Monday 11 December 2017

'All I can say is good luck to them, I can't claim it's mine' - Irish director Neil Jordan distances himself from Sky drama Riviera

BIG-BUDGET: Sky Atlantic drama ‘Riviera’ starring Julia Stiles
BIG-BUDGET: Sky Atlantic drama ‘Riviera’ starring Julia Stiles
Neil Jordan
ulia Stiles as Georgina Clios in Riviera
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

He's the box-office name who created Sky Atlantic's biggest drama of the year Riviera - but now it seems Neil Jordan wants nothing to do with the project.

The director has revealed the episodes he wrote were later changed despite his staunch objections. He added that he had planned for a much darker drama.

The big-budget series that stars Julia Stiles, has set viewing records for Sky Atlantic this month and those who tune in can see Jordan's name trumpeted in the credits.

But the Interview with the Vampire director is not happy with how the TV series has turned out and says - if he really had been in control - viewers would have been treated to a much different product.

Neil Jordan
Neil Jordan

When asked about the project, Jordan said: "All I can say is good luck to them. I can't claim it's mine. If I had been in control of the thing it would have been quite different."

Promoted by Sky as "an intoxicating thriller", advertisements promoting the series boast that it will give viewers an insight into "the opulent playground of the world's filthy rich".

It also promises "morally ambiguous characters" and "audacious excess".

And, despite Jordan's criticisms, the big sell is paying off. When it was released on box-set earlier this month, the series was downloaded by a record 5.3 million viewers.

Jordan is listed as the show's creator and co-writer alongside the Irish novelist John Banville, but he believes people have been misled about his involvement. Critics have said: ''Is this the same Neil Jordan that wrote The Crying Game? Is this the same John Banville who won the Booker Prize?''

''The two episodes we wrote together were reworked by others, after I pulled out," the director said.

"I emailed John, wondering whether his doppelganger Benjamin Black had been up to some strange double tricks. His response was that even that scoundrel wouldn't have written some of that dialogue."

The introduction of some of the raunchier scenes were also meant to have caused Jordan particular annoyance.

ulia Stiles as Georgina Clios in Riviera
ulia Stiles as Georgina Clios in Riviera

"They were changed, to my huge surprise and considerable upset," the director explained.

''There were various sexual scenes introduced into the story and a lot of very expository dialogue. I objected in the strongest terms possible.

"It's being described as 'Dynasty-sur-Mer'," he added. "It was quite distressing for John and for myself, the way it proceeded."

When he told Sky Atlantic about his concerns, there was an attempt to address them. However, Jordan still felt his concerns weren't being addressed and then took "a back seat".

Jordan co-wrote the two-hour pilot for the series with Banville after U2 manager Paul McGuinness, who has a home in the south of France, approached him with an idea. It was this pilot which grabbed the attention of Sky Atlantic.

"The first two episodes that myself and John wrote were very dark and complex and that's what got everybody attracted to the project," Jordan said. "Sky Atlantic got involved because of these scripts. But then the producers decided to go in a different direction."

Speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday, John Banville offered his thoughts on Riviera. He said: "The series that Neil and I devised, in collaboration with Paul, differs from the one that got made. Of course I understand and, to an extent, share Neil's upset at the anonymous changes and rewrites that were made to the first two episodes as we wrote them. This is what often happens in such cases, I'm told, yet I can't but regret that our original conception of Riviera turned out not to be what Archery Pictures and Sky Atlantic wanted.

"Paul McGuinness and his company Primo Productions are entirely justified in being proud of this major television series - it takes a very great deal of effort and flair to get a project of this ambition and magnitude on to the screen.

"Neil has said, good luck to them, and I certainly echo that."

It was McGuinness who initially had the idea for a glitzy drama set on the Cote d'Azur. He took on the role as executive producer - collaborating with Liza Marshall and Kris Thykier of Archery Pictures to produce the series. Speaking about the former U2 manager, Jordan pointedly said: "Am I annoyed with Paul McGuinness? I'm surprised, let me put it that way."

McGuinness's representatives responded this weekend with a statement, saying: "Making a show of the scale of Riviera is inevitably a team effort. Neil co-wrote the first two episodes with John Banville. The show is the most successful premiere on Sky Atlantic this year. I couldn't be more proud of what we have achieved."

On his new movie The Widow, starring Isabelle Huppert, which will begin shooting in September, Jordan says he is looking forward to starting a fresh project on the right note.

"It's a tremendous relief to know you'll be in control of every aspect, and you'll be proud to have your name attached to it," he said. "In my mind, there's no reason why things can't be both very popular and very good."

Additional reporting Nadine O'Regan and Vanessa Thorpe for The Observer.

Sunday Independent

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