Epic struggle

The BBC has turned Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo, a classic study of greed and corruption, into a four— part television drama. But the behind-the-scenes story of the production was equally dramatic, reports Sue Greenway.

The BBC tnust be hoping that television‘s treasured hero. Colin Firth. will be enough of an attraction to draw audiences to its latest and surely one of its most ambitious literary adaptations. With fond memories of Mr Darcy's riding britches in Pride xlml Prejudice still warm. Firth returns to the screen. looking dashing in stiff collar and Panama hat. legs once again astride a horse.

But this isn‘t Jane Austen. but a four-part adaptation ofJosepli Conrad's lengthy masterpiece. Nor/mum. ‘l was almost resentful of how difficult it was to get through it.‘ said Filth ofthe novel in a Sunday newspaper recently.

He wasn't alone. ‘I won‘t lie.‘ says the Italian producer Fernando Gliia. ‘I found the book a struggle and it took a while to get through it. But when I did. I fell in love with it. although I doubted that it was possible to turn it into a lilm.‘

The story of the- making of Nam-mun rivals the complexity ofthe novel itself. Producer Robert Bolt first suggested a screen adaptation in the early 80s to his friend and collaborator (ihia. though they shared doubts about the viability of the project. In the intervening years they worked together on the Bolt-

went away completely.

It seems to be his turn.



scripted With movie. The .llissimi. but the idea never

Then it looked as if the pair had lost out to movie director David Lean. who announced he would be filming (‘onrad‘s book. but died only weeks before production was due to begin. (ihia approached the BBC in the early 90s and finally. after raising money from Italy. Spain and the L'S. the f.‘ l() million project was finally given the go ahead. Meanwhile. three other screen adaptations of ('onrad are in production.

.\"H.\‘ll'rilllu is an epic tale of ideals. ambition. greed and corruption. Set in a fictitious Latin American country called ('ostaguana. it is the story of an linglishman. played by l’iith. who inherits a silver mine in the early part of this century. When he arrives in (.‘ostaguana to claim his inheritance. he discovers the country is divided by civil war and attempts to smuggle the silver back to Britain. The ship is damaged and its cargo presumed lost at sea; only the Italian sailor Nostromo knows the secret of its

The production. which also stars Albert Finney and Italian actor Claudio Amendola as Nostromo. was

due to finish.

recalls Ghia.

idea. It‘s that

Saddled with a complex role: Italian film star Claudio Amendola as liostromo in the new BBC seriallsatlon

shot on location in Colombia. where the fierce heat meant that twelve runners had to be employed solely to keep cast. crew and IS.()()() extras hydrated with mineral salt-laced drinks. But despite the scale of this undertaking. the only casualty was director Alastair Reid. who collapsed ten days before shooting was

‘\V* were very frightened that something was badly wrong with him and we ran him to the hospital.‘

‘The doctor told us this man needs to sleep. he is exhausted. He was so over-loaded with the pressure. Alastair had set up the scene we were going to do and we asked him if we could go ahead without him. and we did it.‘

Reid. whose previous credits include the Channel 4 adaptation of describes Nos/rmnu as a logistical nightmare. but a labour of love nonetheless. Ghia agrees: ‘I cannot produce a film unless I care passionately about the

Armistead Maupin's 'Iirles ()f'l'lw City.

passion that generates for me the full

commitment and total dedication needed. It's only happened twice in my life so far with The Mission. and now with Nuslrmnu.‘

Nos/mum begins on .S'ut / Fol) (m lilK'l.

Baby blues

Desperate to attract the kind of youthful audiences advertisers want, ITV launches a new sitcom called Holding The Baby which attempts to push all the buttons of recognition of the young, urban professional. After seeing the success of imported us r comedies like Friends on Channel 4, the station wants a slice of the pie.

This new show is the bastard offspring of Men Behaving Badly, which lTV embarrassingly gave a free transfer to BB!“ only to see it become a huge hit, and the Safeways ads featuring that cute little chap, llarry. llolding the baby is flick

iiolding the Baby: nappy jokes

Hancock, sharp-witted presenter of They Think It’s All Over, who plays Bordon, a single parent raising his son after the departure of his wife for a younger, less dull man.

That’s the bit which looks like a Safeways ad, with large chunks of the first episode taking place in a supermarket. For lonely singles, this is a place to exchange meaningful glances at the deli counter. ‘l’d like to think that Gordon is nothing like me, and that I’m playing against type,’ says llancock, ‘but unfortunately we have far too much in common for me to feel comfortable saying that.’

Behaving badly is younger brother Bob, who moved in to lend a hand with child-rearing duties, but spends most of his time between the local pub and the couch in front

of the telly. When engaged in neither of these activities, he baits his older brother about the threadbare love-life of the single parent.

Though it badly wants to be sophisticated and witty like its American cousins, Holding the Baby falls in to that particularly British sitcom trap of dealing in stereotypes. It throws New Man and flew Lad together under the same roof, and watches them slug it out. Put another way, this is Loaded magazine versus an IKEA catalogue. llot a bad idea, and like any comedy it will need more than one episode to bed down. But the real question is how many nappy jokes can you stand. (Eddie Gibb)

Holding the Baby starts on Fri 24 Jen at 8.30pm on Scottish.

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