'Riviera': it's how the other half loves
Paul McGuinness is back in contact again with John Banville after their high-profile fall out, writes Niamh Horan
Former U2 manager Paul McGuinness believes his TV series Riviera has proved a massive hit because of the public's fascination with how the other half live.
"People like to think that they are getting a glimpse of what's on the other side of the big wall," he told the Sunday Independent. "I think it is a natural human instinct - a vicarious pleasure for what is voyeuristic. I mean, look at what happened to Jeff Bezos and the National Enquirer - that is an amazing story."
After 35 years helping to position U2 as the biggest rock band in the world, McGuinness is no stranger to money himself. Worth more than €140m, he takes a philosophical view: "I have tried life with money and life without money. I remember being very broke, and I prefer to have money," he muses. Although, he adds: "Everyone knows money doesn't necessarily make you happy. There are a lot of miserable rich people. I'd like to think I'm not one of them."
Now at the helm of Sky's most successful original series, he has peppered the 10 one-hour episodes with super- yachts, sprawling mansions and sweeping scenes of the Riviera. And with a €40m budget, he says: "Every frame looks like money to me.
"It is a very healthy budget," he adds, "but we use it very carefully. I think at the end of the day the money is on the screen. The audience do not feel we squandered it."
He recalls advice from his friend John Boorman, who said film and television-making "is not as complicated as some people think". He told McGuinness: "All we are doing here is turning money into light and light back into money and if we have more money than we started out with, we get to do it again."
Asked if there is a lot of sex in the new series, McGuinness smiles: "Yes, there is. More than sex, there is a lot of adultery. But actual nakedness, we don't do it gratuitously."
It is well documented that the introduction of some of the raunchier scenes caused Neil Jordan particular annoyance. After walking away from the production with John Banville in series one, he explained: "There were various sexual scenes introduced into the story and a lot of very expository dialogue. I objected in the strongest terms possible."
But McGuinness is keeping tight-lipped about Jordan and Banville's involvement in the show. "I have agreed not to talk about that because there was a certain amount of legal activity," he explains.
However, he does seem to have mended bridges with the Booker Prize-winning author.
"I had a drink with John the other day," he says. But asked if he still keeps in touch with Jordan, he replies: "I am not going to talk about it."
After initially helping to create the drama, Jordan told the media he wanted nothing to do with the project. The director revealed the episodes he wrote were changed, despite his staunch objections and that he had planned for a much darker drama.
But McGuinness seems unfazed by the departure, given the phenomenal success of season one, and says: "I am very happy with the writing [now that] season two is complete and I think it is much better than season one.
"I think we had better writers. Some of the writers were the same as on season one and we kind of knew better the world we had invented - the locations, the yachts, the characters, the mood of the piece - and even though we were introducing new characters, we were able to build on what we had before."
The first season of Riviera was Sky's most successful original commission with an audience of 2.3 million per episode and more than 20 million downloads.
The second season will see Julia Stiles return as American art curator Georgina Clios, but a host of new faces will be soaking up the sun and intrigue, including Arrested Development star Will Arnett, Truly, Madly, Deeply actress Juliet Stevenson and Poppy Delevingne, who had parts in Kingsman 2 and King Arthur.