NOTE: Please be aware that the following interview contains spoilers for SWAY (S2:03), ARCADIA (S3:02) and episodes of the original Inspector Morse.
THE ENDEAVOUR ARCHIVES: 4KX
“A policeman’s lot is not a happy one, I’m told. But the lot of a policeman’s wife hardly gets a mention. But while I’ve been out running around, nabbing villains and generally playing silly buggers… the real brains of the outfit has made a house a home, raised two children, our children. Seen ‘em off to school each morning, clean and smart. And somehow, even with all that to do, there’s always been a hot meal for me when I get home. Twenty-five years ago I got the best bit of luck any man ever had. The toast is… my Win.” – THURSDAY
An exclusive interview
by Damian Michael Barcroft
With special thanks to JS Kirstie
DAMIAN: Last Sunday we said a sad farewell to Jack Laskey. Should Little Pete ever find himself in Oxford again, would you find a way to write him back in the show?
RUSS: Jack is a part of the Team Endeavour family forever. So, naturally, I’d be delighted to see Peter Jakes back in Oxford should the opportunity arise.
In real life – Jack’s playing the lead in a fantastic show which shoots in Canada called Company X – and its production dates cross very heavily with ours. It was possible for him to shoot the first half of this series, but his representation let us know through Susie – our casting director – that he would not be available going forward. I was broken hearted to lose him, as we’d barely scratched the surface. But – happily, he survived! – and you never know..? Faces from the past have a habit of turning up in Oxford.
DAMIAN: So SWAY, I really love this film. It’s up there with my absolute favourites FIRST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, HOME and NEVERLAND. We all know that you have mastered the art of the “whodunnit” but like FIRST BUS, SWAY explicitly showcases your ability to juxtapose a detective thriller with beautifully written, character-driven romantic drama. The scenes between Thursday and his old war sweetheart Luisa Armstrong (played to heartbreaking perfection by Cecile Paoli), who haven’t seen each other in twenty years are just devastating. Here’s an example of what I mean:
THURSDAY: We were friends once.
LUISA: That’s the last thing we were. Friendship takes time. What did we have? Two months? Three? If that. There wasn’t room for friendship too.
THURSDAY: Don’t tell me. I was there. I remember everything. Everything. Every moment like nothing before or since. It’s here. Still. Forever. The scent of the pines. The sun on the water. So vivid. And you. All above everything, I remember you.
THURSDAY: Your eyes.
LUISA: You can’t say these things. You can’t, not to me.
THURSDAY: I’ve no-one else to say them to.
“I’ve no-one else to say them to” – still brings a tear to my eye! Of course, all this is particularly heartbreaking since Thursday and wife Win are about to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary! Aside from all the blood and guts, are you a bit of an old softy really?
RUSS: Well – thanks. I’m delighted you liked SWAY. I’m very fond of it too. I once worked in an old fashioned department store, and I suppose Burridges grew out of that.
There’s also a terrific Avengers story ‘Death at Bargain Prices’ – from 1965, I think — that has Steed and Mrs.Peel going undercover at a big London department store; which – though heightened in dramatic terms, and a pretty long way from Endeavourland, was a great spur visually.
However, it was the Carry On team, and Norman Wisdom, I had in mind when I was putting it together. I just wondered what would happen if you recast those almost stock characters // archetypes, and played them straight – rather than for comedy. ‘Carry On Strangling.’
In my mind at least there was as much of Kenneth Connor’s frustrated ‘Phwoarrr!’ underpinning Joey Lisk as there was Michael Caine’s ‘Alfie’. You can probably cast the rest with the remaining Carry On stalwarts yourself.
Anyway, there’s something about such places out of hours – when you’re doing a late night stock-take, say, or laying out stuff for a new display, or a sale – when most of the lights are out, and the escalators have been turned off… The manikins in shadow…
That was my one regret about SWAY – no escalators! But, swings and roundabouts… And the really exciting thing (for a geek like me) is that the location we used for Burridges is the same store that appears in the opening scenes of the Boulting Brothers’ ‘TWISTED NERVE’ – with Hywel Bennett and Haley Mills…
And this is where it all all gets a bit Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Because, it was Bernard Hermann who composed the grating whistling theme to ‘TWISTED NERVE’ — that Quentin Tarantino later rolled out in Kill Bill. From Bernard Hermann it’s but a step to his frequent collaborator Mr.Hitchcock. And the whole thing comes full circle via FRENZY through Billie Whitelaw and (good old Bob Rusk himself) Barry Foster, who both appear in TWISTED NERVE. The necktie strangler was clearly a cousin of the stocking killer. And back to Morse via Barry Foster in ‘The Last Enemy’. So…
By the way — Le Minou Noir was a gift of Camille Gatin’s – Producer on Series II — who, as you probably guessed, is French. I think I’d originally gone for Le Chat Noir as a brand name – but we couldn’t clear it. Though the logo survived.
An old softy? I don’t know. I suspect a natural aptitude for cruelty would be closer to the mark.
DAMIAN: If Luisa, after the “Fredo, hold me. Once. For what we were” moment hadn’t have told Thursday never to come back, would he have continued to see her in secret?
RUSS: “The ‘what if’ game’s no good to any bugger.” I know what I think, but I wouldn’t want to be prescriptive.
RUSS: I don’t think it was scripted. It might have been a suggestion of Andy’s – the director – but it’s just as likely to have been something improvised by Roger.
He likewise improvised the front end of Thursday’s farewell speech to Jakes at the pub in ARCADIA – the one that invokes all the Cowboy film titles. That was all Rog. And rather marvellous it was too. They were light on dialogue on the floor to cover a camera move that Bryn had in mind, and for some reason couldn’t reach me or Sam Costin – so… Cometh the hour — cometh the Allam.
DAMIAN: Another gem of a moment occurs shortly afterwards. Thursday returns home, hangs up the hat and coat and just stares silently at himself in the mirror. Mrs Thursday offers him stew and dumplings and he looks away from the mirror and at her – a moment – but what was he thinking?
RUSS: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…
Here’s this young man from cold grey old England and he finds himself literally parachuted in to this country of colour, dazzling sunlight and heat. Sights, smells, tastes unlike anything he’s ever experienced before. He’s living on his wits – death at his shoulder. Hunted. Running with the partisans. Jeeping one step ahead of those who would kill him. Aware that each day could be his last. And he’s got Luisa working with him…
They were young. Love and death. Two faces on the coin of life. The heart chooses. I felt it made him human. Had he known that she survived the massacre, he might never had come back to England. But he didn’t – and so he came back and picked up the threads of his life. Made a go of it. And it’s been a good life. Win, and Joan and Sam.
And it ties in to a warning from the Code that was drummed into us as kids when the 5th of November rolled around – “NEVER RETURN TO A FIREWORK ONCE LIT.” Which was all of a piece with everything else that was going on in the story. Strange on Patrol in civvies. Endeavour and Nurse Hicks at the bus-stop, etc.
DAMIAN: Was Luisa’s fate always that which occurred on screen or were there other possibilities in your mind?
RUSS: (WARNING! INSPECTOR MORSE SPOILERS FOLLOW!) No – it was always going to be a tragic ending. The jumping off point was DEAD ON TIME – and the Morse/Susan Fallon axis. Lewis finding the cassette tape – and disposing of it. I thought it might be interesting to turn that coat inside out – and make it Thursday who had the romantic history with a suspect.
In early drafts of SWAY, I think right up until the readthrough draft – ENDEAVOUR kept the contents of Luisa’s letter from THURSDAY. Shielded him from the pain it contained. As with Lewis and the cassette tape. But Shaun wasn’t comfortable with that. He didn’t feel he had the right to keep something like that from Thursday. And so the final few scenes were rejigged to the version we went with.
RUSS: Cecile was brought in by Susie Pariss. And if you ever watched Bergerac you will certainly have seen her. She was terrific. Thought she invested the whole thing with great dignity and extraordinary depths of hidden sorrow.
RUSS: I think Roger was pleased with it. Something ‘meaty’ – as he’d describe it — for him to get his teeth into. Read-throughs are typically our last chance to tinker with the script before its issued as a Shooting Draft. They usually take place at the front end of the week between shoots – and I have until Friday to turn around any late thoughts or changes arising from the read. Sometimes it’ll be a production thing – a location or a scheduling issue that’s not going to work for us. But we always have the Network in attendance, and they point up any plot or dialogue things they’re not happy with – and likewise with Shaun and Rog. We read the script through, then hunker down for a couple of post mortems. One with the broadcaster – line changes, etc., points of contention – and then one with the boys. The director sits in on both.
DAMIAN: Was there ever a conscious decision either by yourself or Roger that there should be a very Thursday-heavy film that explored his past in such detail?
RUSS: Yeh – I’d wanted to see a bit more of Thursday’s past life. It had been kicking around in the back of my head even on Series I – and I think I’d mentioned it to Rog even then. I thought it would be interesting if we muddied the water a bit. Filled in some of the blanks. I like characters that are carrying some baggage. Some folk got a bit cross about it – and thought his involvement with Luisa diminished him in some way. I didn’t. Clearly.
I think I mentioned previously – I didn’t want Endeavour – as a character — to be some sort of sexless, neutered, teenybopper fantasy that just held hands and recited Baudelaire over buttered muffins. And it was the same with Thursday. He’s lived a life.
DAMIAN: As straight as a die. Decent. Unafraid. Those are your words to describe DI Fred Thursday. You once told me that you have known people with his qualities, could you tell us who they were please?
RUSS: My old man – principally. Fred Thursday’s war bears a more than passing resemblance to his. Others of his class and generation. His brothers. Mining stock from the Valleys of South Wales. Some great-uncles on my maternal side who fought in the Great War. Lancashire Pals. Signed up under-age. Out of the mill and into the trenches.
DAMIAN: There’s a piece of music that plays throughout SWAY including a scene between Thursday and Luisa and the when Huggins tries to strangle his final victim. It took me a while to place it but I went through my John Barry collection and realized it was very similar to his music score for The Ipcress File. Is this an original piece by Barrington and if so, the Barry influence can’t be a coincidence surely?
RUSS: I haven’t seen it since it was broadcast. But Barrington’s not much minded to pastiche, so it seems unlikely. I’m not sure if you’re talking about the ‘record’ that the killer puts on. In the UK transmission that was Dean Martin’s version of ‘SWAY’ from which the story took its title, but we couldn’t get clearance for the International version, and that includes DVD and iTunes versions – so, it was substituted… I’m pretty sure it was a library piece.
DAMIAN: Well, the piano has stopped and the beer has run dry, please tell us what you can about tonight’s film, PREY…
RUSS: Hmm. Past and future brush shoulders. To which end I’m indebted to our Line Producer Helga Dowie for making sure we had the right location. There’s a very loose connection to Joss Bixby’s ‘Belvedere Set’. It’s quite a pastoral piece. Not much more I can tell you on this one. Except of course… be afraid.
Every life holds one great love. One name to hold onto at the end. One face to take into the dark…
– Luisa Armstrong