Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Neill, Bean, Crusoe

Today’s Guardian has some accurate catch-up info on Crusoe casting:

Sam Neill and Sean Bean are to feature in a big-budget production of the Robinson Crusoe story being made by a UK independent producer for US network NBC.

Crusoe is to be played by Philip Winchester, who featured in the 2004 movie remake of Thunderbirds, while the role of Friday, his companion on the desert island, is yet to be cast.

Flashbacks of Crusoe’s life are interwoven with the action, with Bean playing his father James, Neill playing family friend Jeremiah Blackthorn, and Anna Walton playing his love interest Susannah. Joss Ackland will appear in one episode in the role of Judge Jeffreys.

The series, written by Stephen Gallagher and directed by Duane Clark, follows the swashbuckling adventures of the two island dwellers as they contend with marauding militias, hungry cannibals, wild cats, starvation and lightning storms.”

One technical inaccuracy in there – I’m not “writing the series”. We’ve got a bunch of good people on the episodes and I’ll name them here in due course. I’m the series developer and lead writer, which in this case has involved developing the concept pitch of Executive Producer Justin Bodle for the screen, writing the bible and the two-part opener, setting the arcs and running subplots, creating backstory and writing certain continuity scenes that’ll be woven throughout the thirteen hours, and then writing the episodes that will gather up the ends and close the series.

It’s a tall order but it’s not a singlehanded effort, and the show will be all the better for that.


10 responses to “Neill, Bean, Crusoe”

  1. I think I saw Sean Bean once on the escalator at Tottenham Court rd. He was going down (oo er) whilst I was going up. Rather uncoolly, I said in a loud voice, “That’s Sean Bean!” Everyone on the escalator turned and looked at him.

    He waved.

  2. Oh, whilst I’m here, any chance of a quote for my sexy new magazine article on genre? I’d love you forever, or if that disturbs you I can just say ta. Email me if you want me to ask you a Q (and it really will be just one). Bang2write”at”aol”dot”com. Thanks!

  3. Always interesting to see how actors deal with attention. From what I’ve seen the good ones don’t seek it in public but when it comes, they deal with it gracefully.

  4. So you won’t be running a writers’ room, from the sound of it…

    Will you be rewriting other people’s scripts in a showrunner stylee, or is Crusoe following the standard UK system of Script Editor liaising with the writer and reporting to a nonwriting Producer?

    Would love to know any and all details you can share about the writing process for the series as you go on – especially as Crusoe’s going to be carving out its own niche between the UK and the US production-wise.

  5. We’re trying to inject some US-style participation into the usual UK system, and we’re having to feel our way forward. In America they hire writers, while here we buy stories. The two systems create a very different sense of writer involvement.

    (Our system’s great for the one-off, the individual vision… unfortunately that’s exactly the kind of drama we don’t make now.)

    We kick off the Crusoe process with four writers in a room for a couple of days. I ramble for a bit about the show concept and the series setup, and then we open it up and start talking about a specific four-hour block of stories.

    Of our thirteen hours, at least two-thirds of the episodes come with a certain amount of ‘arc baggage’ that can serve as grit in the oyster, and these seem to be the easiest to get off the ground. With others there’s a ‘placeholder’ idea for the hour, there to be supplanted if a better one comes along.

    By the end of the two days,each of the four hours has been group-discussed and each writer has ownership of one of them. We don’t go as far as beating out the stories or putting cards on the wall, but we do get to a rough five-act structure for each one.

    Everyone then goes away and works on their hour. Script editor Angus Towler acts as the central liaison/story management lynchpin, while I take a step back and feed my notes in with everyone else’s.

    The process in ongoing. We learned a lot from the first session that we put into the second; and it’s far from over yet.

  6. It seems to be very promising movie, thank you for sharing the details! When may we expect to see the film?

    I wonder, however, what will Judge Jeffreys do in Robinson’s story. I’m very interested in Jeffreys’ personality and read tons of books about him, so I’d be happy to learn more about the planning episode.

  7. NBC showed the feature-length pilot in October of last year and the series will shortly be finishing its 13-week run… as to when we might see it in the UK, I have no idea. It was made with no UK broadcaster involvement, and the chances are that every other country will get to see it before the home market does.

    Jeffreys appears in the flashbacks and there’s some license in his casting… Joss Ackland is older than the character and doesn’t play the Welsh accent… but then again, it’s Joss Ackland and the value he brings is considerable.

    In the dialogue I used some of Jeffreys’ own words, or at least his words as Macauley reported them; I read CAPTAIN BLOOD a few weeks after we’d shot the material and I was interested to see that Sabatini made use of the same source!

  8. Thank you! It would be interesting to see how the aged but brilliant actor plays the man who was only 45 when he died; it reminds me of Lawrence Olivier who played William of Orange being much older than the King.

    I guess I know which words you mean, they are wellknown, and writing an article about Captain Blood I compared the text written by Sabatini to Macauley’s and they were much the same. I thought Macauley is no more considered to be a good source about the subject…

  9. Macauley’s language is truly irresistible, although he often sacrificed the truth for better dramatic effect. As to the language of Jeffreys, Macauley exaggerated its rudeness as did other authors before him: all of them used the pamphlets written by Whigs, and they weren’t too complimentary to the man 🙂 He had a keen sense of humour, though. Reading State Trials of 1670-80 is a pleasure.