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Aug 5 15 8:50 PM
ohvaI have tons of friends. They're just all online.
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Aug 14 15 12:40 PM
Captivating new crime drama in which the victims having starring roles
★★★★ BBC1, day, date to be announced
CASTING Stellan Skarsgärd as a British detective was a bold but canny move by the makers of this intriguing thriller. If you want a performer who can play a troubled soul, then who better than a man from the land of long winter days and Ingmar Bergman, a director whose fave themes were death, bleakness and insanity?
Death is also the theme of River and Skarsgard also a Swede, familiar from movie hits such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Mamma Mia! He is terrific in this unusual series as Detective Inspector John River, a cranky cop traumatised by the shooting of his partner.
What starts off as a police procedural abruptly swerves into unusual territory when we realise River is no ordinary cop. The reason he is grumpy – and brilliant – is that he is haunted by the dead.
Eddie Marsan as a Victorian killer
If that sounds a bit Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), don’t be put off. This series, written by Emmy award-winner Abi Morgan (The Hour, The Iron Lady), is far more emotionally affecting.
The people who invade River’s mind are the murder victims of his cases, in addition – bizarrely – to a serial killer from annals of Victorian crime called the Lambeth Poisoner. Eddie Marsan is suitably disturbing in this role.
River is seen talking to himself – actually to the dead – and is viewed as a bit of a nut by most officers around the police station. He hangs onto his job because of his 80 percent clear-up rate.
Nicola Walker is River’s ex-partner
While the story is good at exploring grief and loss, it is buoyed up by some beautifully funny moments. Nicola Walker (Last Tango in Halifax) is wonderful as River’s ex-partner, Stevie, all fast food and disco songs. And Adeel Akhtar – unforgettable in C4’s Utopia – turns up as another put-upon character, Ira, who is assigned to be River’s new partner.
Chalk and cheese doesn’t begin to cover it, and their scenes together veer between very funny and quite moving.
With so many fine performers and such an emotionally nuanced story, River is a notch above so many mainstream crime series out there.
Aug 16 15 9:20 PM
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Aug 18 15 9:06 AM
Since King Arthur is on our monthly movie list:
Mads Mikkelsen and Stellan Skarsgård talk about King Arthur
Aug 18 15 9:08 AM
Aug 18 15 11:05 PM
Since King Arthur is on our monthly movie list:thewightknighthttp://thewightknight.tumblr.com/post/82886775341/mads-mikkelsen-and-stellan-skarsgård-talk-about
Mads Mikkelsen and Stellan Skarsgård talk about King Arthur
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Stellan Skarsgård is pacing down a corridor in a dank building in London’s Docklands. The rooms on either side of him are full of random clusters of unloved office chairs, the floor tiles are grim. Menace seems to hang in the air. As the cameras roll, the Swedish actor makes occasional stops, in order to speak to no one at all. Or at least no one who can be seen.
A second take: this time, he is talking to a person walking beside him. Next, he’s waiting for a lift, again conversing with thin air. And then suddenly the lift pings unexpectedly – and out wanders Eddie Marsan, straight into the shot. He stops in his tracks with a cheeky grin spreading across his face – like if he doesn’t move, maybe no one can see him. He’s just been down the shops. It’s a moment of light relief in what has been an intense shoot. Someone yells “Cut!” and everyone wanders off to corner offices and meeting rooms.
Doubling as a police station, this steel-and-glass monstrosity is, for today at least, the set of River, Abi Morgan’s new cop series.
Filming a scene for River
Filming a scene for River. Photograph: Nick Briggs/BBC/Kudos
BBC drama River was chance to explore mental health issues, says writer
But then River, about to air on BBC1, isn’t your traditional procedural. It melds psychodrama with hallucination and paranoia – and has only the very occasional good old-fashioned duffing up of a suspect in a dark alley. Skarsgård, who was Professor Lambeau in Good Will Hunting and Bootstrap Bill in Pirates of the Caribbean, plays John River, a troubled detective who experiences lucid visions. Understandably, these interfere with his police work, which he conducts with partner Stevie, played by Nicola Walker. River struggles with his cases, mostly murders, as he frequently sees the victims for whom he’s seeking justice. The idea of the damaged detective who gets results is hardly new. But there’s an otherworldliness that sets River apart.
“I had the idea a few years ago,” says Morgan. “I love Truly, Madly, Deeply. I thought it was such a beautiful way of examining grief. So I never wanted River to be psychic: they’re not ghosts he sees, but manifestations of his grief, just as I never believed Alan Rickman was a real ghost in Truly, Madly, Deeply. I like the gag of it. You think it’s a cop show, but it’s not. It’s like, ‘How do you fuck up the logic of a cop show?’ The types are all in there: the old, world-weary cop, the younger sidekick. The stereotypes. I’m hopefully showing the idiosyncrasies underneath. It’s also about the fragile mental health we all experience. We all have moments when we’re fragile.”
Morgan embarked on the first episode with the hope of getting someone Hollywood but credible involved, in much the same way as True Detective starred Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. Skarsgård came on board almost immediately, after Morgan and producer Jane Featherstone flew to meet him in Stockholm. He then, says Morgan, became “the muse” of the piece. “He’s one of the most authentic people I’ve ever met. And he’s got that Scandi thing going on that’s slightly ‘other’. He’s quite magical – truthful, yet magical. He’s a Viking.”
Adeel Akhtar, who plays a befuddled fellow detective, says Skarsgård can be brooding and actorly one minute, all poop jokes the next. I finally meet “the Viking” during a brief break from filming. He’s sitting on a burst sofa in a tatty glass box of a meeting room. The “green room” is another glass box facing this one, stuffed full of actors and dry cleaning. There’s an iron. It all feels a long way from Hollywood.
Nicola Walker, left, with Stellan Skarsgård and Georgina Rich in River.
“I’ve been offered police series so many times,” says Skarsgård. “I always turned them down, because the procedural side bores the shit out of me. But here, that stuff is in the background. In the foreground are the man’s psychological difficulties.” Indeed, what’s central is a gnawing sense of people adrift in grief, notably River, who is almost broken by it. The theme of friendship is equally strong, the chemistry between Skarsgård and Walker warm and genuine. They eat fast food, sing karaoke and, as Morgan notes, “talk about nothing” just like real people.
Skarsgård did not, however, just turn up and do as he was told. “I would complain when I wasn’t happy and we’d talk about it. I let everybody know exactly what I think about everything, all the time. Sometimes she used what I said, sometimes not. But we haven’t been co-writing. She’s the writer. And she’s good.”
Eddie Marsan as Thomas Cream in River.
Among the more peculiar aspects of the show is Eddie Marsan’s character, Dr Thomas Cream, a real-life serial killer from the 19th century who was known as the Lambeth Poisoner. River is reading a book about him only to find Cream appear, waxed moustache and all, in his darker visions, taunting him. In one brutal scene, River attacks Cream, but only succeeds in bloodying his knuckles on a wall. He comes to symbolise River’s self-doubt and anger..
“He was the little mosquito I put in the script for myself,” says Morgan. “The bit of fun for me. I was googling these incredible quotes about death, but they were way too florid for any character. So I gave myself this one person who could get away with it. He spews Plato and Aristotle. He’s like tickertape running in River’s mind. I wanted to explore the psychosis of a murderer – and this was a way.”
River takes Skarsgård through a grimy, twilight world of kebab shops, neon karaoke bars, drive thrus, strip-lit stores and housing estate stairwells. Aren’t life-like hallucinations, I ask him, just a bit too high concept, within the framework of a cop show?
“It gives a lot of freedom to Abi as a storyteller,” he replies. “She can bring in dead people, bring in whoever she wants to create some disorder and change the pace of normal television storytelling. Abi’s writing is not normal television writing. It’s complicated: there has to be a basis of police procedural, but it must never take over. Otherwise, the air leaves the balloon. Then it’s a normal TV series. And then I wouldn’t be in it.”
River starts on BBC1 on 13 October.
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