Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Christopher Eccleston and writer Peter Flannery: how we made Our Friends in the North.


Christopher Eccleston, actor

I was filming Shallow Grave, and Danny Boyle mentioned that he’d heard good things about this TV project called Our Friends in the North, which he was originally going to direct. I got hold of the script and right from the off, I knew I had to be in it.

It’s about four friends from Newcastle, telling their story from 1964 to the mid-90s, what was then the present day. At first they offered me the part of Geordie Peacock, the role that eventually went to Daniel Craig. But I had my eye on this terrific character Nicky Hutchinson – a young, educated lad from a working-class background who starts out a firebrand but is ground down by political corruption. I loved the politics of the series, the way it connected the story of postwar Britain – Harold Wilson through to Thatcher and beyond – to individual lives. Plus I couldn’t have competed with Daniel; he brought such sexiness and charisma to Geordie. That’s not really my department.

Normally you only get to play a character from the age of 19 to 60 at drama school. I was in my early 30s at the time, so it involved plenty of terrible wigs, and the accent was a challenge. I found a non-actor who recorded all my dialogue, so that I could keep working on it. In the end I was told it was closer to Sunderland than Newcastle. But I was happy with that. And it was a great opportunity to learn: I wasn’t long out of training, and here I was, surrounded by all these amazing actors: Alun Armstrong, David Bradley, Gina McKee, Peter Vaughan, who played my father.

It was hard. It took nine months to film and one of the directors left a few months after we started shooting in 1995. The very first episode had to be rewritten and reshot (which actually spared the audience hearing my singing). And it was an intense set: things were tense with Peter Vaughan, working through our difficult father-son relationship. Mark Strong and I didn’t get on in real life, just as our characters Nicky and Tosker didn’t get on. We were well cast in that respect – that’s as much as I’ll say.

I’m suspicious of the label it often gets as the best drama ever; things have to be looked at forensically. There were many flaws in Our Friends in the North – those wigs, the lack of budget, the internal politics – but I think they were flaws because it was so ambitious. It came from a particular era of television: writer-led, issue-led. I genuinely don’t think anyone would have the balls to make it now.

Monday, 26 January 2015

New interview with Chris uploaded.

Chris interview on the “One Show” about Fortitude has been uploaded to my Chris website.

It can be found here: www.bad-wolf.info under the Videos tab.


Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude – Christopher Eccleston Interview.


Surrounded by the savage beauty of the frozen landscape, Fortitude, a small town in the Arctic Circle, is one of the safest towns on earth.

There has never been a violent crime here. Until now.

In this close-knit community, a murder touches everyone and the unsettling horror of the crime threatens the future of the town itself. The local police chief, Sheriff Dan Anderssen (Richard Dormer), must investigate alongside Eugene Morton (Stanley Tucci), a detective who has flown into Fortitude so fast that questions are being asked about how much he knew, and when. As the two cops try to make sense of the killing, each finds reasons to mistrust and suspect the other. The murder is a catastrophe for the town’s governor Hildur Odegard (Sofie Gråbøl), who’s planning on turning the declining mining town into a site for high-end tourism. For wildlife photographer Henry Tyson (Michael Gambon), who only has weeks left to live, meanwhile, the murder is the catalyst to unearthing Fortitude’s darkest secret.

As the cold Arctic darkness gives way to endless summer nights, this apparently idyllic community struggles to make sense of the horror that has been let loose at its heart.

Award-winning British actor Christopher Eccleston is highly acclaimed for his work on both stage and screen. He was BAFTA-nominated for his roles in Our Friends in the North and The Second Coming, and received an International Emmy for his work in Accused. In 2005, Eccleston became the ninth Doctor Who and, most recently, he starred in Thor: The Dark World and HBO drama The Leftovers, which also airs on Sky Atlantic. In Fortitude, Christopher Eccleston plays Professor Charlie Stoddart.

What were your first thoughts when you read the script for Fortitude?

I know Simon Donald’s theatre writing and I’ve always admired him, so I liked the detail of characterisation within his dialogue. Then, of course, the scale of the thing – it’s massive. And that cast, I wanted to work with those actors. I’d seen a lot of Richard Dormer’s stuff, and working with him was a big attraction for me, and of course to work with Michael Gambon, and then to have people from entirely different cultures and disciplines like Stanley and Sofie. It’s an amazing cast.

Did you all get along?

We got along fantastically, and I think that was helped by the fact that we were uprooted and dropped in the middle of Iceland at regular intervals, which is a beautiful and extraordinary country. The sense of wonder we all felt out there, the intensity and beauty of the place, is really present in the programme.

Had you been there before?

I had shot in Iceland before on Thor 2, but this was in an entirely different part of the country. I was very much landlocked and inland the first time, and I much preferred where we shot this time.

Did you get to see the sights?

I did. I’m a runner, so on my days off I was running out along the roads, out in these vast valleys and glaciers.

How would you describe your character? How does he fit into the story?

Charlie is a scientist of the natural world, so for me he had a real idealism and a childlike wonder to him. He makes a discovery which is every natural scientist’s dream and he’s desperate to protect it, and to a certain extent he represents the world of nature and idealism. Sofie’s character comes into conflict with him because she’s very much concerned with the world of commerce and business, and is trying to promote Fortitude as a tourist destination, whereas he knows about the impact of tourism on nature and he’s trying very much to protect that. So he’s quite childlike really, he has a huge enthusiasm and a huge imagination. It was refreshing for me to play somebody who’s, in a sense, so untroubled personally. He’s troubled by events that happen around him but as a human being he’s really upbeat, and has a great relationship with Luke Treadaway’s character, who is a young scientist. There are shades of a paternal relationship there which I enjoyed. Luke’s a great actor to work with and such a nice guy. There’s a lot going on in the series.

How would you describe the show?

It’s a crime drama with wonderful scale and ambition, and it’s also very much a human drama. Despite the locations and the crime element, it’s really an examination of character motivation, all these really quite extreme and eccentric people are drawn to this extraordinary place to live for quite idealistic reasons, and then this brutal murder happens. The series examines the impact of tragedy on a close-knit community, and it lifts the lid on how people in those very tight communities live. It’s always nice to watch something that isn’t very obvious as well. Exactly. I don’t think the tone of it is entirely predictable, and that was a big attraction for me. You couldn’t quite pin it down. And, of course, you’re in The Leftovers, which is another very mysterious series. Yes, that’s right, I was thinking that too. The tone of both shows is quite unusual, which actually makes them quite difficult to talk about really. Atmosphere is such a huge aspect of both of these series and that can only be experienced by watching it.

As you’ve already mentioned, Fortitude has attracted a stellar cast, including the Oscarnominated Stanley Tucci. Can you appreciate why, in recent years, more film stars are starting out to work in television?

Absolutely. Over the last 15 or 16 years, America has really led the way in terms of what TV can do. It’s become the long-form novel, you really get opportunities to examine a character in a way that you’re never going to get in a film where you’re just another special effect. Whereas what The Sopranos, for instance, or Breaking Bad does is appeal to real actors, and that’s what a lot of the actors get in Fortitude: an opportunity to really examine their characters in detail.

That must be so rewarding, to peel away different layers to a character?

Every season in Breaking Bad and The Sopranos there are new facets, where you’re not just playing a standard character. Yes, and it’s an indictment of what’s happening in cinema, because that’s what we used to do in films but it doesn’t happen anymore, they’re just popcorn rides. Which is why television is suddenly getting crowded with all these film stars.

What medium do you prefer to work in?

Theatre. You know, you have to do television and films to make a living. There’s not a huge amount of money in theatre, and if you’ve got a mortgage and a family…

Is there a particular type of part you’re hungry to play, or do you feel that you’ve done the lot?

I’m always looking to play something different, something lighter. I’ve played a great deal of tragedy.

You’re very good at it, though.

And if they’ll pay me I’ll do it, but I’d like to explore comedy, I’d love to do some comedy really and lighter stuff.

When you play heavier roles, do you take that home with you?

Not consciously. I would not describe myself as a method actor, but I think if you spend a day replicating what it feels like to lose your child or to murder somebody, to a certain extent that’s going to go home with you. I think that’s why I run so much, because after shooting, if I possibly can, I get my shoes on and go and burn it off for an hour, I find that very useful for me. I think you do take it home without realising it, but the more experience you get the smarter you are about handling that.

How much of a draw is the location of a project when it comes to picking a part?  If a script isn’t great, could a shoot in Barbados, for instance, make it a bit more desirable?

I’m sure that is a draw. What was great about Fortitude was that you could see exactly how essential that location was to the tone of the piece, because the characters we’re examining throughout the series have been drawn to that place for very specific and personal reasons. You don’t choose to go and live in an extreme environment like that unless you’re unusual. So what Fortitude has is a number of very unusual, original characters packed together, which for a drama is perfect. None of these people are run-of-the-mill. They all have very strong back stories and mystery to them, which is the stuff of drama.

Looking back over your career, can you single out an actor or actress you’ve learned the most from?

Yes, Peter Vaughan, who played my father in Our Friends in the North. He’s the actor I’ve learned the most from in terms of performance and how to conduct yourself on a set. He was a great example to me. On Our Friends in the North, there was Gina McKee, Mark Strong, Daniel Craig and myself, but Peter Vaughan was by far and away the most intense and committed actor of all of us and he was in his 70s. That was a huge example to me. He took me under his wing and taught me a great deal.

In Fortitude, your character is an expert in all things Arctic based. Are you an expert on anything?

What would your Mastermind specialist subject be? Probably soul music. And I’m not talking Motown, I’m talking Stax soul, what we call southern soul. I’ve also got a big interest in reggae and ska. But I don’t run listening to music, I’m a purist. I run listening to my own banal thoughts.

There’s quite an eerie element to Fortitude, isn’t there?

When was the last time you were properly freaked out about something or experienced something that was seemingly unexplainable? That’s never happened to me. I’ve longed for it to happen, I’d love to experience something of that nature, but I’m a natural sceptic and it’s never happened to me. I remain open, though, as does my character.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Former Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston set for return to the small screen.

Undated Sky Atlantic Handout Photo from Fortitude. Pictured: Christopher Eccleston as Professor Charlie Stoddart. See PA Feature TV Eccleston. Picture Credit should read: PA Photo/Amanda Searle/Sky Atlantic/Tiger Aspect Productions. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TV Eccleston. WARNING: These pictures are either BSKYB copyright or under license to BSKYB. They are for BSKYB editorial use only. These pictures may not be reproduced or redistributed electronically without the permission of Sky Stills Picture Desk<br /><br />

Former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston returns to the small screen - and to Iceland - in Fortitude. Kate Samuelson discovers the new 'Nordic noir', his love of the island and why actors can't be too picky when there's a mortgage to pay

It's the premiere of Sky Atlantic's new drama Fortitude, but Christopher Eccleston is far from excited about his first glimpse of the show.

"I don't like watching myself back," the actor reveals. "What happens is, you're watching something, and you think, 'This is great, but who's that idiot?' And it's you."

Eccleston's attitude should not be mistaken for a lack of enthusiasm for the new 'Nordic noir' series, which cost a rumoured £28million to make, and also stars Michael Gambon, Sofie Grabol and Stanley Tucci.

The greying yet dapper 50-year-old, who plays a British scientist running the Arctic Biology department at the Fortitude Arctic Research Centre, clearly loved every minute of filming. His eyes light up when asked about returning to Iceland, two years after he was there shooting fantasy action-adventure movie Thor: The Dark World.

"I did Thor Two, whatever it was called... Dark Underpants or something, but I had a much better time on Fortitude," he says animatedly. "I much preferred the locations that we shot in, I had a much better script and I wasn't in prosthetic make-up for eight hours every day. And I wasn't a naughty elf. I was a naughty elf in the bar on Fortitude, but I wasn't a naughty elf [on set]."

So often associated with intense, sombre roles (Eccleston played Jude the Obscure in a 1996 adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel, a war hero in The Others, and the unusually serious ninth Doctor in Doctor Who), the actor's jokey nature is a pleasant surprise.

He clearly likes to let his - rather impressive quantity of - hair down when the opportunity arises.

As well as the "extraordinary quality of light and air" and the Northern Lights, which Eccleston saw nearly every night and jokingly claims became rather mundane, the star seems mainly nostalgic for the bar the cast frequented.

It had some great beers - Icelandic beers - and we all tried the local stuff. There are some serious drinkers in Iceland, and some serious drinkers in the cast of Fortitude, it has to be said."

No wonder Eccleston is keen to do a second series of the drama, that's centred around a mysterious death ("I'd love to get back out to Iceland").

After finishing up on Fortitude, he flew straight from Iceland to Manhattan to film The Leftovers, alongside Justin Theroux, where he plays an evangelical struggling with his own humanity.

"I remember bringing a lot of the spirit of Fortitude to The Leftovers. I was very enthusiastic and relaxed - full of the wonders of the world."

But even Iceland didn't prepare him for a winter in New York: "It was a really tough one - New Yorkers said that. We filmed a lot of night shoots and it got really bitter."

He tried to stay in his American accent throughout filming, even when he went out in the evenings, he says, and notes he was surprised by the "huge addiction, even among New York-hardened crew members, to Downton Abbey".

And what about Eccleston himself - would he fancy a role in Julian Fellowes' mega-popular period drama? "If the script was good enough, yes," he replies. "I think you've got to leave yourself open to everything, when you've got a mortgage..."

His children - two-year-old Albert and baby Esme - joined their father on the set in Manhattan.

"I don't like being away from my family at all, especially when they're this young. But it has to be done, because I have to feed them," says the actor, whose next project is a second series of The Leftovers. He'll also appear in Legend, a violent thriller movie about the rise and fall of the Kray twins, and the psychological TV drama, Safe House, later this year.

He speaks fondly of his hometown, Salford, in Greater Manchester, where his mother and twin brothers still live, and remains a staunch Manchester United fan. "I had a season ticket for 25 years... It's genetically impossible for me not to support them."

In a 1996 TV film entitled Hillsborough and based on the 1989 tragedy, he portrayed Trevor Hicks, the father who campaigned for safer stadiums and helped form the Hillsborough Families Support Group after his two daughters died in the disaster.

Hicks and Eccleston have remained great friends since meeting during the film's production (Eccleston was even best man at Hicks' wedding), and the role remains one of his proudest parts. "When I decided to be an actor, I wanted to be of some use. Hillsborough [the film] was certainly a very small tool in pushing for the inquiry, and hopefully the families will get justice."


Friday, 16 January 2015

Fortitude–Dublin premier.


Christopher Eccleston, star of Sky Atlantic’s new drama Fortitude, said he loved working with Dublin-born Michael Gambon on the show.

The show, which premiered at the Mansion House tonight, is set around the town of Fortitude in the Arctic Circle, which is the safest town in the world until something awful happens.

The show also stars Game of Thrones Irish actor Richard Dormer (who was late to the premiere due to a delayed flight), Stanley Tucci and Luke Treadaway.

“Michael [Gambon] is incredible, I’ve seen him on stage in three different roles and he’s the greatest actor I’ve seen on stage,” said Eccleston (50), famous for his former role as Dr Who.

Meanwhile, he said that new project Fortitude will be a launchpad for his co-star Richard Dormer’s career.


“This show is going to make Richard a star – he’s a great actor and a brilliant writer,” he told the Herald. “Filming in Iceland was great, for the first time in a long time it didn’t snow when it was supposed to, so we had to bring in fake snow,” he said.

“It was beautiful, the Icelandic people were amazing – it was incredible.”


Friday, 9 January 2015

Meet the cast of Sky Atlantic's ambitious new drama Fortitude in a Digital Spy exclusive video.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILCW21Dxqvo for the video.

Stanley Tucci, Sofie Gråbøl and Christopher Eccleston are among the stars who reveal why they decided to join the Arctic thriller's ensemble cast.
Jessica Raine, Richard Dormer and Michael Gambon will also appear in the 12-parter, which charts a murder investigation in the peaceful, close-knit community of Fortitude.

Fortitude on Sky Atlantic

© Sky Atlantic

Shot on location in Iceland and the UK, Fortitude was devised and written by Low Winter Sun's Simon Donald.
Fortitude starts on Sky Atlantic on Thursday January 29 at 9pm.
Fortitude: First look at Sky Atlantic's much-anticipated new TV drama
15 best new TV shows for 2015: Daredevil, Better Call Saul, Thunderbirds and more
Read more: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/news/a620275/fortitude-meet-the-cast-of-sky-atlantics-ambitious-new-tv-drama.html#~p0Tj3rS7esBHvx#ixzz3OLRwgCfj
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