Novelist David Peace and screenwriter Tony Grisoni speak about the ‘1977’ script at Newcastle’s Story Engine conference.
Novelist David Peace hopes that Red Riding: Nineteen Seventy-Seven, the ‘missing’ film from the adaptations of his Red Riding Quartet of novels, still has a chance of being made.
Peace was talking about the project at The Story Engine: Scene of The Crime conference this weekend at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema.
“1977 was the best script,” Peace said. “Because of budget restraints, [Channel 4 and the filmmakers] had to cut one, so I said, ‘That’s fine as long as one of them was 1977.’ And they said, ‘No,‘“he recalled with a laugh. “There is still a plan one day to do a stand-alone film based on the Tony Grisoni’s script. I hope that I live long enough to see that.”
Andrew Eaton and Michael Winterbottom’s Revolution Films produced the acclaimed and ambitious trilogy of films (based on the books set in 1974, 1980 and 1983) for Channel 4, which aired them in 2009. The team had originally planned to shoot all four films, including 1977, so screenwriter Tony Grisoni had also adapted that book at the same time as the others.
Grisoni, speaking later at the conference, noted: “Channel 4 said ‘We have enough money for three not four, or four if they are all shortened.’ If we did that, they’d have become much more about plot.” Channel 4 had suggested that bits of 1977 script’s would be “pushed into the others, but I didn’t want to do that,” Grisoni added. “I didn’t want to unpick them.”
But he’s also sad that 1977 wasn’t shot: “It is fractured by ‘77 not being there. It’s an act of vandalism really. It was the one I was most fascinated because it was so trippy. That was the year of punk, the Jubilee, the race riots.” Grisoni revealed that the tagline for the 1977 script was based on a lyric from the song No Future by the Sex Pistols.
It is yet to be known when or if 1977 could be shot, and the fact that Ridley Scott is set to remake the series — originally about power, corruption and murder in West Yorkshire — for Columbia Pictures could also complicate matters. The trilogy was sold internationally by StudioCanal to buyers including IFC for the US — including for some theatrical runs.
Peace was speaking at the Bloody North Panel, moderated by Richard T Kelly and also featuring Get Carter director Mike Hodges, talking about the role of setting in crime novels and films.
Peace had strong praise for Grisoni’s adaptation of the books as well as the films and the performances in them. “When I read the scripts, I forgot they were my books. And I mean that as a compliment. I got caught up in the world of Tony’s scripts.
Peace said he has some regrets about the first book in the series, Nineteen Seventy-Four, which was the most fictional. “Now I feel the violence particularly toward children, was overdone. I’ve learned a lot since then. I think I realised that you didn’t need to stitch swan’s wings of the backs of little girls…the murder of children is horrible enough. I just don’t like the overlaying of the gothic on what is already a tragedy.”
However, Grisoni said “the dead child with swan wings, that image so horrified me but it also hooked me in.”
Peace said it helped that he started writing the books while he was living in Tokyo. “The physical distance really did help a lot. What I tried to capture was the language of Yorkshire in the mid-70s. I tried to listen to music of the time, read novels of the time, and watch films of the time. It was trying to get back that language. Had I been in the UK, I would have been distracted by the current language.”
Separately, Grisoni said that he is currently writing a script based on a series of interviews he’s done with “people talking about grief and their belief in the supernatural.”
Speakers at Story Engine also included authors Barbara McKissack, Denise Mina and Ann Cleeves, Yellow Bird script editor Eva Svenstedt Ward, writer/producer Paul Rutman.
Local film-maker Ian Fenton organised the fifth edition of Story Engine with a special emphasis on crime writing. Other supporters of the event include New Writing North, Arts Council England, and Northern Film + Media. Screen International was a media partner.