Red Riding is a trilogy of movies based on a quartet of novels by David Peace. The books (and films) are fictionalized accounts of the investigation into the Yorkshire Ripper, a brutal serial killer that stalked the Yorkshire area of England in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Screen Rant was present at the launch of the films in London and interviewed writer Tony Grisoni (Tideland and Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas) along with various other UK bloggers.
How do the three films (1974, 1980 and 1983) tie together?
Three full length films, they work so that 1983 revisits 1974 and you see things from a slightly different perspective and then the middle one, 1980 is against the background of the Yorkshire Ripper but the characters roll all the way through the three of them.
The original idea of the novels, it’s basically fiction around a true event?
The novels were a quartet, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1983, and what David Peace talks about, he says it’s fiction torn out of the facts.
There are four books and three films. Was that your idea?
No, it started out that we’d make all four and I wrote all four, but filmmaking is capital intensive and we didn’t have enough money to do all four and we then had a choice, we could have done four but made them all shorter and we had to talk about that but I’m so glad it didn’t go that way.
These tales aren’t just about cops and robbers. Had we made them shorter it would have forced us into a vagueness of narrative and you wouldn’t have had chance to have these incredible atmospheric moments that David Peace wrote in the books that we tried to mirror in the films. So, it seemed to make more sense to make three, and then a question of how do you do it? Do you take a couple to pieces and feed them into the others, but in the end I decided to just drop 1977 out cleanly. So, for a number of reasons really. One is that the others seemed to work really well as a trilogy and the other thing is it leaves ‘77 untouched and possibly we can go back and make it. That’s what I hope.
I noticed from watching that each films appears to be police versus journalists, then police versus police and then police versus people. Is that something you planned or was it in the original books?
First of all it wasn’t like writing an original piece where you, for example, if I was setting it in the boxing community I would go and visit a load of boxers where boxers hang out and talk to them. This is adaptation – I trusted those books and I trusted David’s writing and so I treated those as the truth. What was there I took and then you had to work it into a screenplay. What happens in 1974, is absolutely that. It’s a little more complex in ‘74 for instance. You’re with a journalist, a young journalist and it’s not quite like journalists against cops. It’s a particular journalist. He’s a young guy. He’s a typical film noir hero – he’s libidinous, he’s lazy, he’s selfish, a self obsessed young man. What happens with him, he starts off by just being out for himself, but then he’s got this thing in that he has to know what happened, he needs to know truth and so he goes further and further down that path and eventually it gets to a point where he needs to know the truth more than anything – more than his own safety or anything. So, he kind of changes as it goes along. Absolutely, he’s up against the police.
The second one is very much the police investigates their own. Peter Hunter is on a Home Office investigation which he has to keep covert and he is investigating corrupt police and as it said in that clip “How deep does the rot go?”
The third one isn’t really that, the film is a two-hander. You’ve got two main characters. You’ve got Jobson, Morris Jobson, a policeman, who has gone along with corruption all the way through and has finally reached a point where he is going to do what he should have done a long time ago, like nine years before, so it’s redemptive in many ways the final one. Then you’ve got John Piggot. I really like his character, he’s wonderfully disgusting. He’s a damaged man. A lousy solicitor, but again, he wants to know what really happened. And again he doesn’t feel quite up to being a champion that’s what he becomes. It’s a long answer to your question.
The thing about David’s fiction and these films we made is that they are quite complex pieces. There isn’t a good and bad. It is more like what it is like out there. It’s all these different levels of good and bad, it’s not like they are not comic book heroes. They are fractured people. They are a more bit like you and me. I hope.
How do you think it will go down in the North and South of England?
Where are you drawing the line? I think, it’s all about West Yorkshire. I think West Yorkshire will enjoy it. I hope they do. I think they will. As you can hear I’m not a Yorkshire man. Just to misquote probably David Peace again, he makes a lot of sense that man. He was Yorkshire born and bred although he wrote these from Tokyo. It’s a bit James Joyce isn’t it – writing something that’s so in your heart from exile. He’s got a very complex relationship with that area but he believes, and I agree with him, that particular crimes happen in particular places to particular people. It’s for a reason and the ‘70s and ‘80s, Yorkshire in the ’70’s and 80’s was a hostile place. The UK was a pretty hostile place and he would say that that area in that period was a hostile place particularly to women. That’s a Yorkshire man talking but I agree with him. I say that about Yorkshire but I could do that for London or anywhere else.
Do you think Life on Mars fans will enjoy it because of the look of it?
Well it is a period movie, but there are a few more teeth in this one! I think one of the interesting things when I see lots of cuts of these and as I sit and watch them I forget about the period in fact. I follow the dramas and I’m following the characters.
One of the exciting things for me writing and then to see the writing completed by the actors and directors and everything is that you’ve got three full length films, three different directors, three different styles, so what are you following? You are following the characters and it is a real joy, When you see Borris Jobson, how he changes. There is a young man called BJ who starts off as a silly little rent boy and who ends up a son of Yorkshire and a hero and that’s a beautiful path for him. So you follow these people and the way we structured the films mirrored the way the novels were structured so your main character bows out but the more minor characters that you’ve got to know a little bit then come to the fore in the next one and so it is like baton passing. I think that is why you are going to watch to find out what happens to these people and why things happen to them. I hope that is so interesting and so involving that you won’t look at how big the lapels are.
Click here for part 2 of our interview with Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas writer Tony Grisoni.