FILM NOIR WITH A KILLER GRIP
Mark Strong stars in BBC AMERICA co-production, Low Winter Sun
Cinematic, compelling, thriller, Low Winter Sun, opens with the murder of a crooked cop. But in the murky underbelly of atmospheric Edinburgh, definitions of right and wrong, cop and criminal become anything but straightforward. This chilling film noir begs the question, "Is there such a thing as a perfect crime?"
Low Winter Sun premieres Sunday, October 7, 8:00 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.
In the back room of a Chinese restaurant, a very drunk�and corrupt beyond redemption�Detective Sergeant Brendan McCann (Robert Wilcox) is drowned in a lobster tank. His killers are his colleagues, Detectives Frank Agnew (Mark Strong, Syriana, Sunshine, The Long Firm) and Joe Geddes (Brian McCardie, Murphy's Law, 200 Cigarettes), and the motivation is revenge. Geddes, McCann's partner, had described how, the night before, he watched McCann kill Agnew's lover, Sinada.
Agnew and Geddes are confident that when the body is discovered in the sea, it will be ruled as suicide. But before the body is found, Agnew discovers there's an internal corruption investigation focused on McCann. When McCann's body turns up handcuffed to the wheel of his submerged car and suicide is ruled out, the perfect crime no longer looks quite so perfect. Agnew could face a murder charge and only now realizes Geddes has his own reasons for wanting McCann dead.
The discovery of a headless, handless corpse, wrapped in chicken wire in the trunk of McCann's car further complicates matters. Who is the body in the trunk, what does it have to do with McCann, and, mostly importantly for Agnew, did Geddes know about it when he dumped McCann's car the night before? As Agnew's world spins out of control, he is forced to confront the cold, hard truth about McCann, Geddes, and the love of his life, Sinada.
Mark Strong says of the film, "It's a dark, psychological thriller that happens to be set in the world of the police. It could easily have been set in a hospital or anywhere institutionalized, although it is really interesting, exploring policemen who've committed precisely the crime they're hired to investigate. How those two guys keep it together after they murder a guy, within the context of the police station, is what's fascinating."
In addition to wrenching performances from Strong and McCardie, Low Winter Sun features Neve McIntosh (Bodies) as a detective who has great insight on the case, probably because she's in love with Agnew. Burt Kwouk (Kato in Pink Panther) also
appears as Gim Leung, a shrewd businessman well aware of the crime being committed in his restaurant.
BBC AMERICA brings audiences a new generation of award-winning television featuring razor-sharp comedies, provocative dramas, life-changing makeovers and news with a uniquely global perspective. BBC AMERICA pushes the boundaries to deliver high quality, highly addictive and eminently watchable programming to viewers who demand more. BBC AMERICA is distributed by Discovery Networks. It is available on digital cable and satellite TV.
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CAST AND PRODUCTION CREDITS
Frank Agnew Mark Strong (Syriana, Sunshine, Stardust, The Long Firm)
Joe Geddes Brian McCardie (Murphy's Law, 200 Cigarettes)
Danniella Bonetti Neve McIntosh (Bodies, Doc Martin)
Kenny Morton Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Bleak House)
Louise Cullen Michelle Duncan (Atonement, Doctor Who)
Brendan McCann Robert Wilcox (Empire, Asylum, Ultimate Force)
George Torrance Vincent Regan (Troy, Killing Hitler, Hustle)
Prof. Barry Lennox John Sessions (Stella Street, Gangs of New York, Hotel Babylon)
Gim Leung Burt Kwouk (Pink Panther, Empire of the Sun)
Liam Carnegie Alex Fearns (EastEnders, Man Dancin', Joyeux No�l)
Val Carnegie Michael Nardone (Rome, Steel River Blues, Rebus)
Writer Simon Donald (Beautiful Creatures, Murphy's Law)
Director Adrian Shergold (Dirty Filthy Love, Births Marriages and Death)
Producer Rhonda Smith (Teachers)
Executive Producer Greg Brenman
A Tiger Aspect production for Channel 4 produced in association with BBC AMERICA.
WHAT THE BRITISH PRESS SAID
Winter Sun Drama
"Forget everything else, this is the show to watch tonight." Observer
"Arrestingly made, well-performed and punctuated with moments of stomach-turning violence and a succession of twists and shocks." Financial Times
"classy, chilling psychological thriller" Time Out
"One of the TV treats of the year. Great lighting, atmospheric music and stylish direction, make it a stunning drama." Daily Mirror
"This has been superb, intelligent drama of the highest standard" Observer
"Interested after two minutes, hooked after five and riveted as the credits went up." Daily Telegraph
"An ingenious, compelling and beautifully acted thriller." Stage
"Low Winter Sun redefines the TV cop show as epic drama." Sunday Times
"The performances were terrific � not just from Strong and McCardie but also from Paul Higgins as the chief complaints officer, a man with the most unsettling smile I have ever seen." Sunday Telegraph
ACTOR, MARK STRONG
Mark Strong was born in London in August, 1963. He studied Law in Munich and English and Drama in London before setting his sights on the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
He made his television debut as a policeman in an episode of Inspector Morse, continued playing a lawman in Prime Suspect 3, then got his big break as Tosker (Terry) Cox in the acclaimed BBC drama Our Friends in the North in 1996. Other television credits include Sharpe's Mission, Anna Karenina, Henry VIII and Prime Suspect 6. Mark's starring role in BBC AMERICA co-production, The Long Firm, earned him a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor.
His film work includes Superstition (with Charlotte Rampling, Alice Krige and Sienna Guillory), It's All About Love (with Joaquin Phoenix and Sean Penn), Polanski's Oliver Twist, Guy Ritchie's Revolver, Syriana (with George Clooney), Kevin Reynolds' Tristan & Isolde (produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Kevin Reynolds) and Ed Blum's Scenes of a Sexual Nature. He also appears in the new sci-fi thriller Sunshine and Stardust directed by Matthew Vaughan. He will also be co-starring with Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs in Vicente Amorim's film adaptation of CP Taylor's Good.
In addition to film and television work, he has performed at the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He appeared in London and New York in the award-winning productions of Twelfth Night and Uncle Vanya, directed by Sam Mendes, for which he received an Olivier nomination.
ACTOR, MARK STRONG
Did you start off wanting to be an actor?
Well, I started off by studying law in Munich. I chose law because I fancied myself as a lawyer: trench coat, briefcase, BMW, all of that. But it was just unbelievably tedious. The first year was learning the German constitution, of which I had no idea, and it was all in German and just fiendishly complicated and very dull. It really managed to turn me off law.
So why did you decide to pursue acting?
While I was in Germany, weirdly, I skipped the law stuff and went to something called Theaterwissenschaft, which is the German word for Theater Science. Only the Germans can make theater into a science! There were workshops and things like that going on, and I found it much more interesting.
So you'd decided you wanted to get into acting professionally?
Yeah. It was something that seemed really cool to say that you did. I'd been watching Steve McQueen, you know, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, and I just thought these guys were really great.
It is quite cool, unless you happen to be waiting tables at the time.
Oh yeah, that's heartbreaking. I had to fly up to Edinburgh a lot to do Low Winter Sun, and at the airport there's this guy who cleans shoes. So, I used to kill time by getting my shoes done. And he was making conversation with me one day, and he went �What do you do?' and I said �I'm an actor' and he looked up and said �Oh, I'm an actor.' And you just think, �There but for the grace of God�'
After studying, did you have the requisite period as a penniless, out-of-work actor?
I went to the Bristol Old Vic [drama school] for two years, then left and got an agent. I got a job at the Worcester Swan Theatre, where I did nine plays in nine months. It was gold dust, it was so educational. Then I spent a summer doing telesales, which I think was the point where my career could have gone either way. Luckily for me, the guy who ran the Worcester Swan took over a Manchester theater, and gave me another job, and on the basis of that, the RSC said I could go to them, and then the National Theatre, and suddenly I was off.
And then, after a few years of theater work the TV drama Our Friends in the North came along. That must have changed your life dramatically?
Not really at the time. I was used to doing plays that ran for a year, and this was a TV job that was going to last a year. And you had to age from 20 to 50, so for me, it was just like doing a play, only in front of a camera. And then the show went out and was a big hit, and that opened the door.
Was the resulting attention welcome?
People would often come up and say they liked the show, and that was lovely. People still do that now, ten years later, it's amazing what an effect it had.
What have been the other roles you're most proud of in your career?
Births, Marriages and Deaths (1999) another thing that Adrian Shergold directed [along with Low Winter Sun], Harry Starks in The Long Firm and probably Sam Mendes' production of Uncle Vanya at The Donmar.
I read somewhere that you were approached to be the next Bond. Is that true?
I think we've all been approached to be the next Bond. The number of interviews I read with people who say they turned down Bond, honestly. No, I can exclusively reveal I was never approached to be James Bond. Although Daniel Craig is a good mate of mine, obviously from Our Friends in the North. He's godfather to my son. So I feel like I've lived the whole process�I went through it with him when he was thinking about whether to do it or not.
What attracted you to Low Winter Sun?
Adrian Shergold, initially, because I'd bumped into him and said how much I'd like to work with him again, and having also seen Dirty Filthy Love, with Michael Sheen, which I thought was amazing. And then Low Winter Sun came along and Adrian said, �There you go, then, let's do this.'
It's quite morally complex, isn't it?
Normally I play bad guys and try and make them understood. Whereas in this case it was more complicated. I was playing essentially a good man who had been forced to be bad�you can't deny it, because he's murdered somebody�but you still retain some sympathy for him.
It's pretty gruesome and macabre.
Yeah, I love that. I think we always thought, �This is a genre that you think you know. But why make it unless you can take it somewhere new?'
Did you enjoy spending time in Edinburgh?
I loved it. If you can do something in the context of where it's set, it makes it so much easier, because you're hearing the accent every day, you're walking the streets that you're filming in, where the scene takes place, you're not having to pretend in some studio that you're actually on the Royal Mile. Yeah, I loved it, and it was really useful.
Had you done stuff up there before?
I'd never filmed up there, I'd only ever done plays there. But when you're shooting there, it makes you realize how incredibly filmic that city is. The architecture is really quite looming in certain places, and it's got that huge castle right in the middle of it.
Edinburgh plays a very significant role doesn't it?
Simon Donald, the writer, always had that intention, that Edinburgh would almost be a character. We had to make it very real, have an eye for detail. There's a scene where I answer a phone in a restaurant and run to Waverley Station, and the actual streets I run down are the ones you would run down if you were going from that restaurant to the station.
How do you go about adopting an accent? Do you have coaching?
I'm alright at accents�I've played a few different ones�but Scottish was much harder than I imagined. It was an accent that I thought I could do, and when you actually have to do it, it's quite complicated, and of course there are loads of regional variations. So a Scot listening to it might well realize I wasn't Scottish. But the brilliant thing was, all the other actors were Scottish, and they told me I was doing okay. So either they were lying, or it was okay. They were really helpful, and I could always check with them. Brian McCardie was brilliant. He'd done Rob Roy with Liam Neeson, and Liam Neeson said right at the beginning of shooting that people shouldn't correct him on his accent because if you start that, you have that all the time, for the whole job, everybody coming up to you and telling you how to say things, and it would drive you nuts. So nobody corrected me on things, but if I had a problem I could always ask them.
You're fluent in German; have you done any drama over there?
No. Except�this is really weird�after Our Friends in the North, Daniel Craig got a job with a German director in Munich, doing a film called Obsession, which nobody's ever seen, it disappeared off the face of the Earth. But he plays it in English, and they had to dub it in German for the German audience, and he told the director he had a mate who spoke German, so I went and dubbed Dan's voice into German for the German audience.
What's next for you? Something a little lighter and fluffier? You've done some pretty intense roles.
I like those, though. I don't think light and fluffy is something I feel comfortable with. I don't think I've ever been attracted to parts as the good guy, the hero, the lover. I much prefer the darker, stranger, nastier parts, and to somehow try and make them understood. I don't know why, but whenever I'm required to laugh or smile or be lovely, I find it really hard. But when I'm asked to drown someone in a bath of lobsters or threaten someone with a red hot poker, I find it really easy.
ACTOR, BRIAN MCCARDIE
09 September 2006
HARD ACT TO FOLLOW
A corrupt, ruthless man with no scruples: just the role to bring out the best in Brian McCardie
by Paul Hoggart
"Ay'll kill y'r mommy," hisses Brian McCardie in an icy Belfast Protestant accent. "Ay'll kill y'r daddy. Ay'll born their fock'n hoyse doyn!" This was the climatic speech of his performance as a loyalist paramilitary in last month's Murphy's Law.
As we talk, he's using it to demonstrate the subtle differences with the Co Antrim accent that he's employing now for the filming of Lilies (an eight-part drama for BBC One in which he plays an Ulster Protestant father bringing up Catholic daughters in 1920s Liverpool). I won't even attempt to transliterate the Antrim version of the bloodcurdling threat, but it sounded a trifle more good humoured.
McCardie is one of those character actors whose face you can never put a name too, but now, after a bumpy period, he appears to be on a roll. The executive producer of Murphy's Law was so impressed by the tortured menace of his character that he recruited him to play Mark Strong's sidekick in Low Winter Sun. This is a stylish, intelligent, morally bleak police thriller set in Edinburgh, which constantly wrong-foots both characters and audience.
The plot is an intricate mesh of police corruption, the sexual exploitation of Eastern European girls and the peddling of dodgy meat. It is inventively violent, featuring dismemberment and the unorthodox use of carcass-stripping equipment. In the opening episode we see Strong and McCardie drown a man in the lobster tank of a Chinese restaurant.
McCardie plays Joe Geddes, a policeman whose dead partner was responsible for sucking him into corruption. "He is someone who has repeatedly betrayed his own morality," says McCardie, "and he has done that for so long that he only thinks of expediency. He's someone who's been selling his own self-respect." Mark Strong brings his brooding intensity to the lead role, but McCardie is every bit as compelling.
Written by Simon Donald, the drama has been developed by the director Adrian Shergold. "Adrian is just fantastic," says McCardie, "very astute and creative and spontaneous. He's been working on it on and off for six years and he's thought through every single line precisely."
This production isn't just morally dark. The lighting can be positively sepulchral, as if shot through a blue-grey filter. I ask if this isn't becoming something of a Scottish clich� with series such as Taggart and Rebus shrouded in perma-gloom." Adrian put a lot of colours into this," he says, "and visual richness. But you only have to visit Edinburgh to see how Gothic the place feels. The clouds seem darker and more malevolent. We were filming from January to early March and dark storm clouds would appear with no notice. To ignore that would be asinine."
His role had particular challenges, like delivering dialogue while wearing an oxygen mask. "The secret was to do it and find out if anyone understood me," he laughs. "To my mind it was a great advantage that Adrian was a southern Englishman because anything he couldn't understand, a large proportion of the audience wouldn't understand either. He could be a barometer."
For much of part two he wears a facial prosthetic after a severe beating. "I was supposed to have a couple of broken ribs. I've had bruised ribs before, and I know that it's movement that causes the greatest pain. So I put two screws within the bandage so that whenever I moved, they dug into me, so it would help me with that." In one scene Alex Fearns, who plays a sadistic abattoir-manager and pimp punches him repeatedly in his injured ribs. So it really hurt then? "Yeah. It really did!" he chuckles, "but Alex is really such a nice guy that he stopped the first take and asked if I was all right." The scene is wince-making: another fine detail in a fine performance.