James Howes, director of “Slow Horses,” on Apple TV Slow-Burn Spy Thriller – Deadline

Six-part mini series of Apple TV slow horses, adapted from the novels of the same name by Mick Heron, landed on April 1 with a one-to-two punch and immediately kept viewers waiting, having decided to distribute the remaining four episodes on a weekly basis. “It was Apple’s decision,” says director James Howes. “But if the response I got was anything to do, the anticipation I created is great. People have called me to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I wanted to finish it for the weekend! “The greatest compliment you can get is that people are asking for more – and right Now. “

Starring Gary Oldman as shaggy spy Jackson Lamb, the series revolves around the exploits of the lower ranks of British intelligence. The show begins with great fanfare, then moves on to a bleak, dystopian world – like Jack Lowden’s Cartwright River – who have made big mistakes and will spend a lot of time in purgatory to pay for them. It’s a tough ground in a world more accustomed to its amazing heroics Mission: Impossible and Bond, but critics agreed. “It was amazing,” Howes says. “I can’t tell you there’s no relief, because it’s been two years and a little bit of my life and it would have been very frustrating if it were otherwise. But what’s surprising is the positivity of the response, the amount of people enjoying and interacting with it, as well as the global reach of the series. There are reviews. From all over the world, people seemed to have understood the tone. It landed incredibly hard.”

+ Apple TV

The upshot is that viewers won’t have to wait long to visit Lamb and co at their London office. “Apple has already released the next six images, and they will air sometime later this year. There is every hope and intention that there will be two more seasons in the near future,” Howes reveals.

Deadline spoke with Hawes midway through the show’s first season.

Deadline: Where did the project start?

James Howes: Si Su contacted me and they sent me a text. Apparently Gary was engaged. Two other actors were in the frame, and they were chasing their lead director. This is the process that happens in television: you respond to matter, how you see it, what you think are the keys. I met them a few times, I excitedly jumped on the plane, my hands got dirty on the text [the screenwriter] will Smith. One of the great things about working at See-Saw is treating directors like film directors. And this is not about greatness, but about anchoring very strongly at the heart of the creative process. So there you are, along with the producers and writer, as lead author on the shoot. It was phenomenally possible, and Will and I created an especially powerful alliance during the whole process. That was about a month before the first shutdown. [Laughs] So the timing was perfect!

slow horses

Jack English / Apple TV + / Everett Collection

Deadline: How did the submission process start?

Howes: We’ve been thinking about the band a lot. There was some casting in pairs. We literally met up with some potential actors in pairs to do the chemistry casting. We wanted the casting not to be good. We needed actors who had the ability to perform live drama but also had a sense of comedic rhythm and timing, to get that little comedic bone. And then it was about building that group, picking people like Saskia Reeves, someone I’d been working with 20 years ago, who’s just a very good actress — someone who can bring in all the backstory and charisma and who’s going to be an actor who can work on a scene with Gary and imbue him with his brilliance and let him know his brilliance. I think we did it across the board and it was fun. In the end, I don’t think we got an upsetting note. [Laughs] He says a little arrogantly!

Deadline: What got Gary Oldman interested?

Howes: Gary might say it’s obvious: It’s the script. He loved books, too, because Mick Heron created such depth, layer, and history for his characters. So not only is what’s on the page what Will and the writing team have been able to convey to the page so accurately, but there’s the promise of more research to do in the novels, and the legs of those characters—the journeys of those characters—through the eight existing ones. So I think he was excited about it. I know that he, as I was, was excited by the tone, and that this sounds like a confident development of the British espionage kind. All the reviews, which were embarrassingly amazing, seemed to get the terms of the show. With very, very few exceptions, people understood that this was just as true of the lineage of Ian Fleming, John le Carré, and Lynne Dayton, but with that little twist and a bit of a contemporary edge to it.

Deadline: Is there any kind of truth basis in it? How much research have you done?

Howes: I’ll answer the research question second, because the first answer is really Mick Heron’s answer, which is that Le Carré knew how to write spy thrillers because he was a spy, but Mick Heron knew how to write a spy thriller because he read Le Carré, and that was as far as I went his experience. In fact, there are, as any UK intelligence expert will tell you, all kinds of inaccuracies, but the fact that you can believe it, I think, tells you how well the world is built, and it looks like a coherent world, to kind of believe the chain of command. You believe some crazy schemes they came up with. And in fact, we hired a former intelligence officer as a consultant for a while, coached the actors on some of their surveillance work, and talked about what it feels like to be a spy. And he was able to tell us, “Well, no matter what, we’re making these crazy schemes.” Not necessarily only to advance their own ambitions, but even from the early history of the security services, to gather intelligence or to capture some organizations. This is exactly what they do.

Deadline: Like I said, London is a character in the story…

Howes: Part of that has been told, again, by narratives, because Mick Heron put her in that particular row of houses across from the Barbican. I went with the site and design team, and this area is actually multiple properties. There’s everything from corner stores and Italian restaurants to Airbnb, so we couldn’t use that in aggregate. I loved the idea that, from the first floor up, this was once the property of a lawyer who, in the ’70s, would probably knock on it and make some kind of hilarious Escher-esque diversion. So the production designer created a collection that reflected the exterior architecture and created this kind of rabbit-filled interior. But to answer the broader location question, I wanted London to be a strong figure on this, and I wanted London that was somewhat of the back alleys, under bridges, and between rail-tracks kind of place. So we created a world that I think is cohesive. It’s the kind of space that feels like everyday London, not tourist quaint London.

Deadline: The series has a very poor rhythm. Does Apple have any feedback?

Howes: The thing is, as a team, we’ve been pressure-testing, and we’ve tested it right away with mods too. I think it’s an adult show. I think people of this genre expect to be treated like savvy viewers, and that requires some amount of plot and invites the audience to do some work in revealing layers. So I was really careful not to overstate, that we let the audience feel like they are engaged and have to be an expert on their own wits, but it also relies so strongly on the character. This invites you to let her breathe. It’s not about listing hell for leather. Yes, there will be more of that and it will speed up through the season, but what’s key to this is these characters with very well-rounded backstory, quirks, and liaisons, and I think it allows you to get to know them more perhaps at the speed of the big screen.

slow horses

Apple TV + / Everett Collection Courtesy of

Deadline: Have you used any spy movies as a reference? Or was this just a given?

Howes: yes. Very early on, we made a 40-page visual document on how to achieve the show. It included the films that inspired us. It includes some obvious things like The reformer soldier tailor the spy As well as some great European spy thriller films, such as life of others. But I feel that there are sort of three phases in history so far in the movie Intelligence. There is the British era of James Bond and Lynne Dayton, then the Americans picked it up and turned it into an exciting plot story: All the president’s menAnd Three days of CondorAnd view view …and then we kind of borrowed it, especially in [British] TV with [shows like] edge of darkness And play condition. So we introduced slow horses A color palette steeped in American and European films of the ’70s and ’80s. That was very self-aware – it seemed to contain a history. It was really an attempt to build visually on the legacy of those films and shows, and to feel the sincerity of the genre.

Deadline: The theme song of the show is absolutely amazing…

Howes: something very special about him slow horses It’s the tone – it switches between being a proper thriller with real stakes and people dying, almost instantly, to the very dark humor that is such an important part of its DNA. Making those turns can be very special. We have a huge cinematic opening, and then we make a very sharp turn into a different tone from the life of “slow horses” themselves, with all its ugliness and flatulence. So early on, I thought, “I think the song is going to be really good in the opening credits to help us beat the tone’s bravado and undermine the danger that’s set up in the opening sequence.” Something to say, “Guys, there’s something else going on here.”

Deadline: How did you get Mick Jagger to do that?

Howes: It’s a very British show, and it’s a very London show, so I had one name on my mind – and it was Mick Jagger, because in a way he can talk to all of that. And she felt it needed a very special approach to words, something that poet Mick could bring to the piece. So what happened is Music Supervisor Catherine Graves, composer Daniel Pemberton and I thought we’d be brave and approach him and see what happened. Daniel wrote a tune—a sad, swinging tune—and Will Smith and I put together a page about what we thought the opening song might touch on: the idea of ​​second chances, no way back, and “I don’t want to be a loser all my life.” We sent that, and a short trailer, to Mick. The next thing we knew, he was in it. There was a very magical moment, not long before Christmas, when I got a call from Daniel saying, “You have to get to a place where you can listen to a recording — right now.” And he sent me through Mick’s first draft, which he did on his iPhone. It was one of those self-defeating moments, because it was awesome. She took over the show, she took over the characters. It turns out he’d read all the books, so some of the research he’d normally do, as a lyricist and songwriter, he’d already had. I’m so proud of that. I think it’s a huge success for the show.

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