The Night Manager
This year started very well for BBC Drama department with an excellent adaptation of Tolstoy’s ‘War & Peace’ followed by the gripping nail biting thriller ‘The Night Manager’. Both epics show British TV drama is in a very good place.
‘The Night Manager’ was one of those don’t miss drama’s, firmly keeping everyone on the edge of their seat. ‘A stylish and trenchant espionage drama of, no doubt, award-garnering brilliance’ according to The Guardian. The six part BBC Drama production came to a terrific end after firmly establishing a gripping suspense in each episode, forcing us to return the next week. Jasper Rees (Daily Telegraph) said ‘one of the most satisfying conclusions I have seen in television drama for a long time.’
Hugh Laurie managed to pull off a convincing performance as arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper a sociopath, of little feeling and immense heartless ego. Although, The Guardian couldn’t take the drama ‘seriously’ due to ‘Hugh Laurie’s mid-Atlantic accent.’ Accusing him of using a similar one in a Fry & Laurie’ sketch. He was well supported in an excellent cast headed by Tom Hiddleston (Jonathan Pine) who played the Night Manager of an Egyptian hotel, brought back into British service having had a previous army career by a pregnant MI6 operative Angela Burr (Olivia Coleman). This time as an inside spy in Ropers operation. Olivia Coleman’s character was fighting corruption in her own government department which went hand in hand with Ropers illegal arms deals. Elizabeth Debicki played the love interest Jed who was manipulated and beaten by the sadistic Roper, supported by his little henchman Corky played by Tom Hollander. This time not so reverential, but darn right nasty.
The production was adapted by David Farr from the 1993 John Le Carre novel. The TV script took liberties with the original novel as pointed out in the Daily Telegraph ‘so that the good ended happily and the bad unhappily (in the original for instance, all Roper lost was the girl not $300 million and his freedom)’. Hugh Laurie unsuccessfully tried to buy the rights to the book when he first read it in 1993 because he fancied playing the part of Pine himself. Hugh, 56, joked: “Back then of course I rather arrogantly dreamed of the possibility of playing Pine and have to sit back now and watch Tom being virile and charming, which is really galling to watch.”
Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Jonathan Pine had many lobbying for him to take over as the next James Bond. Something Hiddleston was playing down but probably his agent and representatives were playing up. As Amy Burns in the Independent said ‘Hiddleston was practically Daniel Craig – blond, smooth, toned and handsome. The only thing he wasn’t was a spook, but as Cairo hotel night manager Jonathan Pine he still turned a fair few heads’.
Tom Hiddleston actually worked at a London hotel to prepare for his role. Such diligence certainly paid off. The hit of this £3 million per episode drama have left many asking for a second series, even though there is no follow up book and something the cast are continually playing down.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.