’s for them to make any announcement on 1969.

DAMIAN: Have you made plans beyond Endeavour and thought about what you’d like to write when the show does end?

RUSS: KBO as Churchill used to say. Turn the ‘FOR HIRE’ light back on the taxi. There are a number of things in development. Who knows? I’ve been enormously fortunate and had a decent run — far more than a bear of very little brain could have hoped to dream.

But I’m certainly eyeing the light. There’s only so much play left in the day. Whether one’s innings ends in a declaration or the umpire calling stumps remains to be seen. Either way, the pavilion awaits. Quite right too. Get out of the way of the up and comers. Can’t wait to see what they’re going to do.

DAMIAN: What can audiences expect from this final film of series 5?

RUSS: We’re going back to school. Having looked at a Girls’ school in NOCTURNE — this time we’re having a look at a Boys’ public school.  Endeavour gets to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while. A window onto another possible life that’s been half in his mind for a while.

There’s a sense of change in the air — and with half a century since the end of the Great War, we’re bringing some of the underlying themes of 1968 to a close.  Fifty years further on, I think it struck all of us just how much we’re still asking the same questions about ourselves. Questions of national identity, and our place in the wider world. Post-imperial – post-colonial – post-industrial – post early for Christmas. Much in which to take pride. Much of which to be ashamed. But one post survives. The post war dream.

When the chips are down, and backs are to the wall, I think you’ll always see us at our best, and catch some glimpse of Thursday’s Generation – a generation that gave so much, and asked for so little. I believe that still lives on in the inhabitants of these islands. Though it’s sometimes hard to see, there is – and will ever be – more that unites us than divides us. Like the denizens of Cowley nick, we stand or fall together.

DAMIAN: Since Endeavour HQ has been based here for the last few years, to what extent are you nostalgic or sentimental considering they’ve already started packing things away and Team Endeavour will never be based here again?

RUSS: It’s just a ramshackle, rather eccentric, collection of buildings. The people make it what it is. It’s been a tremendously useful space – in terms of production – and has saved our bacon more times than I can remember. Pick-ups; sleight of hand; poor-man’s process; reshoots. There’s very little of it we haven’t disguised, repurposed, or otherwise pressed into service.

But – working in this industry – as I think anyone would tell you – farewells are hard-wired into the process. There is always something of the rag-tag-and-bobtail army of vagabonds and strolling players to it. You come together for short periods of time and operate at a madly high level of intensity and concentration. And then it’s over. You fold up the tents and move on. But it’s like that every day – wherever we are. We use every second of available time — right down to the wire. As cut off time looms into view – there’s a lot of looking at watches to make sure we don’t go over and incur huge costs. So when we do wrap – it’s straight into striking sets, and organising the breakdown and loadout of kit.

Across the last days of a series — as each of our principal characters finishes their filming, there’ll be an announcement of “that’s a series wrap for Caroline, or Sara, or Abigail or Anton” – and the tradition is that cast and crew will give them a round. Of applause, obviously. Not the full metal jacket variety. Just to show appreciation for their hard work.

I don’t come out a lot — though I think on this run, I’ve probably been out more than on any other; usually as chaperone to interested parties. But I always try to find a moment – usually at lunch or before we’ve turned over – to stand alone on the set and just absorb some of the atmosphere. That ‘early morning madness’ of the ‘magic in the making’. ‘Whispered conversations in overcrowded hallways’ I’m all too familiar with.

At the end of a run, when the 1st AD announces – ‘That’s a Series Wrap’ – you hug your comrades hard – and maybe you’ll see them again, maybe you won’t, but you carry them in your heart and mind always. It’s interesting – circus and fairground folk never say ‘Goodbye’ — it’s always ‘See you down the road.’

A ramshackle, rather eccentric, collection of buildings or not, I still find it sad to think that this place will soon be demolished and turned into an housing estate. Time and tide wait for no man but I’d like to think that a plaque will be installed here one day and perhaps this love letter to the show will suffice until then. Despite the melancholy however, I don’t get over emotional, it’s just that I have something in my eye – bit of coal dust I expect. And, as Russ drops me back at the train station, I hear Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 once more.

See you down the road…

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Series 5 Set Report

We meet at the train station where the tannoy system blasts out its arrivals and departures but, as I notice his car parked and waiting for me outside the booking office, all I hear is Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2…

DAMIAN: Morning Lewis, much in? Oh, before I forget, Dolly Messiter sends her regards. Now then, tell me a little bit about Endeavour HQ and how long you’ve been based there.

RUSS: We’ve been at a place called Wilton Park – a former Tri-Services Language School in Beaconsfield – since Series 3 — so… three years, more or less.  Series 1…  the name of place escapes me, because I’m getting old – but series 2 we were in a derelict paper mill at Taplow in Bucks that had a substantial Victorian house attached, that was lived in by the owners when the place was in operation — and was built for a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

At Wilton Park our standing sets – Cowley nick; Strange and Endeavour’s flat; the Thursday house; mortuary, &c. — are housed in a couple of buildings.  The gymnasium – having the most floor space – taking the lion’s share.

However, our current home is now being redeveloped so – should we return – we’ll be looking for a new base to house those sets.

Up until 1968, oddly enough, an impressively grand house used to stand on the site before it was sadly knocked down and replaced by a rather unattractive fifteen-storey accommodation block which was then the tallest building in Buckinghamshire and not entirely dissimilar to the one we found Joan hiding in last year.

Although it’s quite a short drive from the station, it’s long enough for me to find great amusement in the fact that I’m about to arrive armed with my usual laundry list load of questions when it was here that the War Office also used the place as an interrogation centre for Nazi prisoners of war. Indeed, some of its notable “guests”  have included Deputy Führer to Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, no less. Russ may well sympathise after all my frequent interrogations of him over the years – I mean the interview techniques and not the Nazis obviously! No, like a certain famous archaeologist, he hates those guys.

The car stops next to the security guard at the gate who looks exactly how you probably imagine them to appear, or at least that’s how they always seem to look in movies. Surprisingly, and perhaps also a little disappointingly, there’s no secret password like “swordfish”, or “vesper”, and instead, Russ merely says… well, I’d better not say but it really wouldn’t be too difficult to guess. And so, as simple as that, the chap raises the barrier and we drive through.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Wilton Park – or as I like to call it, Endeavourland…

~

195: PART I

An Exclusive ENDEAVOUR Set Report

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~~~

It all looks ordinary enough to begin with although it does remind me of the sort of place you’d expect to find Jon Pertwee during his largely earthbound adventures back in the early seventies when he’d reverse the polarity of the neutron flow every other week or so. Indeed, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart can’t be far away. However, as we walk closer to what I’ll refer to as the main building which houses Cowley CID, those vans and lorries start to appear everywhere rammed full of wires, lighting and a multitude of machines with lots of twiddly bits.

Filming is already well underway by the time we arrive and so writer and executive producer, Russell Lewis, makes me a coffee and we grab a quick smoke while waiting outside. Quick being the operative word because no sooner have we managed a mere few drags, than two bells dramatically sound and the red light above us is switched off heradling ‘CUT’ (all access points onto the studio floor are lit and alarmed. Just one bell rings and a red light goes on for ‘ROLLING’).

Walking over and into another building opposite the main one, we are greeted with a rapturous round of applause which is really rather lovely. Maybe it isn’t just Kirstie who reads these interviews and articles after all. But, alas, it doesn’t take me long to realise the clapping isn’t for me or even Russ for that matter. No, James Bradshaw has filmed his last scene of the series as Dr. Max DeBryn and so we quickly go over to him before he leaves.

Now, back in April of 2014, I did an interview with Jimmy in which he told me that he celebrated getting the part of the much-loved pathologist by going straight to Marks and Spencer to treat himself to a nice pudding. Well, of course, it’s only natural that I’ve been wondering what the pudding actually was during these intervening years, and so, in an utterly delightful moment that I’ll cherish forever, no sooner do we say hello and shake hands than he instantly remembers and tells me what it was. And so, I can finally reveal that the pudding was in fact a rather large Raspberry Royale!

Taking our leave of Jimmy, who I like to imagine is about to retire for the day with a gin and campari at the Gardeners, we explore his mortuary where the attention to detail is utterly astonishing with various medical equipment everywhere including microscopes, test tubes, jars and bottles containing all sort of wonders, various labels on cabinets and draws such as “Laryngoscope anterior commissure” (no, me neither), books like The Concise Home Doctor, Minutes From the General Medical Council and Grant’s Method Of Anatomy – By Regions Descriptive And Deductive (originally published in 1965). Additionally, of course, we have Max’s famous brown medical bag which you’ll always see him carrying when examining bodies at the scene of a crime.

I would have very much liked to introduce you to Shelly Acton who, according to the label, died 30th March 1968 at 09:45 from a catastrophic cervical fracture, but, when I open the door to one of the refrigerated boxes in the mortuary, there’s literally no body there and you just see what’s on the other side of the wall. It’s all smoke and mirrors as Russ often tells me.

Moving onto the next part of the building takes you to the interior of the Thursday household but Win’s not home. Unfortunately, Caroline O’Neil finished filming her scenes yesterday which is a shame because I really wanted to ask her what she makes for Fred’s sandwich on a Wednesday. I desperately try to find some clues in the kitchen but, since the crew are in the process of packing everything away in boxes, the only evidence that remains is a lonely half a loaf of bread left behind on the cutting board.

I have a quick look round the dining and living room which are adorned with the various family photos we’ve seen throughout the years and finally walk up the stairs to have a look at the bedrooms. Except there aren’t any bedrooms and the staircase just leads to nowhere. Smoke and mirrors again but small wonder Fred and Win look so tired sometimes.

Walking around the place it’s obvious that everyone is tremendously busy and visibly tired. After all, at 195 days and counting, this has been the longest shoot of any of the series thus far. And yet, talk to any of the cast and crew of Endeavour and their unreserved passion and enthusiasm for the show soon becomes apparent. One such person is the thoroughly good script editor, Amy Thurgood.

DAMIAN: Amy, can you tell me a little bit about your background, your interests in film and television and how you got into the industry?

AMY: Of course! Well, I’ve always been an avid reader and TV watcher – much to my parents’ concern, I’m sure! – so when the time came to work out what to do with my life, storytelling was always going to be a big part of it. While I was doing my English degree I produced a lot of theatre, so when the opportunity came up to do an MA in film and TV producing, I jumped at the chance. It was only then that I realised that the job I wanted to do – working with writers and creating stories, script editing! – actually existed. From that MA I got my first job as a runner at a TV production company. I worked for an actors’ agent for a while, then moved into drama development, learning the ropes of working with writers and scripts – and rose through the ranks from there!

DAMIAN: Why script editing though?

AMY: I think that’s a question most script editors ask themselves everyday! It’s essentially as close as you can get to writing and creating stories, without being an actual writer. I mean, there’s also a million other things you’re dealing with everyday, but that’s the best part.

DAMIAN: What qualities do you think a good script editor must possess?

AMY: I think the biggest misconception about script editing is that it’s just about making changes to the script. Phil Gladwin captures it best I think – you’re a “conciliatory diplomat, evil politician, surgeon, best-friend, appointed heavy, hit-man, administrative genius”; and that’s on top of having to be acutely aware of how story works, how scripts translate to the screen and how any changes affect everyone else on set. So people skills, problem-solving, attention to detail and stamina – you’ll be working long hours on production – are essential.

DAMIAN: Can you tell me more about what a script editor does by using examples from your work on the fifth series of Endeavour and working with Russ?

AMY:  Well, every show you work on will have different demands – depending on your writer, your genre, your format. In terms of Endeavour, after creating script schedules and initial research, my job properly kicks in when Russ is planning the stories for each film. We talk a lot about interesting motives, contexts, cultural and historical references, and then developing into plot.

In QUARTET (Film 5), we talked about the state of Britain in 1968, its politics and it’s relationship with Europe, and it’s culture at that time, which informed the story. In COLOURS (Film 4) we found a news article about a real-life protest at a hairdressing salon, which inspired the themes that permeate the episode. Then once Russ has written a first draft, we (Russ, myself, producers Neil and John and execs Damien and Tom) talk about how to move it forward – Russ and I will jump on the phone and bash through their thoughts to work out how to best translate them into the story.

We’ll do that with all the drafts until we get to the readthrough, where I’ll sit nervously hoping I haven’t missed any typos (that’s right, proofreading too!).  Repeat until we get to shooting script (the version used while filming) – when any changes we make will usually be informed by more practical things – changes in location, actor availability, weather. In ICARUS (Film 6) we tweaked some action based on the locations we were shooting in. It’s those changes that we issue on different colour paper which you might have seen in people’s scripts. Then as well as working with Russ, I’ll be liaising with the other departments and the actors to make sure they’re kept informed of changes, and answering any script-related queries they might have! Repeat for 6 films, then sleep.

DAMIAN: And what’s Russ like to work with?

AMY: Wow, such a diva! No, actually nothing could be further from the truth. Russ is an absolute gem, a total gentleman and incredibly generous with his time and talent. His brain works in such brilliant ways, and the stories and solutions he comes up with are always a joy to watch unfold.

DAMIAN: When those dreadlines loom, Russ has told me all about his “Dark Passenger” taking over during extended periods of sleep deprivation which can sometimes last for forty-eight or even seventy-two hours until he writes ‘ROLL END CREDITS’! During such dark times, does this also result in your head hardly touching the pillow?

AMY: Well I get significantly more sleep than Russ does! But yes, if I know he’s pulling one of his long stints I’ll be constantly on email and phone – just available in case he needs anything. To be honest though, that’s my choice – he would never expect me to do that, but I think if he’s emailing a question at 3am, better to respond sooner than later and help him move forward with things!

DAMIAN: The shoot for this series lasted over nine months! Is it a really tough job at times?

AMY:  In all honesty – yes, but every show I’ve worked on is tough! Endeavour is one of the most fun and rewarding shows I’ve been involved in – everyone is genuinely lovely and we all get on brilliantly – but making TV isn’t glamorous. It’s long hours, usually in cold places, drinking instant coffee out of recyclable cups! It’s those times when you really do become one big family – we all want to make it the absolute best it can be, so we all help each other with lots of laughter and on-set chat. It’s the old childbirth analogy I guess – you forget the hard bits when it’s over, and then you just want to do it all again!

DAMIAN: Do you have to travel a lot or do you stay in Oxford while shooting on location and near Beaconsfield when filming at headquarters?

AMY: To quote Ariel, I like to be where the people are, so I’ll be with the crew on set whenever I can. It means I can anticipate issues before they arise and make sure we’re ahead of the game on any script changes we might need to make. That involves a fair amount of travelling about; I live in London so – aside from when we stay in Oxford for the city-based days we have – I spend a lot of time in my little car! To be honest though, that’s a personal choice – not every script editor does it, and sometimes the lure of a warm office over a cold set can be quite tempting!

DAMIAN: One of your early credits in the industry was working on Primeval.  Did you ever cross paths with Jimmy Bradshaw back then?

AMY:  Sadly not! We were shooting that series in Dublin, and I was based in the London HQ, so unfortunately we never got to meet in person. Jimmy is absolutely brilliant – a consummate professional and a lovely man – and we never had him eaten by a dinosaur, which is quite an achievement! (in Primeval obviously, not Endeavour!)

DAMIAN: Could have been eaten by a tiger though. Anyway, another more recent TV show you worked on just before Endeavour was in fact Call the Midwife and the two have been known to be in direct competition with each other on Sunday nights. Where would your loyalty lie regarding the remote control?

AMY: Endeavour, of course! I’m still friends with a few people at Midwife though, and we did have a little joke about being in competition last time we met up! Midwife is hugely successful and rightfully so; it’s similar to Endeavour in the scale and ambition it has, but I think – despite the similar period – they are two very different shows. We can both exist in the same world!

DAMIAN: Were you a fan of Endeavour before you started working on the show?

AMY: I actually was – a huge fan! I grew up watching Inspector Morse, so there was always that appeal. I love shows that you can really dig into – and Endeavour is so multi-layered, you could watch it 4 or 5 times over and still be picking up things you’ve never noticed before. And – as you’ve noted from my time on Midwife – I do seem to have quite a thing for the 1960s! I’m waiting for someone to write a show about a fireman in the 1960s, just so I can complete the emergency services trilogy.  Russ and I had also worked together many years ago (when I was a development coordinator) so I’d always kept an eye out for his work.

DAMIAN: Was there any particular research you needed to do either about the history of the show and its characters or regarding Oxford in the sixties?

AMY: As I came to Endeavour from Midwife, I already had a good steer on the history and atmosphere of the 60s, which was a massive help. And already being a fan, I felt pretty confident in the backstories of the characters. The big bits of research on Endeavour mainly centre around the worlds we find ourselves in – for example, when we visit the army barracks in COLOURS, that’s a world we haven’t seen before, so we did a huge amount of research into the environment, the uniforms, the protocol. We found a brilliant military advisor who had actually been in an army barracks in 1968, which was incredibly helpful! In terms of Oxford, searching through newspaper archives are an absolute goldmine – as I mentioned, it was there that we found references to the hair salon protest that inspired events in COLOURS.

DAMIAN: Because everyone has been so busy for so very long on the show, do you think that sometimes people forget to enjoy it and are there ever moments when you think, hey, I’m working on Endeavour!?

AMY:  It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business of making the show, but it’s always when we’re in Oxford that it really hits you. There’s always such massive support from the public when we’re shooting there, people who are genuinely excited that they’re watching Endeavour being filmed; and it does remind you that there’s a big audience out there who are really looking forward to the finished series!  And then of course, when it goes out on ITV, and I get text messages from people watching it. That’s always nice too!

DAMIAN: Why do you think Endeavour continues to be such a success and so well loved around the world?

AMY:  I think it goes back to what we were saying about it being multi-layered – there’s so much satisfaction to get out of watching every episode – from the Morse nods, to the cultural references, and then the joy of watching an investigation unfold and trying to spot the culprit. Endeavour Morse has always been a wonderful character, and seeing what Shaun brings to it – it feels fresh and new but still the character we love – is a massive draw for the audience. Russ’s (and Roger’s!) creation of Fred Thursday just makes a perfect pairing – and I now can’t imagine a Morse universe without him in it!

DAMIAN: What’s been your favourite episode or at least the one you’re most proud to have worked on?

AMY:  I love every film equally! But if you’re pushing me to choose – I love PASSENGER (Film 3) because I love the world; I loved it from the very first draft. That quintessential English summertime, mashed up with the dark world of greed and murder. And I thought Jim Field Smith and Jamie Cairney did an amazing job of bringing it to life. I also love COLOURS –because Russ and I worked so hard on the story, characters and the research – so it’s hugely satisfying to see it come to life! But then QUARTET was so interesting to film; I’ve legitimately never laughed as hard as the day we filmed the Jeux Sans Frontieres sequence!

DAMIAN: The aforementioned producers on this series of Endeavour, Neil and John, told me in my interview with them that they both previously worked as script editors with the plan to move onto producing one day. Is this something that you’re also interested in?

AMY: It’s definitely an area I’m interested in. Many script editors do move on to become producers, and I think it’s due in part to the skills you need to successfully script edit – there’s a lot of crossover. And working with Neil and John was a brilliant experience which enabled me to learn so much more about producing. So hopefully one day – but I’m not quite ready to let go of the scripts just yet….!

Before we leave this section of the complex, and rather confusingly since the main CID set is housed in the opposite building, we come to the office of a horse of quite a different colour – one Chief Superintendent Bright. Some people find excitement in exotic holidays while others get their kicks from adventure sports but, for me at least, this is about as thrilling as it gets as I have a go at sitting in Bright’s chair behind his great desk and rifle through the various accessories and nic nacs – and look, the famous horse head ornament in the window…

Having a look through Bright’s book collection, I find an edition of Los Premios Nobel de Literatura which dates from 1964 and contains works by Saint John Perse, Andre Gilde, Karl Gjellerup, Gerhart Hauptmann, Ivo Andric and John Steinbeck. This seems more to Endeavour’s taste than Bright’s, but again, it’s the astonishing period detail that impresses most. Oh, and quite appropriately given some of Anton Lesser’s impressive previous credits, there’s one or two books by Dickens.

DAMIAN: Russ, all these sets, props, costumes, the various sound and lighting equipment – not to mention the vast army of cast and crew, are all here because you sit at home writing words like ‘INT. COWLEY GENERAL. MORTUARY’, ‘INT. THURSDAY HOUSE’ or ‘INT. POLICE STATION. BRIGHT’S OFFICE’, and then all these talented artists and craftsmen work tirelessly to create your vision. Five years in and everyone seems to take it all in their stride but do you ever just pause and appreciate what a tremendous gift this is – a gift that you’ve shared with millions of fans around the world?

RUSS: If there’s a gift – it’s the one that we’ve been given as programme makers. The opportunity to continue to explore a world created by Colin Dexter, and brought so memorably to life by the original production team – cast and crew.

DAMIAN: There’s a scene heading from your script to HARVEST that simply reads ‘EXT. OXFORD – DAY 1’ and then, ‘Skyline. A vision that never fails to thrill…’. When you visit the sets like today or take a trip to Oxford to see filming on location as I know you do from time to time, do you feel a special connection to the great city of dreaming spires and do its vistas indeed never fail to thrill?

RUSS:  It’s hard not to fall in love with the place. We’re terribly spoiled as we get to shoot in lots of areas that in the normal course of events would be out of bounds to many.  So – that’s lovely, and – again – a ridiculous privilege.  

And the people of Oxford have been enormously kind to us.  Very generous, understanding, and patient to a fault, as we return each year to make life difficult for them by closing roads, and otherwise making a general nuisance of ourselves.  

Happily, we’ve made some truly wonderful friends here, who come out and see us when we’re shooting. Amongst whom, I must mention Julia at Happy Cakes – a local baker – to whom cast and crew are deeply indebted. It’s as close as I’ll get to being a member of the TMS team. The days are long – the weather often grim – and the restorative powers of Julia’s extraordinary creations have always been a miraculous boost to morale on many a wet and bitterly cold shoot. I’d go so far as to say that they’ve helped get us over the line on more than occasion.

DAMIAN: Isn’t Oxford and all of this something of a magical playground for you?

RUSS: It’s a tremendous sandbox. Oxford is madly photogenic. I love it in all its moods. But it occupies a relatively contained number of days out of the shooting schedule on each film. One to four days – with two or three being about the average. We probably do a week – sometimes a little over at base — and all points of the compass for the rest of it.

DAMIAN: You have the power to decide who lives or dies, who will experience great joy or deep sorrow. For far less modest and humble screenwriters (and I bet there are a few out there!), wouldn’t they see it as an almost God-like power of creation?

RUSS: It’s my name on the byline, but there’s a lot of moving parts. From each according to their gifts. I don’t refer to it as Team Endeavour for no good reason.

Things will be kicked around until everyone is happy with them. Compromise and reciprocity. Win some, lose many. Stay limber.

DAMIAN: I’ve only really known two screenwriters and both are vastly different in their personalities and styles of writing. It’s undoubtedly hard for you to be objective on the subject but would you say there are certain characteristics or personality traits that many scriptwriters have in common?

RUSS:  Raging egomania and a propensity for violence.  The latter – usually unexpressed. In all seriousness, anyone who ever went the distance has my affection. What do we have in common? A haunted, thousand yard stare, probably. And ‘War Stories’. Get a bunch of writers together — decades ago, we used to organise our own non-corporate annual get together – “The Usual Suspects’ Christmas Jamboree” – and talk very quickly turns to War Stories. What happened on this or that show. Who got fired from what and how. The laughter born of recognition. Because we all know that sooner or later the joke’s on us. The old gag about the Actress who was so dumb that she slept with the Writer to get on in the business still stands.  

We’re hired guns is the bottom line. Sellswords. I always come back to that line at the end of The Magnificent Seven — ‘Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.’

DAMIAN: When I think of screenwriters, I’m often reminded of those as portrayed in some of the classic Film Noirs such as Humphrey Bogart as Dix Steele from In a Lonely Place or William Holden as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. Are you ever amused by how the media depicts its own screenwriters?

RUSS:  The truth is much closer to Barton Fink.

DAMIAN: Have you been in the business that long that you’ve lost the ability to appreciate the romantic notion of a screenwriter?

RUSS:  I don’t think I had any romantic notion to lose.

DAMIAN: Filming today is for the last film of the series but this piece will be posted on the day that FILM 5 will be broadcast. Tell us what we can expect from the penultimate episode, QUARTET?

RUSS: Thrills and spills. Games without frontiers. Hard to describe without giving the game away, but Endeavour finds himself in very murky waters. Geoff Sax – who directed NEVERLAND – returns to the flight roster. I think he had fun with it.

We head back over to the main building to have a look around CID before the main cast are called to the set. I hear familiar voices from behind the door of what I now realise is used as a green room. One such voice in particular with a cough or two followed by a frequent clearing of the throat is especially unmistakable…

Article, interviews & photographs copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

Coming up in part two of this exclusive set report, and in addition to exploring CID, we’ll also visit the costume, production and props department as well as chatting to some more of the crew, and, perhaps we’ll say hello to one or two of the cast.

~

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Paul Cripps Production Designer

Above photo courtesy of Paul Cripps (centre)

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

PAUL CRIPPS

Production Designer

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~

DAMIAN: Having lived in Oxford, I wonder to what extent you were aware of Inspector Morse growing up?

PAUL: I was aware of Inspector Morse for a few reasons. I think it started filming around 1987 when I was finishing my A Levels and I grew up in Woodstock and obviously the first Colin Dexter Morse novel was Last Bus to Woodstock. I knew the TV series was set and partly filmed in Oxford so there was a local buzz about it. Also my dad was a friend of Peter Woodthorpe the actor who played the original Max De Bryn. They did their national service together at the Joint Services School for Linguists training as Russian translators.

DAMIAN: Before we talk anymore about Morse, I’d like to ask you about the kind of films or television which may have inspired you to consider the art of production design. Do you have any particularly vivid early memories of trips to the cinema and specific films that may have had an influence?

PAUL: That’s easy, I was a Star Wars kid. I queued round the block to see it several times in 1977. And then in 1978 Harrison Ford came to film in Woodstock my home town for a WW2 film called Hanover Street with Christopher Plummer and Lesley Anne Down. So naturally I was desperate to see him, my sister got him to give us his autographs (my middle sister also works in Film and TV and does big movies like Wonder Woman and Darkest Hour). But also our whole town was turned into a WW2 Nazi occupied French town. Blenheim Palace became the local chateau turned into the German army headquarters. My grandmother’s Florist shop was turned into a Boulangerie. There were gun battles and car chases and Musco lights above the town for two weeks. That fascinated me. Then other films came. I watched Mel Brooks recreate the French Revolution at Blenheim Palace for History of the World Part One. I also failed to get an extras part in Another Country and watched them filming it in the Turl. So I wanted to work in film and TV but didn’t know how.

DAMIAN: If you were to compile a top ten of your favourite production designs from the movies what would such a list look like?

PAUL: Hmm, tricky… off the top of my head, lots of Kubrick: 2001, The Shining, lots of Greenaway: The Draughtsman’s Contract, Belly of an Architect, The Cook, The Thief… lots of Sci Fi: Bladerunner, The Star Wars original trilogy, Alien, Dark Star, Tarkovsky’s Mirror, Stalker and The Sacrifice. David Lean’s Oliver Twist and Lawrence of ArabiaFight Club, Zodiac, All The President’s Men, Brazil, Time Bandits, Kagemusha, Spring Summer Fall Winter Spring, Mon Oncle, In the mood for love. I could go on…

DAMIAN: Can you tell me about your training and at what exact point you decided to pursue a career in production design?

PAUL: I always wanted to work in TV or film but I started doing an art foundation course and was pointed towards fashion. I finally went and did a BA in theatre design at Wimbledon school of art. I worked for a year after that (my first job was costume assistant on a Ridley Scott ad for BP for Charles Knode) and then I went to do an MA in Film and TV Design at the Royal College of Art. I started working in design for entertainment chat shows, music shows, game shows. I worked on TFI Friday for quite a while. Then I moved across and started doing TV drama and films.

DAMIAN: Looking through your credits which include The Missing, You, Me and the Apocalypse, Atlantis, Skins and Merlin, I was fascinated to learn that you worked on both of the Judge Dredd movies; as a trainee in the art department on the 1995 Sylvester Stallone production and then the more recent one in 2012 as art director. Is this pure coincidence or are you a fan of 2000 AD Comics?

PAUL: I had every issue of 2000 AD as a kid but it was pure luck working on both. I got a work placement on the Stallone Dredd for about three weeks making models and tea in the art dept. There were some great people on that film: Nigel Phelps, Leslie Tompkins, Peter Young, David Allday, Chris Cunningham. Then I was doing Never Let Me Go with my friend Mark Digby and DNA were talking about Judge Dredd so I did some Pre budgeting and visuals but then for various reason didn’t work on it in South Africa but then they did a whole load of reshoots and extra bits in London and asked me to do them.

Judge Dredd (1995)

Dredd (2012)

DAMIAN: Before we go any further, could you just clarify for those who are perhaps new to the subject, what the differences are between an art director and a production designer?

PAUL: Basically the Production Designer is the boss, the one with the complete vision and the art director is his or her right hand person who implements the realisation of that vision, dealing with construction of sets, drawing up and handing jobs out to the various members of the art and props department. The other right hand people are the set decorator; who helps with the choices of  furniture and decoration for each scene; and the propmaster who organises he dressing of the sets. I had two talented women in those roles for Endeavour. Stacey Dickinson the art director and Faye Brothers the set decorator and trusty sidekick Simon Drew as propmaster.

DAMIAN: Back to Mega-City One, the first Dredd film was a critical and commercial flop, the fans hated it but it must have been huge fun to work on?

PAUL: It WAS great! My friend Andrea the actual art dept assistant has some great photos. Seeing them build the Mega City One streets in the Shepperton car park was amazing. If you look carefully all the shops are named after puns of people in the art dept. My two favourites were Bill Ying Tong’s Chinese restaurant named after John Billington and The All Day and Night Diner after David Allday.

DAMIAN: I thought the Karl Urban 2012 film was pretty good and did much to restore the hopes of fans for a decent and well deserved faithful comics-to-screen franchise – what happened?

PAUL: Sadly the success of a film called The Raid and being too similar did it for Dredd really I think. I think The Raid came out first and stole our thunder. I think the financial backing came from India and not a recognised studio and it just didn’t make enough money to warrant a sequel for DNA unlike 28 Days Later which was an unexpected hit.

DAMIAN: How did you come to work on Endeavour?

PAUL: Well I’ve mostly done contemporary drama and apart from some fantasy I’ve never really done proper period so I’ve been looking to try and find something like Endeavour to do. A few other shows I was mooted for, that shall remain nameless, didn’t happen so I was kicking around not doing anything much. I read MUSE and met John the producer and I think we really got on so that was it.

DAMIAN: Endeavour has had various previous production designers: Pat Campbell did First Bus to Woodstock (or “Pilot”), and then Matt Gant, Anna Higginson, Anna Pritchard and Alison Butler for the subsequent series that followed. Did you look at their work as part of your research or for reference before you started your own designs and is it more challenging to take over from previous artists or more artistically rewarding to start from scratch?

PAUL: When I got the job I went back and watched every single episode of Endeavour. The one thing about Endeavour is that most single episodes look different, each has its own feel and look and that’s what was interesting for me. You don’t really have to reproduce the look just the quality. This is only the second time I’ve not done the first series of a programme, so it’s unusual for me to follow someone but I took Endeavour as it was one of the shows on TV that I actually watched and liked. Plus my personal connection to Oxford and being born in 1968 in Oxford I couldn’t not do it!

DAMIAN: And is it generally more fun to work on something period, contemporary, futuristic or does really just depend on the project?

PAUL: I think for me it depends on the project, particularly the script and the other people working on the project. Script sells it a lot of the time. And much to my agent’s dismay I’m quite fussy about scripts.

DAMIAN: Which books or websites proved to be the most useful in researching Endeavour’s Oxford of 1968?

PAUL: Probably one of the best sources was the Oxford History Centre which I spent a few days at in Pre Production. It’s in Cowley and holds all the council archives and a fabulous photo library. The council had done a survey of pubs in 1968 which proved useful ref. They also hold microfiche of Oxford Mail’s and Times from the period. I found a few of my Mum’s advertising drawings popping up as I was searching the papers. We also visited a guy who runs the Oxford/Thames Valley Constabulary archive which again was a really useful source.

Reference pic of the original Thames Valley 1968

Paul’s actual model. Photo: Damian Michael Barcroft

Original CID model plan. Photo: Damian Michael Barcroft

DAMIAN: Presumably you see the script and then start making notes but can you take me through your pre-production process as a production designer using Endeavour as an example?

PAUL: I read the scripts as they come through. Then talk to the director and then he and I and the location people spend weeks driving round finding locations. Also I’m designing any sets that need building such as Strange and Endeavour’s shared maisonette from this series.

Paul’s model for Strange and Endeavour’s maisonette. Photo: Damian Michael Barcroft

Strange’s maisonette under construction. Photo: Paul Cripps

I tend to start with plans moving into 3D renderings using a programme called SketchUp. Then we do drawings for the construction people. When the locations and sets are all decided we do what’s called a tech recce and the heads of departments and key crew all get in a bus and drive round every location and decide how every scene will be shot. I then talk with my crew deciding how we will dress and strike the locations and then Faye and or myself will go off and chose furniture and furnishings. Stacey and I will decide on what needs constructing and painting, vehicles and graphics and Simon will do a dressing and strike schedule all in relation to the main schedule. Finally I like to go to the readthrough as that really begins to bring the whole thing together and helps me character wise for various settings. Then the shoot starts.

DAMIAN: And then when it’s actually production time and the cameras are ready to roll, can you describe a typical day on set – series five of Endeavour had a particularly brutal schedule but perhaps the very first day of shooting would be the most illuminating example?

PAUL: Well I’m actually not on set much. We normally as an art dept work ahead and behind the shooting crew. So we will go in the day or a couple of days before the shoot and dress the set or location. I will come on the morning of the shoot and check everything is to the liking of the director and DOP and then troubleshoot if required. But I will try to leave as quickly as possible as I will be onto dressing the set for the next day or next section. Also Simon and his crew will return the day after the shoot (or sometimes the night of!) to return the location back to how it was when we arrived. The schedule is often relentless. Often on Endeavour I usually arrived on set once the set was already dressed as the day we started shooting each film was usually the day the next director started and so the whole process of location hunting on the next film would start all over again!

DAMIAN: How many different sets or locations might you need to prepare for an average day’s shoot?

PAUL: Well it varies, sometimes there are two or more sets or locations in a day so we will dress one the day before and one on the morning whilst the crew is shooting the first one. Then once they have moved to the second location we will return and ‘strike’ the first location. Generally it’s one or more locations a day for twenty odd days. Sometimes we are in a location for several days so we can get some respite and recover and re-plan or re-group.

DAMIAN: Is it easier to design sets for location or studio filming?

PAUL: It’s sometimes easier with a set in a studio as locations can have specific problems or issues but then you have to get a studio set to look and feel real. There lots to love and lots to frustrate in both.

DAMIAN: To what extent does production design necessitate a creative collaboration with other departments such as the art director, set decoration or location manager?

PAUL: The art director and set decorator are all in my team so collaboration is essential. And of course there is collaboration with lots of people; locations, costume, DOP etc. Probably the most important are the DOP and location manager. If you don’t find good or the right locations the job is much harder and if the DOP does not light your sets or locations well it won’t matter how well you’ve designed them!

Location dressing plan for Muse. Photo: Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: Where were the Roxy cinema interior and exterior scenes filmed in CARTOUCHE?

PAUL: The exterior, foyer, bar, owner’s flat and roof were all the former Carlton cinema in Essex Road Islington currently a church. The auditorium was the Broadway Theatre Catford with additions by me including an orchestra pit and the rising organ (a hydraulic lift!) Interestingly the auditorium was an almost exact match of a cinema I location scouted in Germany for The Missing 2 for BBC. That cinema was built around the same time in a Nazi training camp called Vogelsang and when I went to Catford for the first time I was astounded by the similarity. We saw a lot of abandoned cinemas for CARTOUCHE it was heartrending seeing the dilapidation of the State cinema in Grays.

DAMIAN: The rising organ very much reminded me of the two Dr Phibes films from the seventies. Were these a particular influence?

PAUL: Actually no I’m afraid to say. I was influenced more by the organ at one of the potential cinema locations we recce’d; The State Cinema in Grays, Essex.

Photo: Paul Cripps

Also I remembered the two remaining organs in Leicester Square one of which I saw playing at the London Film Festival screening of Never Let Me Go.

Rising organ and shooting for the Roxy at Catford Theatre. Photo: Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: As regular readers will know, CARTOUCHE was a particular delight for me as a huge fan of the Universal and Hammer Horrors. To what extent were these a direct influence on your designs and did you research specific films or the work of production designers for Universal such as Charles D. Hall or Bernard Robinson at Hammer?

PAUL: Yes I was very influenced by the 60’s Hammer output. I watched quite a few and the location at an old abandoned school near Wallingford worked really well for the film within a film. I remember watching a lot of those films when I first went to film school at the Prince Charles Cinema late night screenings.

I also sought out some behind the scenes photos at the BFI library. The book,  Hammer Films – The Unsung Heroes The Team Behind the Films was a really useful reference for the filmmaking scenes. My favourite note was that Peter Cushing wore a single white glove when smoking off camera so as not to stain his fingers!

DAMIAN: I know the writer, Russell Lewis, is also crazy about these films so I’m wondering if there were many phone calls and emails back and forth in discussing the right look and feel for the film?

PAUL: Well I have to say that Russ is the ultimate professional in that he never really calls me to demand we do this or that and I’m sure some of the things we do really frustrate and annoy him but he never seems to let that show. I did make an error with a specific book cover he wanted as I didn’t realise it was one of his brilliant nods to other shows, this one being something from Tony Hancock. But I think Russ was so busy writing during the shoot I think getting involved more about how we were shooting them would probably have cost him the only three hours he must get to sleep. I don’t know quite how he does it, keeping up with all the nods and winks to other shows and creating those amazing Thursday quips! But he lets us get on with it and I hope we do it some justice.

DAMIAN: The “Mammoth Pictures” logo with the Morse Code was a stroke of genius which obviously brought back happy memories of the old RKO films such as King Kong. Who’s idea was this and who actually made it?

PAUL: I’m going to claim this as my own. Myself and Andy Wilson knew we wanted a 3D RKO like logo as per Russ’ description rather than just a graphic but the Mammoth, the Iceberg and the backdrop were all the work of my own hand! Luckily it was meant to look a bit shonky!

DAMIAN: Is there a sense of sadness once the shoot has wrapped and the sets start to be dismantled?

PAUL: I did feel a pang of sadness on one of the last days as I walked through Strange’s flat devoid of furniture and dressing. I’ve made Jim Strange an Oxford United fan (Yes!) and would be trombone player so I hope that might remain.

Photo: Paul Cripps

DAMIAN: To slightly misquote Indiana Jones, doesn’t this stuff belong in a museum?

PAUL: Some of it yes. One of my favourite props was the Lapis Lazuli Scarab with the Aktnaten cartouche given to Emil Valdemar which we moulded from one owned by my wife bizarrely. I thought that prop was beautiful. And Russ must have visited the Pitt Rivers museum before us as when we opened a drawer of scarabs and there was one missing just as in the script!

DAMIAN: I have a beautifully illustrated and insightful book, Film Architecture: From Metropolis to Blade Runner, but what books or websites would you recommend for anyone wanting to learn more about the art of production design?

PAUL: A few books: Setting the Scene: The Great Hollywood Art Directors, Ken Adam by Christopher Frayling, Peter Ettedgui’s book Production Design & Art Direction, The Stanley Kubrick Archives, The Invisible Art (all about glass paintings).

For interesting contemporary stuff I would recommend a website a Canadian art director runs called Artdepartmental. I also like Film Grab a site that shows stills from lots of great films.

DAMIAN: Where is that clock from CARTOUCHE now?

PAUL: You mean the one in the Cinema managers flat? Oh that’s a sad story. I loved that clock in the prop house when Faye and I were choosing props for the Roxy. I said we must use that. It worked so well in that room and went so well with the decor of the Carlton Cinema. But really sadly the prop house it came from, was closed with little notice, shortly after Christmas due to financial problems caused by a compulsory purchase of land for the HS2 rail scheme. All the furniture from that prop house, which a lot of the Endeavour settings came from, have now been split up or sold outside the industry. It’s been really devastating for us all in the business. So who knows if that clock even exists anymore. So sad.

DAMIAN: Paul, thank you very much indeed.

PAUL: My pleasure.

Photo: Paul Cripps

~

 

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Russell Lewis Part IV

EXT. WOODS/GINGERBREAD HOUSE – DAY 1
Late afternoon. ENDEAVOUR makes his way through the woods. At last, he reaches, an ancient dwelling that seems to have grown out of the earth itself. Mossy. ENDEAVOUR comes to the door. A raggedy broomstick leant against the wall. ENDEAVOUR knocks.
ENDEAVOUR: Hello? Miss Chattox?
ENDEAVOUR pushes open the door. Darkness…
ENDEAVOUR (cont’d): Good afternoon. My name is…
ENDEAVOUR reacts to something out of view — backs away.
The business end of a single barrel SHOTGUN emerges from the gloom…
DOWSABLE (O.S.): Morse. That’s your name, isn’t it?
… the weapon held steadily in the hands of the formidable DOWSABLE CHATTOX, (80s).
DOWSABLE (cont’d): Morse. I’ve been expecting you.
– HARVEST (P.35 Readthrough Draft)

THE OTHER PLACE

Exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

With Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~~~

With thanks to Rosemary Woodhouse

~

DAMIAN: And I’ve been expecting you Mr… Lewis. Way through the woods indeed! Anyway, who had the wonderful idea to cast Sheila Hancock?

RUSS: It’s been a twinkle in our eye for some time.  But the 30th Anniversary seemed to be the right time.  It probably took us that long to pluck up our nerve.

DAMIAN: Did you meet her at any point?

RUSS:  I’ve met her before – but not during the shoot.

DAMIAN: Chattox? A nod to the Pendle Witch trials?

RUSS:  Indeed.

EXT. BRAMFORD MERE
DOROTHEA: Good morning, Miss Chattox. Dorothea Frazil. Oxford Mail. I interviewed you a few years ago, about your battle with the Power Station.
DOWSABLE: I remember you.
DOROTHEA: Still fighting the good fight, I see.
DOWSABLE: If you mean they haven’t seen me off yet, then, no – they haven’t. Nor will they.

DAMIAN: Please tell me this scene was actually filmed and still exists somewhere?

RUSS:  I’m not sure it was shot.  There was a lot of what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over on this one.  I think I only became aware of what hadn’t been shot after the event. Our time with Sheila was quite contained – and this may have been a casualty of the schedule.

DAMIAN: I found HARVEST to be a game of two halves; the latter had something of The China Syndrome about it but it was the former element that I was particularly taken with involving Morris Men and their Horse and Fool which evoked films such as The Wicker Man. We’ve spoken more generally about the horror genre before but what specific influences from what we now term “Rural” or “Folk” Horror might we see in HARVEST that contributed to that strange and yet curiously British and creepy atmosphere?

RUSS:  Well – obviously – as you’ve identified – The Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man

S4:E4 Harvest

Above photo kindly provided by Charlotte Mitchell

But also Robin Redbreast and a bit of Nigel Kneale’s Beasts.  There were a couple of Brian Clemens’ Thriller that played with that ‘something nasty in the woodshed’, thing.  One that featured an old family friend John (Juan) Moreno – who you’ll probably know best as Bond’s contact, Luigi Ferrara, in For Your Eyes Only.  Cloven hoofs a go-go.

Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast

Robin Redbreast

DAMIAN: Also possibly relevant to HARVEST, to what extent would you agree that Professor Bernard Quatermass is the single most important and influential character in British Science Fiction?

RUSS:  Did he pave the way for a certain Gallifreyan?  Quite possibly.  The TV Quatermass casts a massive shadow – but most of it even before my time.  Quatermass and the Pit is a classic — but until the Euston Films/John MIlls version – what was that?  ‘79-ish? – he was more a character one got second-hand from memories of the previous generation.

Andrew Keir in Hammer’s third adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s work, Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

DAMIAN: Many great actors have played Quatermass over the years but who would you say gave the definitive screen performance?

RUSS:  I liked Andre Morrell, but probably Andrew Keir — the TV and film incarnations in Pit — which is probably my favourite story.

INT. THURSDAY HOUSE. HALL/LIVING ROOM – NIGHT 1
Onscreen – black and white: a rangey Dennis Hopper-alike, at the wheel of an open top car on a lost highway. Poor Man’s Process with much over-steering of the wheel.
NARRATOR (V.O.): Meet Edwin Brewster, age thirty-five. Occupation, drifter. A nobody from nowhere, about to make an unscheduled stop in a town not found on any map.
WIN watches TV — not taking it in.
NARRATOR (V.O.): For he has entered a dimension that lies somewhere between sleep and waking. Dream and nightmare. Life and death. It’s a region we call, ‘The Other Place.’
Opening sig for ‘The Other Place’ – theramin and surf guitar.

DAMIAN: You could have made up any TV show and yet you chose something reminiscent of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Why?

RUSS:  It seemed fun to do.  And played into the overall theme.  Originally – the American couple were a nod to a particular Ira Levin novel that came out in ‘67.

I think there was more material to do with them trying for a baby…  So between them, and the paganism — we were setting up a blind to what was really going on.  The Other Place thing was just underlining that deceit.  But – yes, it was our salute to Rod Serling – who casts a giant shadow.

DAMIAN: What’s your all-time favourite episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits?

RUSS:  Too many to choose from.  I like deserted town stories – so Where Is Everybody? – the Pilot, I believe – would have to be up there. And Stopover in a Quiet Town also falls into that category.

Where is Everybody?

Much of The Avengers has a similar vibe.  A lack of Supporting Artists in the background lends everything a slightly surreal and dreamlike quality.  How much of that was a budget call which dictated a creative decision, I don’t know — but in my memory at least – it seems very much a part of the the show’s DNA.

E/I. ENDEAVOUR’S FLAT. BASEMENT – DAY 3

ENDEAVOUR is fingerprinted. SCENE of CRIME dusting for prints. TREWLOVE, back in uniform, fingers along ENDEAVOUR’s mantel — finds the photograph of ENDEAVOUR as a boy with his mother.
STRANGE: Little toerags. Sorry, matey.
ENDEAVOUR: One of those things. We see enough of it.
STRANGE: Yeh, but you’re one of our own. What d’they nick?
ENDEAVOUR: Radio. Record player. My signed Rosalind Calloway LP. Beside that there was nothing worth taking.
STRANGE: Why they smashed the place up.
Amongst the wreckage — STRANGE spies, the JAMES LAST LP he bought for ENDEAVOUR as a house warming present. He picks it up, slips the LP out of its slipcase. Vinyl intact. STRANGE exhales — relieved.
STRANGE: Least this one made it.
ENDEAVOUR: Small mercies.

DAMIAN: While Lewis was obviously mischievously joking when he asked Morse in the original series if the piece of classical music he was playing in the car was Andrew Lloyd Webber (a beautifully played moment), Strange is completely genuine and oblivious with regards to James Last and isn’t it fantastic moments like these that  economically sum up almost all we need to know about him and his polar opposite relationship with Endeavour?

RUSS:  I suspect their differences are why they get on – in their fashion.  Strange makes much more of an effort with their friendship than Endeavour.  He’s clearly fond of him – and there’s admiration too, for his abilities.  A thoroughly decent cove is old Strange.  And the one man you’d want to see coming round the corner if you were ever in a tight pinch.

DAMIAN: If someone asked me if Endeavour would have a picture of his mother I would have, obviously incorrectly, said absolutely not. And yet, there it is in his flat following the burglary, a photograph of Endeavour as a boy with Constance. I thought Endeavour was almost in denial about his past so why would he want to have this sitting in a frame on his mantlepiece?

RUSS:  I think it was put there as it was something he recovered from the wreckage and didn’t want to lose.  The plan would have been to put it away again once he’d got the place straight. As you say – it’s something that would have been laid up.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Sometimes we reach to the back of a darkened drawer only to catch our fingers on a forgotten knife.

DAMIAN: Of the many scenes that never made it to the final cut, was it particularly painful to lose Sam’s return home which obviously resulted in him not appearing in the entire fourth series?

RUSS:  Yes.  We all love Jack B., and miss him around the homestead.  But story is always king — and the plan had always been to reflect the changing times by way of the Thursdays changing family circumstances.

DAMIAN: Not that she isn’t genuinely sorry and traumatised, but was there ever a sense for you as a writer, or perhaps between Shaun and Sara in playing the scene, that Joan was using the Wessex Bank robbery and the death of Ronnie Gidderton as an excuse to leave Oxford and escape the conventions and expectations of an almost predetermined life that she’s only half in love with?

RUSS:  Mmm.  I’m probably a bit more inclined to take her at face value.  I don’t think anyone realised quite how deeply Ronnie’s death affected her.  She held herself utterly to blame.  It was too much for her.  She had to get away – but I think the self-imposed exile was also her punishing herself.

EXT. OXFORD – DAY
WIN and SAM on their day out.
WIN: Well, that was nice.
SAM: So, what do you fancy for this after?
WIN: Oh, I don’t mind. You pick. I am glad you’re home, Sam.
SAM: I know.
WIN: I wouldn’t want you to think I wasn’t. Just… with everything.
SAM: She’ll come home. You’ll see. You know Joannie.
WIN: Stubborn. Like her father. You take more after me.
SAM: Well. Some of us have got to be sensible. Right?
SAM slips his arm through WIN’s and they tootle off…

DAMIAN: If Joan does indeed take after her father as is stated in this cut scene, does this perhaps foreshadow even more dark times and trouble ahead?

RUSS:  I wouldn’t want to give anything away.

DAMIAN: I thought when I first watched it that there was something about the production design that reminded me of early the Bond films and then there it was in the script when I read it; your description of the Bamford Goldenrod Reactor Building as ‘A Ken Adam fantasy of gantries and walkways towering high above the floor.’

In addition to Fleming obviously, the cinematic Bond owes so much to people like John Barry (for the sound if not composition of the Bond theme – not to mention eleven glorious music scores), Peter Hunt (the innovative editing style and later direction of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and the fines tastes and style of director Terence Young. Visually speaking however, isn’t Ken Adam arguably one of the most significant contributors to the 007 series?

RUSS:  Yes.  Absolutely.  He’s a bit of a touchstone for us — and gets another run out in this series.

DAMIAN: We’ve touched on Bond many times, but remarkably, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you who your favourite Bond is…

RUSS:  Easier to pick a favourite Bond movie.  Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale is the best of the modern era.  Certainly my favourite of his to date.  There’s been some great set pieces in the others – but, come on, Mads Mikkelsen for a villain, and Eva Green delivering arguably the most fully realised female character in the franchise.  (Dame JD’s ‘M’ notwithstanding.)  But – you know – it had pretty incomparable source material to drawn on.  Consequently, it felt more faithful to Fleming’s original vision than anything for a long time.

And yet…  It’s a dead heat for me with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  With Lazenby’s sole outing maybe just edging it by a period nose.  John Barry’s sublime score.  Dame Diana Rigg.  Telly Savalas turning in the best Blofeld of the classic period.  (Apologies to Donald Pleasance).  Ilse Steppat’s Irma Bunt.  Gabriele Ferzetti.  Piz Gloria.  The set pieces – the various ski chases and bobsleigh sequence – are sensational.  It’s just a first rate adventure/thriller that can be enjoyed on its own terms.  I’m a sucker for snow.

The first three Connerys are pretty sacred.  But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Goldfinger’s blockbuster success set the template in concrete – which is a bit of a pity.  Dr. No very much a period piece now.  From Russia With Love is a great spy movie, and felt very much its own thing.  After Goldfinger, you can pretty much follow the bouncing white dot at the bottom of the screen, knowing exactly how it’s going to unfurl.  I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but a good number of them thereafter seem locked into the tramlines.  The only place left to go is bigger.  It starts to creep in with Thunderball, and by the time of You Only Live Twice it’s just massively overblown.  Which is probably why OHMSS felt so refreshing – like the reset button had been hit.

The least said about Diamonds Are Forever the better.  Great theme song – but otherwise very hard to love. There’s a sourness about it that leaves a nasty taste.  Maybe it’s that much of the main section of the film has a Las Vegas setting.  It’s suddenly vulgar – reeking of stale cigar smoke and a gambler’s desperation – in a way it never had been before.  Bambi and Thumper. Plenty O’Toole.  Eek…  A sign of the changing times.  Tricky Dickie in the Willard Whitehouse, and Watergate just around the corner…

I suppose Ernst Stavro Blofeldd had to be grafted on as the stories were shot out of sequence, and there had to be a pay-off for the ending of OHMSS, but I always preferred the fate of Dr. Shatterhand in the novel of You Only Live Twice.

I guess that’s one of the things I like so much about 007’s latest incarnation.  He bleeds.

DAMIAN: I agree with regards to OHMSS which I personally believe to be the best and certainly the most stylish of the series. I’m a huge fan of Lazenby’s 007 and think he did an amazing job especially considering it was possibly one of the most difficult roles in cinema history to take on after Connery. However, for me, he’s in joint first place with another underrated Bond – the magnificent Timothy Dalton. Yeah, his two entries weren’t the best (although I greatly admired the grittiness of License to Kill) but he’s possibly the greatest actor to play Bond. And there’s just something about his look – those eyes – which is how I imagine Bond when I read the novels. Personally, I think they should leave the current franchise alone and simply adapt all of Fleming’s original stories almost word for word, set them in their proper period of the fifties and sixties and adopt the style of From Russia With Love. That said, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson seem to be doing OK without my input.

Anyway, back to Endeavour and the power station, in the script Blake turns to find Endeavour ‘frozen to the stop — staring down between the latticed steps to the ground, floors below’:

BLAKE: Constable.
ENDEAVOUR: Heights. I can’t bloody move.
BLAKE: Vertigo, is it? Poor chap.
DOROTHEA comes across.
DOROTHEA: Just shut your eyes and take my hand. Come on. One foot in front of the other.

Freudian nightmares aside given the circumstances in which she was cast, am I completely wrong is suspecting that Dorothea is attracted to Endeavour – just a little bit?

RUSS:  Hate to disappoint you, but I don’t think any of us look on their relationship that way.

DAMIAN: You occasionally recycle scenes that don’t make the cut for future films so, and as much as I would love to because it’s quite a revelation of sorts, I won’t describe it in detail – let’s just call it the lime-juice and gin scene – please tell me you have plans to revisit it?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Yes. Most of these scenes we’re talking about are character moments — and they’re always the ones to suffer in the cut.  I repurpose and redeploy some of them – not out of general indolence – but because they’re important, and shed a light on our heroes and heroines. Plots can change – but the characters still have the same baggage.  And it’s nice to see some of that from time to time.

DAMIAN: What can you tell me about FILM 4: COLOURS?

RUSS:  Not much.  Part of its genesis was a news report that turned up in research – concerning a hairdressers in Oxford.  It seemed to fit with our theme for ‘68.  Turbulent times.  Elsewise – there’s a collision of worlds.

DAMIAN: Russ, thank you very much indeed.

RUSS:  You’re welcome.

~

BRIGHT: Oh – there was one more thing. I have this day received a letter…

[The following scenes appear as originally written in the readthrough draft intercut with those between Endeavour and Joan in hospital which are pretty much how we saw them in the broadcast version and so not included here]

EXT. THURSDAY HOUSE
THURSDAY at the kerb. TAXI there. WIN in the back seat.
WIN: Come on, Fred. We’ll be late.
THURSDAY: Just give him another five minutes.
SAM comes out of the house.
SAM: He [ENDEAVOUR] can’t make it.
THURSDAY: What d’you mean he can’t make it?
SAM: That was him on the phone. Something’s come up.
THURSDAY: I’ll give him ‘Something’s come up’ when I see him.
SAM: Go on. Good luck.
THURSDAY get in the TAXI, which pulls away. SAM watches after them…

EXT. LONDON. THE MALL

A BLACK CAB drives up the MALL towards BUCKINGHAM PALACE.
BRIGHT (V.O.): I am instructed to inform you that Her Majesty The Queen has graciously approved the award of…

INT. BUCKINGHAM PALACE. AUDIENCE CHAMBER

A gloved hand pins the GEORGE MEDAL to THURSDAY’S breast.
BRIGHT (V.O.): …the George Medal to Her entirely well-beloved subject Detective Chief Inspector Frederick Albert Thursday for Special Services in Defence of the Realm…

EXT. BUCKINGHAM PALACE

THURSDAY and WIN outside the palace.
BRIGHT (V.O.): Given the circumstances details pertaining to the award will be neither cited in the Gazette, nor entered into the public record.
WIN inspects the medal.
WIN: ‘For Gallantry’. Get you.
THURSDAY: Fancy the pictures? As we’re here. There’s a Lee Marvin at the Gaumont.
WIN: War, is it?
THURSDAY: Pie n mash after, if you play your cards right. I might even let you take me home.
THURSDAY slips his arm through WIN’s and they head off.

DAMIAN: Every week I’ve tested your patience by asking why such and such a scene was cut but again, this is even better than what we saw onscreen isn’t it?

RUSS:  What can I tell you?  We’re always up against it for time.  I think in this instance we did shoot this sequence — but it didn’t make the cut.  I write them pretty much to length — and then there’ll be requests for additional material — something that’s not landing just so that needs help, or something that hasn’t been realised quite as well as we envisioned — and the original stuff gets squeezed out.  Perhaps one day — when we get to the end — we’ll look at them again, and do definitive, unexpurgated cuts.  Or at least package together all the out-takes – and moments that didn’t make it.  You have to be careful though — the tone of something can change hugely in the edit.  Structure too.  And some of them wouldn’t bear the reintroduction of those excised scenes.

~

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Russell Lewis Part III

DAMIAN: Russ, before we start the interview, I’ve been thinking that we’ve mentioned The Beatles, Tony Hancock and Carry On films quite a bit over the years and perhaps, well, maybe we should mention them a little less from now on. Would that be alright Russ?

RUSS: As you please.

~

INT. COWLEY GENERAL – NIGHT 1 (22.56)

Night lit. An empty corridor. One bulb flickers.

Mantovani’s Strings playing ‘Charmaine’ fills the air. The sickly sweet scent of putrefaction in three-quarter time.

We float through the deserted galleries.

Operating theatre. Instruments laid out ready for use.

Another empty corridor. A staircase. SIGNS point the way to…

HOUSE OF PAIN

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

With Russell Lewis

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~~~

With very special thanks to Gilbert Taylor

& Denys Coop

~

DAMIAN: The exterior shots of Cowley General Hospital looked remarkably familiar, where might we have seen the location before?

RUSS:  Ho ho.  Well, it’s Maidenhead Town Hall – which, as some eagle eyed viewers correctly deduced, was the hospital exterior in Carry On Doctor, Carry On Again Doctor – and I believe appeared briefly in Carry On Camping.  Sadly, the frontage has had a bit of a make-over in the intervening years – so we couldn’t have ambulances pulling up outside, but enough of it survives that it’s still recognisable.

DAMIAN: I had terrible trouble with my ears as a child and was in and out of hospital on regular occasions throughout the late seventies and early eighties so on the one hand, I recognise the kindness, good humour and cheerfulness of kind doctors and nurses, the saucy winks and ding dong mentality of some of the male patients evoked so wonderfully in your script, but what particularly resonates is that dreaded moment when visiting time is over, Mum has to leave you with just a kiss, a copy of the Beano and the ‘obligatory grapes in a brown paper bag’ to see you through the long night ahead. Then, lights are replaced with shadows and strange, unfamiliar noises – much humming and distant footsteps constantly marching back and forth. We recently spoke about department stores as palaces of wonder and delight, but also of those inherent dark corners and backstairs worlds. It’s the same with hospitals isn’t it?

RUSS:  Absolutely.  Yes – Battersea General – long gone – was my childhood house of pain. Known by locals as the ‘Anti-viv’ or ‘Old Anti’ — because it was against animal experiments/vivisection. Pretty building. 1890s. Sort of Italianate style. Right by the Park. Closed in the early 70s.  But yes — hospitals after dark…  can be quite spooky.  I’d like to have included a few more of those empty corridors for atmos — but the schedule was very tight.

DAMIAN: We see Nurse Monica Hicks return briefly in this film but, as we’ve mentioned in the past, the potential of her character was never really fully explored. So it was with some interest regarding female characters on the show, that in my interview with Dakota, she said that ‘When I first auditioned for Endeavour I was sent an episode to read in which Trewlove had only four lines. I was promised that the character would grow and develop into one of the gang as the series went on’. To what extent do you think you’ve succeeded in keeping this promise?

RUSS:  Jim Strange’s move across to CID left us without a uniform presence – Bright notwithstanding.  But obviously Strange was much more a rank and file foot-soldier – whereas Bright is brass.  So – in all honesty – there was no need to have a regular uniform constable at all.  We could have had a roster of rolling PCs – but it’s nice to have some continuity, a recurring character the audience can readily identify.

In terms of plot – as often as not it’s uniform who are first on scene.  One can either have their findings as reportage via one of the CID regulars, or first hand from a uniform.  I was interested in looking at a woman’s place in a pretty boysie environment, hence Trewlove.

If you consider INSPECTOR MORSE and then LEWIS there were very few recurring characters beyond the central duo.  With ENDEAVOUR we have around ten.  Screentime across 89 minutes is at a premium, so all our characters have to punch above their weight, always.  I try with all of them to provide a moment or two in the sun – as the story allows.  I think the affection in which Trewlove is held by the audience suggests that she has punched through.

DAMIAN: Dakota also said that she ‘didn’t know anything about the character – what sort of a person she was, where she came from or where she might end up’ and that ‘Trewlove was something I had to figure out on my own’. Given the delightful detail in which you’ve previously talked to me about some of the influences and inspirations for Trewlove, why didn’t you share these with Dakota?

RUSS:  Mmm.  Those details are useful from a casting point of view — and inform what I put on the page.  Beyond that, it’s for the director to convey to the actor what they want from a performance — hopefully in service of the writer’s intent, which is something we’ll have discussed before they get on the floor.  Beyond that — I’m always available to discuss further if there are things an actor is bumping on in the script.

The whole notion of ‘character’ – not to be confused with ‘back-story’ – is a much bigger conversation – and one we don’t really have room to go into it here.

DAMIAN: I loved the warmth and beauty which you gave to the scenes with Trewlove watching over Bright at the hospital but what was Anton Lesser’s reaction to being confined to bed and unconscious for most the episode?

RUSS:  He took it lying down.

Anton is a joy to write for.  His instincts are flawless.  He just gets it.  Every time.  I don’t think he’s ever baulked at a line, or a situation we’ve put him in.  The greater the artist, the smaller the ego.  Any and all vanities set aside in service of the drama.  He just brings his A Game – as they say.  Every day.  I don’t think he has a B-Game.  You just sit back, and watch, and delight and revel in his greatness.  And he’s a great sense of fun – and not a little mischief.  There’s a lot of laughter – particularly at read-throughs.  So – yeh…  Hearing he’d agreed to play Bright was one of the better days at the office.

DAMIAN: I’ve been banging on about wanting to see Mrs. Bright for some time so it was somewhat frustrating to learn that she was away on a trip during his stay at hospital. Wouldn’t this have been the perfect opportunity to introduce her character?

RUSS:  I’d refer you to my earlier answer.  At 89 minutes — there is only room for so much anything.  We already had to reduce some of Caroline’s material, and a whole strand for another guest character.  Bolting on Mrs.B would have meant even more would have been lost. Each thing in its season.

DAMIAN: Bright seems unimpressed when Library Trolley Lester says he might be able to get him a copy of Lady Chatterly. Since you’ve denied audiences a peek into the Bright residence, I wonder what sort of titles might occupy his bookshelves?

RUSS:  Until returning to Britain from the colonies, the Brights have always been on the move – so I don’t imagine the library to be extensive.  Mostly non-fiction up Bright’s end of the bookshelf.  Guides to some of the places he’s lived in.  A long cherished Scouting For BoysCoral Island; Treasure Island; some Sir Walter Scott, and a bit of Henty.  His reading material a counter-weight to Mrs.B’s Bloomsbury end.  No euphemism intended.

DAMIAN: There’s more than a whiff of Black Narcissus about this film. In addition to some of the names (Dr Powell and Sister Clodagh) the script calls for a chapel/high place: ‘Locationally dependent… either a stairwell void, exterior or rooftop’. Putting either budget or available locations aside, what exactly did you originally envisage and were the colours somewhat reminiscent of the great Jack Cardiff in your mind’s eye?

RUSS:  Well — you’ve put your finger on it.  Black Narcissus definitely underpinned our intentions with Lazaretto.  I think early drafts had it finishing on the roof.  In terms of colour, it would have been lovely to invoke the climax of that picture, but you have to be guided by what’s available – and, of course, the choices of the director and the DoP.  It goes back to the earlier point about character.  I could slather on detail in stage directions and make things madly specific, but to be so prescriptive would be profoundly unhelpful to Production.  Better to give them the ‘idea’ of what I’d like and leave it to the Location Manager’s talent, skill and expertise to offer a range of options.  It always comes down to this – What is necessary to deliver the beat?  They found the tower stairwell — and that served very well.

DAMIAN: Long before the likes of Merchant Ivory Productions in the 80s and Richard Curtis in the 90s, to what extent do you think those Powell and Pressburger films first truly defined (at least for audiences abroad) British identity during and immediately after World War II?

RUSS:  That’s a good question. To a degree, I suppose. I’m probably less interested in what it says about how we were seen abroad, than in what they were saying about how we saw ourselves at the time.  One of the many admirable things about the Archers productions is that they were made for a mass audience. There’s never any talking down – or a hint of pulling in of their ambition because they think a section of the audience won’t ‘get it’.

Art for all – and no one left behind.  I suppose it’s a bit Fred Kite to put it in those terms – all those fields of wheat and ballet in the evening – but look at The Red Shoes.  I think there’s an element – as with some of the MGM musicals, but it seems all the more pointed with the Archers – of emerging from a black and white world of wartime newsreel horror to something giddy and vivid with colour.  You know, it’s there in A Matter of Life and Death — but it just seems to explode once the war is over.  ‘Life finds a way.’

DAMIAN: Funny, but if someone asked me about British identity or film images and cinematography that closely matched my own first vivid impressions of the country and memories of childhood, I’d say, for some very strange reason or another, Hitchcock’s Frenzy every time.

Yes, it’s an odd choice because it obviously evokes Hitch’s childhood in the East End and not my own in Stoke, and yet, there’s just something about the cars, clothes and the general colour and “smell” of it all that resonates deeply; something strange and unsettling bubbling under the surface. Eyes watching.

Now, I know I seem to be continuously obsessed with questions regarding your childhood but, as I hope readers will agree, they do help to inform our understanding of your writing. So, given that you clearly draw upon them time and again in Endeavour, can you please try to give me an example of a film that visually echoes your first memories?

RUSS: 10 Rillington Place.

That’s not quite as facetious as it sounds.  There were still bits of London that bore signs of The Blitz.  Little areas that were still very ‘Hue and Cry’.  Around ‘70, we shot bits of Sunday Bloody Sunday in Spencer Park – about five minutes away from where I grew up.  So I can always stick that on.  There was a sequence in that (spoiler alert) where something happens to the family dog.  Shooting on location, we used a squat as a base for wardrobe and make-up.  I have a strong recollection of Afghan coats, pachouli oil and dope.  It was all very ‘Withnail’ – so that’s another touchstone.  The Art Direction – like everything else about Bruce Robinson’s masterpiece – is just superb.  Bits of Blow Up.  Weirdly — but not more weird than any of these, I suppose — the first series of Catweazle catches lightning in a bottle.  Essence of ‘69.

Some aspects of Pete Walker’s ouvre make for a terrific time capsule.  The opening of Frightmare – that features Andrews Sachs very briefly – is Battersea Park, where I spent a lot of time as a boy.  And the Susan George picture Die Screaming, Marianne – which I think also features Barry Evans — has some good London stuff.  But going back to Withnail — one of the many things it absolutely pins down is just how bloody cold and damp it was.  Britain before Central Heating was the norm.  Now, it’s underfloor heating.  Then, you’d wake to ice on the inside of the window panes.

DAMIAN: We finally see Joan Thursday in Leamington Spa which seemed a curious choice of location. Would this have anything to do with a certain by-election which took place there in The Thick of It?

RUSS:  No.  It just struck me as somewhere interesting for her to wash up.  Rog had reservations that we wouldn’t have found flats such as she was living in — but a bit of digging turned up some not dissimilar.  There are, of necessity, some blank pages which cover how she got there, but it was as much to do with her ‘fancy man’ as anything else.

DAMIAN: I’d like to highlight some of the following scene between Endeavour and Caroline Bryce-Morgana as it appears in the script:

ENDEAVOUR: You know, it’s hard to believe you’re anything to do with Susan at all.
CAROLINE: She’s a romantic. Like her father. That same streak of pity for life’s not-quite-up-to-its flows through her veins. Still. You cured her of that. I suppose I should be grateful. She never loved you, Morse.
ENDEAVOUR: ‘If equal affection cannot be…’
CAROLINE: Oh. Poetry. I’d forgotten that particular affection. The last refuge of the emotionally incontinent. You think you have a monopoly on feeling. Well, you don’t. I feel things too. Just as much as you. More so, perhaps.
ENDEAVOUR: What do you feel, Caroline?
CAROLINE: Real things. The things that dragged us out of the primordial slime. That make us strong. Pride. Anger. Resentment. Jealousy. Hatred.
ENDEAVOUR: That’s called grief. When you speak to Susan, give her…
CAROLINE: Oh yes? Giver her? Give her what? Your love?
ENDEAVOUR: Condolences. I was going to say. Give her my condolences. Whatever you think of me, I’m sorry he’s [Mr Bryce-Morgan] dead. Truly.
CAROLINE: I wish you were dead. You’ll die, Morse. You’ll die old and alone. And no one will give a damn.

Although I understand why she’s so hurtful in this particular scene, why exactly does she hate Endeavour so much in the first place?

RUSS:  I think she resented his coming between her and Susan.  Some mother/daughter relationships can be unhealthy.  Controlling,  Caroline felt she had married…  unwisely, and was to a degree attempting to rectify her own mistakes by managing her daughter’s life better than she felt she had managed her own.  Endeavour was potentially a spanner in the works.  She had to see him off.

DAMIAN: Described as a young Joanna David in her mid-late 20s, we see Susan for the first time (her “appearance” in First Bus to Woodstock obviously doesn’t count) at her father’s grave, I wonder if you originally had any plans to introduce her properly in the following film or films?

RUSS:  We’re mindful always of the Prime Directive.

DAMIAN: There are also various other mourners mentioned in the script including William (a young Richard Pascoe) and Henry Fallon, and curiously given we’ve already had a parrot in the film, a manservant with an eyepatch! Who’s that then?

RUSS: A young McGregor!  Who else?!

DAMIAN: Just time for one more question before I leave to catch my train, can you say something about Film III: Passenger?

RUSS:  Our Ladybird Book of the Railway.  The jumping off point was the Varsity Line which ran between Cambridge and Oxford, and its closure at the end of 1967.  Interestingly, it was one of the few closures that didn’t arise from the Beeching review.  It appears it had simply become more practical for passengers travelling in either direction to use London as a nexus.  So – that was the grit in the oyster.

I’ve got a thing for lonesome stations, and old branch lines.  Blame The Signalman, amongst others, I suppose.  Tickets, please!

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Dakota Blue Richards

The Home Office was appalled and said that women were not proper persons in the eyes of the law when Edith Smith became the first female police officer with official powers of arrest in 1915. However, by 1920, and after The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919, the Baird Committee stated that women could indeed be appointed as police officers although this came with the caveat that their duties be confined to dealing with women and children only.

The conditions in which female officers work, and the respect and recognition afforded to them, have obviously changed for the better over the years but progress has been frustratingly slow and much still needs to be done to increase awareness and understanding of the issues affecting women within the police force today.

There were 2,500 women police officers across the UK in 1960, the marriage bar (women had to leave the profession if they married) was lifted towards the end of the decade and women were finally given the opportunity of carrying out the same duties as men. However, in 1968 (the year in which the fifth series of Endeavour takes place) there were only 14 female officers working in Oxford City Police compared to 276 male officers. These figures rose when the amalgamation occurred later that same year and became Thames Valley Constabulary which covered Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, but in one of the largest territorial police forces in England which employed 2305 officers, just 126 were women.

While the British Association of Women in Policing continues its equality campaign for female police officers across the UK in which women make up 51% of the population, it has been estimated in recent years that only 27.9% of today’s entire police force are actually female.

~~~

RINGLEADER, TOM-BOY, AND CHUM TO THE WEAK

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

With Dakota Blue Richards

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2018

~

DAMIAN: I donʼt know if you were familiar with Inspector Morse, Lewis or Colin Dexterʼs novels on which they were based but what was your initial reaction to being offered the part of WPC Shirley Trewlove?

DAKOTA: When I first auditioned for Endeavour I was sent an episode to read in which Trewlove had only four lines. I was promised that the character would grow and develop into ‘one of the gang’ as the series went on and given a vague outline of what that might entail, but the truth is I was going in blind. I didn’t know anything about the character – what sort of a person she was, where she came from or where she might end up. But I had seen the first two seasons of the show and was struck by the high production values and the wonderful acting of the regular characters so I figured I ought to put my trust in the team behind it and hope for the best. I suppose you could call it a leap of faith. It was daunting, of course, joining a cast so well established but everyone was so welcoming that I soon felt at home on set.

DAMIAN: The writer, Russell Lewis, has told me in previous interviews that Trewloveʼs creation owes a little something to the female police officers depicted in Carry on Constable, Joyce Grenfellʼs PW Sgt. Ruby Gates in the St. Trinianʼs series, Shirley Eaton in many British films from the period in which she played cool, capable and resourceful characters such as Nurse Denton in Carry on Nurse and he wondered what might happen with those kind of characters if he wrote the part straight rather than for laughs. Other inspirations include Sue Lloyd as Jean Courtney in The Ipcress File and John Betjemanʼs poem Myfanwy. Did you ever discuss these influences with Russ at any point?

DAKOTA: Sadly Russell never shared his influences with me. Trewlove was something I had to figure out on my own.

DAMIAN: How did you go about researching your character given that there were so few women police officers during the sixties?

DAKOTA: It was tricky. As you say, there weren’t many women in the police force which gave me relatively little to work with and what I could find about them was usually just statistics. No first hand accounts. I read a lot about the sort of jobs women were typically given; usually the ones seen to be too sensitive for the male officers, such as breaking bad news or dealing with victims, particularly cases involving children or sexual assault. Trewlove is actually involved in the investigative work a lot more than most women would have been allowed to be at that time. With that being said, I can appreciate how it feels to work in a field where you are treated very differently to your male counterparts.

DAMIAN: How do you think the show deals with issues of gender inequality and what do Trewloveʼs storylines or character arc reveal about this struggle?

DAKOTA: I think the show, for the most part, steers clear of tackling this issue head on. On the whole, the men around her treat her with the respect her hard work earns her. It goes without saying that Trewlove’s career trajectory will be different to that of her peers, but that doesn’t deter her from getting involved (as much as possible) and from striving to be her best self. She rarely lets anybody see how affected she is by the pressures of working in a male-dominated environment, but there is a lovely moment this season where she empathises with Fancy when he claims he feels overlooked. There are occasions in this series where guest characters attempt to patronise or harass her but she takes it all in her stride – she can feel that times are changing and as Endeavour tells Fancy in Film 1 ‘She doesn’t suffer fools.’

DAMIAN: Letʼs talk about your thoughts on some of the other characters. For someone who is essentially a loner, Endeavour certainly has his fair share of female admirers. What do you think makes him so attractive to women?

DAKOTA: I think to a greater or lesser extent we all want what we can’t have. Endeavour may be intelligent, principled, witty and very occasionally charming but he is also emotionally unavailable and that is a real draw for a lot of people. And those cheekbones certainly don’t do him any damage.

DAMIAN: Trewlove is attracted to him as well isnʼt she?

DAKOTA: Naturally – it’s a rule on the show that everyone is attracted to Endeavour. Trewlove connects with Endeavour on an intellectual level that I think is quite rare. She has a lot of respect for him and harbours a deep desire to impress him. I think to an extent she sees him as another puzzle – something to be figured out. But she can also be quite playful with him, she’s one of the only characters that dares tease him.

DAMIAN: As you say, certainly on an intellectual and cultural level, wouldnʼt Trewlove and Endeavour make a perfect couple?

DAKOTA: I think so. But Trewlove isn’t going to waste her time waiting for him to realise that. Endeavour is his own worst enemy when it comes to romance; he’s allowed himself to become so obsessed with chasing something he can’t have that he’s blinded himself to everything and everyone else. He has a few affairs this season but they’re short lived and he never really allows himself to be fully present. Trewlove is a little more pragmatic in her approach to romance; if you want love just pick somebody and love them. Endeavour may come to realise what he could have had with Trewlove, but, as with all great love stories, it’ll likely be tragically too late.

DAMIAN: For me, one of the lovely surprises of the show has been the way in which the bond between Trewlove and Bright seems to grow with each new series but how would you describe their relationship?

DAKOTA: I love Trewlove’s relationship with Bright. He’s always looked out for her and given her encouragement and she returns the favour in his moments of vulnerability. She looks up to him as a sort of father figure. I always imagined that Trewlove had lost someone she cared for and perhaps Bright goes some way to filling the gap that was left.

DAMIAN: Thereʼs a beautiful scene in PREY in which Bright tells Trewlove the story about him killing the man-eating tiger of Kot Kindri but that he failed to save the life of a fellow officer. Thereʼs another moment which I loved when theyʼre hunting the tiger in Oxford and he says “If we should encounter anything, you stay by me, yes?” which highlights his almost fatherly relationship with her. And yet, in the script for LAZARETTO (Blue Amendments) where Trewlove visits Bright in hospital she says, “Itʼs alright, sir. I wonʼt leave you. You just get some sleep. Iʼll be right here”, and a particularly revealing line in the description that reads: “TREWLOVE settles into a chair [next to his bed]… A tigress minding her cub.” Now, this actually made me look at the relationship from a different perspective because I originally thought of it as Bright mentoring Trewlove but couldnʼt it also quite easily be the case that it is he who actually needs her?

DAKOTA: There comes a time in every parent/child relationship when the cared for becomes the carer and vice versa. It’s nice to see Trewlove return the favour.

DAMIAN: As I often say, the cast is exceptionable and one of the finest ensembles on British television, but what is it like working with an actor of such gravitas as Anton Lesser?

DAKOTA: Anton is one of the world’s better people. The ideal combination of talent, humour, professionalism and gentility. He never fails to delight me and is always the best part of my day. Working with him has truly been a joy and an honour.

~~~

Very special thanks to the British Association of Women in Policing and especially Professor Louise A. Jackson of the School of History, Classics & Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh and author of Women Police: Gender, Welfare and Surveillance in the Twentieth Century for their generous time and assistance with the information which proceeds this interview.

~

THE ENDEAVOUR INTERVIEWS 2018: Russell Lewis Part II

Will the reader please cast their eye over the following lines, and see if they can discover anything harmful in them?

EXT. OXFORD COLLEGE. QUAD – DAY
The topless towers of Oxonium. Not a cloud to spoil the view.
TILT DOWN to BIRD’S EYE VIEW – wet flagstones… rain.
Coloured umbrellas pass below. A song and dance number begins. An ‘Outside Broadcast’ for a ‘Light Entertainment Special’ featuring MIMI, a chanteuse. HUGE STYROFOAM LETTERS spell out her name. DANCERS in coloured RAIN GEAR splash their way around the quad as…
MIMI: Like summer tempests came my tears, love, when I learned you’d been untrue. But after rain must come a rainbow. So, until then here’s what I’ll do…

PUNCH, BROTHERS, PUNCH!

(or Les infortunes de la vertu)

An exclusive ENDEAVOUR interview

Composed and conducted by Damian Michael Barcroft

Lyrics by Russell Lewis

~~~

With thanks to Lorenz Milton Hart and Richard Charles Rogers

& Matthew Slater for the images of RAK Studios

~

DAMIAN: I remember the day well and, of course, that bloody song – talk about involuntary musical imagery! And good God, wasn’t it hot?

RUSS:  Extremely.  The dancers in their plastic macs, sou’westers and good quality rubber boots had my sympathy.  As did Sharlette – our wonderful vocalist.  But yes – perhaps our most blisteringly hot shooting day since we began in 2011.

DAMIAN: Aside from Tiger-gate, was opening an episode of Endeavour with a pop song and dance routine one of the most bold and surprising creative decisions thus far?

RUSS: Ha!  Always with the tiger.  It wasn’t for me.  Like Mister Walken – I’m a hoofer at heart. The sequence began as a salute to Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, and evolved from there.

DAMIAN: I’ve said this before but you’re a very modest fellow, often frustratingly so for the purposes of these interviews, but let us simply assume, for the benefit of this piece, that you are indeed a VERY accomplished and successful screenwriter. The songs you wrote for CANTICLE, particularly ‘Make Believe’, were extremely catchy and, if we didn’t know better, genuinely sounded like a popular hit from the period. So, at what point did you feel confident as a lyricist and discover these hidden musical talents?

RUSS: Well – like the man said, I’ve a lot to be modest about.  As a youth I used to weep in Rod Argent’s Keyboard Shop on Denmark Street.  The usual teenage thing – bands; song-writing; colour me Les McQueen.  That particular creative muscle hasn’t been exercised for a long time, but if one has any facility for that sort of thing – it’s a bit like riding a bike.  And, of course, I was very fortunate to have Matt Slater on hand to do the heavy lifting.

DAMIAN: Are you familiar with another song entitled ‘Make Beileve’ from Show Boat?

RUSS: I haven’t seen Show Boat for decades.  I landed on that for a title as it was a massive hidden clue and a pointer towards the dangerous delusion at the heart of the matter.

DAMIAN: Wouldn’t it have been a bit naff and possibly even embarrassing if the songs weren’t up to scratch, and if that had been the case, would you have had someone else rewrite the material or perhaps scrap it all together?

RUSS: Seeing as much of the story depended on a credible soundtrack, I can’t imagine we’d have scrapped it. We just had to apply ourselves.

DAMIAN: Matthew told me you wrote some sections of the song in the script but then he asked you to write more verses to help him complete the music which you both did in about thirty minutes? Thirty minutes! This can’t be true can it?

RUSS:  I think it was about that.  We were clearly dragging our feet that day.

DAMIAN: And is it really true that two actors during one of the playback scenes were trying to Google one of the songs to see who originally wrote it back in the sixties?

RUSS:  I did hear that this was the case.

DAMIAN: You visited the recording of the songs at RAK Studios, what was it like to hear your lyrics performed alongside a rhythm section, brass and strings?

RUSS: Enormous fun. Like Abbey Road, it’s a place with an incredible history.  So – hugely exciting. The place was packed.  Sharlette; the boys from The Wildwood; Shaun came down; Helen Ziegler [producer]; Michael Lennox, the Director.  And I was there with my son James.  All of us cluttering up the control room – getting under the feet of the engineers, &c.  It was a very special day.  And in the middle of all the madness was Matt Slater – keeping his head and getting on with business. It was a privilege to see him working, as always.  Whatever madness we’ve thrown at him over the last couple of series, he never fails to deliver all we’ve asked for, and always a great deal more besides.

©Matthew Slater

©Matthew Slater

©Matthew Slater

DAMIAN: Did you celebrate with Rum, Scotch and Coke?

RUSS: I would refer you to Endeavour’s opening line in First Bus to Woodstock.

DAMIAN: In addition to Tony Hancock and those bloody Carry On films, almost every set of our interviews contain some mention of The Beatles. Can you remember when they split up and were you one of those fans who retreated to their bedroom in tears?

RUSS: I would have been seven – so…  unlikely.

DAMIAN: And what about when Zayn left One Direction?

RUSS:  I’m still mourning Geri’s departure from the Spice Girls.

DAMIAN: Do you listen to much modern music and what was the last album you purchased?

RUSS: I listen to all sorts of things.  iTunes tells me my last purchase was a movie soundtrack that was in heavy rotation during the writing of MUSE.

DAMIAN: The first few films including First Bus to WoodstockGirl, Fugue and probably quite a few more since feature typewriters and very particular mention of typefaces (a Smith Corona Deluxe Electric typewriter and Elite Number 66 typeface in Canticle) is this yet another example of your curious fascinations?

RUSS: A writer’s pre-occupation.  I started on type-writers.  Rewrites were a particular treat. Change a word or a line – re-type the entire page.

DAMIAN: Again, and far too many to mention them all, there are lots of literary and cultural references but I’m especially intrigued by connections to The Wind in the Willows which feature in CANTICLE. Is Kenneth Grahame’s classic a particular favourite?

RUSS: Published only six years before all the old certainties were blown to hell by the Great War, there’s something about its prelapsarian idyll that seems to connect with the back to The Garden innocence of the flower-children.

And the tragic death of Alistair, a.k.a. ‘Mouse’, the Grahames’ only child, while up at Oxford, to whom The Wind in the Willows had first been told as a bedtime story, lends another layer of connection.  It doesn’t take much detective work to get from there to The Piper At the Gates of Dawn.

DAMIAN: And there’s some interesting narrative parallels with Cherubim and Seraphim from the original series isn’t there?

RUSS: Very much so.  I think Morse’s comment to Lewis about his never having taken recreational drugs still stands. Endeavour was poisoned with hallucinogens.  I draw a distinction.

DAMIAN: And finally before we move on from the references and nods, are you an avaricious consumer of the Marquis de Sade’s work?

RUSS: Essential bedtime reading.

DAMIAN: Let’s now talk about some of the characters. Given his dislike for hippies and Germans, the fact that he won’t even hug his own son in public as he leaves for the army and generally displays certain personality characteristics that are probably out of touch even in the sixties, isn’t it somewhat surprising to find that Thursday has such liberal views on recreational drugs and homosexuality?

RUSS: It didn’t strike me as particularly liberal.  He states that he smoked hash as a fact, and that it didn’t do much for him.  That’s hardly an endorsement.  He upholds the law that he’s obliged to uphold.  I think the war probably put a lot of things into perspective for him.  When you’ve looked death in the eye, you tend not to sweat over the small stuff.  Judge not.

DAMIAN: Thursday has a difference of opinion on homosexulaity in an unfilmed scene in which Strange says that ‘poofs’ are ‘not right’ and ‘neither use nor ornament’, to which Thursday replies ‘We had one in the platoon. North Africa. Harris. Bravest man I ever knew… Sniper [shot him at] Second El Alamein. I closed his eyes. Brave to the last. If he’d made it back to Civvy Street, I might’ve had cause to nick him. And that can’t be right. Comes down to it, we all bleed red’. Is it realistic that a soldier would have been openly gay during WW2 or is this something the chap simply told Thursday in confidence?

RUSS:  If you’ll forgive me – there’s a danger of overthinking this.  I can’t imagine it was a conversation that ever took place.  There’s nothing new about don’t ask, don’t tell.  It was an assumption made, I’m sure, based upon Harris’s demeanour – as right or wrong as that might seem to us now.  Had Thursday served with…  I don’t know…  our own Charles Highbank – the window dresser from Burridges, played by best beloved Adrian Schiller – it’s somewhat unlikely Thursday would have mistaken him for a raging heterosexual.  There’s really no more to it than that.  But I think the important thing here is that such experiences – living cheek by jowl with a man, sharing the same foxhole – would have made Thursday, and others, question the orthodoxy – and indeed the law – that invited – if not required – them to view such men with suspicion and contempt.

DAMIAN: Were Strange’s comments cut for fear the audience might find them offensive?

RUSS:  Never.  No – for length.

DAMIAN: Is there sometimes a certain danger that television is rewriting history and is it convincing that most of the main characters of period dramas happen to share the contemporary views of the people who write them?

RUSS: Which is why I had Strange express the views I did.  Had it made the cut, it would have given some of the more predictable period context to offset Thursday’s view.

DAMIAN: I’m not sure if you’re allowed to say but to what extent was Mrs. Pettybon based on Mary Whitehouse?

RUSS:  Mrs.Pettybon was a composite – much like The Wildwood.  The inspiration was Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) – Joe Orton’s alter-ego – guardian of public morals — created in the 50s long before Mrs.W came to public prominence.  What we were looking to present was a type, of which Mrs.Whitehouse was perhaps the most well known – but she was certainly not alone in her crusading.  It was an attitude one was holding up for inspection, rather than an individual. As I’ve possibly mentioned before, ‘67 saw the death of Orton, Brian Epstein and Joe Meek.  This, together with the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, as a result of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, was in my mind when I started developing the story.

The packaging of a certain kind of manufactured rock and roll band – the management keeping wives and girlfriends out of the picture, so as not to puncture the myth of their potential romantic availability to the young fandom, lest it affect record sales, &c, was also a building block.  The morality of that deceit seemed worth examining – just as much as the moral soapboxing of Mrs.Pettybon.

You know – we’re in the whodunit business, and the notion of a bigger, darker – at least for the period – secret, beyond that being presented on the surface, is key.

But the other big jumping off point was in thinking about whether it would be possible to murder someone without killing them.  If you change their personality, their cognitive abilities, irreversibly – say through spiking them with hallucinogens – it could be argued that the person they were beforehand has effectively been – for want of a better term – ‘murdered’.  The period certainly contained enough ‘acid casualties’ to make it something worth exploring.

DAMIAN: Were the OCD characteristics displayed by Mrs. Pettybon such as the extreme scrubbing of her hands a bit much and didn’t she run a slight risk of becoming something of religious caricature?

RUSS: Out, damned spot!  She did drive her husband to suicide – so she had something to be guilty about.  How does one depict someone who is a religious caricature? The point is that she wasn’t genuinely religious at all. The dissonance between her professed faith and her eagerness to cast the first stone seemed to me vast and obvious.  There was an exchange which we lost from the final cut between Mrs.P and the band’s manager after their appearance on Julian Calendar’s show.  It seemed to my mind to sum up what she was about.

MRS.PETTYBON: Is our car here?
ENDEAVOUR:
 Yes, yes, it’s, er… A taxi.
MRS.PETTYBON: What happened to the nice car that brought us?
RALPH: 
That’s showbusiness, Mrs.Pettybon.
MRS.PETTYBON: I’m not in showbusiness.
RALPH: 
Actually, dear, you are. Boys.
RALPH loads his charges into the TAXI.

She was a fame hungry charlatan who would turn up to the opening of an envelope.  That was the point.  The only appropriate response is ridicule and derision.

DAMIAN: Her daughter, Bettina, is yet another character who has something of a crush on Endeavour, what do you think makes him so attractive to women – especially those who might best be described as vulnerable or troubled?

RUSS:  That he looks remarkably like Shaun Evans possibly has something to do with it.

DAMIAN: Why were references to Bright’s spasms of pain deleted from this and the previous film, surely their inclusion would have made the events of the next film more dramatic and less out of the blue?

RUSS:  Length – again – very likely.  What can I tell you?

DAMIAN: There were two beautiful moments that appeared in the script but sadly didn’t make it on film as originally written: the first has Thursday hold the hallucinating Endeavour gently rocking him back and forth as he calls out ‘Fred?’, to which Thursday replies: ‘That’s right, son. That’s right. It’s Fred. You’re safe now. I’ve got you.’ I’m sure this would have elevated an already great scene to one of the most touching in the entire series so why cut it?

RUSS: On the day, that was the way it went on the floor.

DAMIAN: The second is the corned beef scene in the hospital at the end of the film which originally began with the following ‘ENDEAVOUR – a whiter shade of pale. Somewhere between this world and the next. An angel’s wings brush his cheek. A pair of soft lips find his own’ and Joan says off screen ‘Look after yourself, Morse.’ Again, this is beautiful so why lose it?

RUSS: As with the previous.  ‘Ask me no more…’

DAMIAN: So, while CANTICLE revealed your flair for lyrics, what can you tell us about CARTOUCHE and what new tricks or talents might you still have hidden up your sleeve?

RUSS:  Hmm.  I don’t know about new tricks.  Just an old dog’s selection of fire-sale novelties, gee-gaws and bagatelles from a well-travelled sample case of deceit and legerdemain.  Umm… What can I tell you about CARTOUCHE…  Tonight’s late-night double-feature examines – amongst other things — the fading grandeur of the local flea-pit.  Other aspects of the story were a sobering reminder that all too often the more things change, the more they stay the same.  So…  Two for the Circle.  And don’t forget your popcorn.

DAMIAN: Will there be any more singing and dancing in this series?

RUSS:  Some.

~

‘Why did I write this article? It was for a worthy, even a noble, purpose.  It was to warn you, reader, if you should came across those merciless rhymes, to avoid them—avoid them as you would a pestilence.
A Literary Nightmare by Mark Twain
~