2004 Interview with Anthony Horowitz
- September 28, 2004; www.visithastings.com
; Simon Allen
(Questions submitted by www.foyleswar.com are marked with an asterisk *.)
Simon: Thanks for talking to visithastings.com, Anthony.
Anthony Horowitz: My pleasure.
* Simon: First off, will Foyle's War be going to a fourth series?
Anthony Horowitz: I can say with absolute certainty that it will go into a fourth season as I've just finished the scripts and had them signed off!
* Simon: Good news! Do you have any co-writers on this new series, the third series?
Anthony Horowitz: So far out of the twelve "two hour" slots that we've made, we've had three other writers but only one of them has actually managed to write a script.
Simon: Only one?
Anthony Horowitz: And that's in the new season.
Simon: Any particular reason for that? Were they just lazy or is it so you can retain control of it?
Anthony Horowitz: I wouldn't like you to think that I'm some sort of control freak! It's just that we've found that other writers can't produce the goods. It's a very difficult show to write for in that it requires both the ability to construct a detective story plus a good handle on the regular characters together with a good historical knowledge.
* Simon: Here's a definite 'fan's question': have you noticed any continuity errors in the show? For example, did Rosalind die 8 or 14 years ago?
Anthony Horowitz: I think... hmmm... let me get this right. She died 8 years ago.
Simon: Is that Foyle's wife?
Anthony Horowitz: You don't know?
Anthony Horowitz: That's right. She is.
* Simon: How do you decide which war-time issues to focus on? Have you been influenced at all by any memories/stories given to you by your family?
Anthony Horowitz: No. I think that if you follow the six years of the war through, stories tend to present themselves. For example, in the new season, the first story has the arrival of GIs in it.
Simon: Gee Whiz!
Anthony Horowitz: Well quite. Their entry into the war created problems because it was a kind of invasion. That's why we've called the episode 'Invasion'. In fact the American invasion of the country was the first since the Norman invasion which is something you people in Hastings would know all about!
Simon: Some of us certainly.
Anthony Horowitz: Next year, I might look at the question of race relations because, after the Americans came, black people entered the country. There were many serious problems. Not so much with the English who were not hostile to African Americans but from the Americans themselves. So that automatically suggests another story. Following the history of the war is like turning pages in a book and every page has another story.
* Simon: One of the things that must be a challenge is the need for a balance between an accurate representation of the 1940s conservative, post-Victorian mindset and the demands of a modern audience in the 21st century.
Anthony Horowitz: Foyle's War is inward looking out. It's not outward looking in. Therefore I don't think about 2004 and our morality. I try to make every character, all the thinking, historically authentic.
Simon: How do you and Michael Kitchen work together?
Anthony Horowitz: Michael Kitchen is the character. He has transformed what I originally wrote. I think it's true to say that the character is a collaboration between us. Sometimes it's quite a difficult collaboration. Sometimes quite demanding.
Anthony Horowitz: In the best possible way. He is somebody who won't say a line unless he believes in it totally. We often discuss scenes line by line.
* Simon: Do you have much of a say in how the stories are shot? Are you there on set?
Anthony Horowitz: I'm too busy. I just can't be there all the time. Anyway, it's not the job of the writer to do that. Going back to your earlier question about control - it's not 'my' show. It's a collaboration between sixty people. Once the script has left me, what happens next is not really my business. I should say that being married to the producer does give me a slight advantage though!
* Simon: Another fan's question: do you realise that the show is edited to pieces when it's shown on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the states?
Anthony Horowitz: Yes we're very sorry about that. It's not something I'd choose to do. It's American networking. I'd advise all American fans to get their hands on the English DVDs to see them in full.
* Simon: Does series 3 pick up from the end of series 2 or has it moved well into 1941?
Anthony Horowitz: There is an underlying development of the characters and their relationships, particularly Sam's relationship with Andrew Foyle but the episodes have to be made so they can be shown in any order. We have no control over what order they're shown abroad and so they are very much standalone.
Simon: Are you also catering for new audiences so they can pick up the show in series 3 without having watched the first two?
Anthony Horowitz: It's not so much that. Foyle's War now has a very loyal and very strong audience so I'm not really fishing for a new audience. I just think it's true that people live busy lives and aren't necessarily going to remember what happened in the previous series.
* Simon: On writing, how often do you re-write an episode before it feels 'right'? Do you get writer's block and if so, how do you attack it? Do you get the urge to change something once filming has started?
Anthony Horowitz: I write a first draft. Then I get notes from the producer, director, Imperial War Museum, Michael Kitchen and many other people. The network and so on. All these notes have to be dealt with. A Foyle script goes through three maybe four drafts. I don't think too many drafts helps. After two or three you're on a downward trajectory and the writing gets tired.
* Simon: Another fan's question: in series 2 there seemed to be a storyline that began, but nothing came of it. That is, Milner and his wife, Jane.
Anthony Horowitz: Yes that was unfortunate. It didn't work as I hoped. My fault. The woman was too unsympathetic and too much to bear. We did film more material with them but it didn't work. In the new series Milner is divorced.
Simon: We're impressed with your awareness of your audience because the comment from the fan we spoke to was "We'd be happy to hear that an anvil dropped on Jane and she is no more."
Anthony Horowitz: Well she's gone to live in Wales which is really the same thing.
* Simon: We couldn't possibly comment. It seemed that there was less focus on Foyle in series 2 and more on the ensemble cast. Will this trend continue in series 3?
Anthony Horowitz: I think that both Anthony Howell and Honeysuckle Weeks and, to a certain extent, Geoffrey Rivers, have become such strong characters in their own right that I've wanted to spend more time with them. And Andrew Foyle too. And so, although Michael is the centre of the show, I don't think it hurts if he's not on the screen all the time.
Simon: It's a sign of the show's strength?
Anthony Horowitz: The characters, if they're well drawn, demand exploration but also, if you have actors as good as ours and you don't keep them interested, they'll leave the show.
* Simon: Final fan's question: Hugh Reid - will he be back in series 3?
Anthony Horowitz: Hugh Reid? The first police officer?
Simon: I think so. Maybe. Yes?
Anthony Horowitz: No. It wasn't working for me. People come and go. That was the nature of the war.
Simon: Any plans to return to Hastings for 2005? We'd love to have you!
Anthony Horowitz: I'd love to come back down with the next season.
Simon: Thank you for your time Anthony.
Anthony Horowitz: Thank you.
With thanks to Simon for generously 'sharing' the interview!