Foyle's War

Production Crew Interviews - September 18, 2002; Publicity Release.

Anthony Horowitz - Writer
Jill Green - Producer
Simon Passmore - Producer
Jeremy Silbertson - Director

Anthony Horowitz - Writer

Anthony Horowitz, the creator of Foyle's War, believes World War Two offers a rich backdrop for TV drama.

"The Second World War is still with us and people who fought in it are still alive. I think it makes for a richer drama than something contemporary, and it's more interesting than writing about murder alone. But Foyle's War is not really about the war - it is much more about the people and how their lives were affected by it.

"Being a detective on the home front, when there are thousands being killed at war presents Foyle with a moral dilemma. It's a problem defending society and you can't say that it's ok to murder just because it's happening in Europe.

"During the war, there was great opportunity for crime thanks to the blackouts, there were crimes of passion because of infidelity, and a huge black market industry. Families were broken up, people were displaced and if a bomb went off, there could be looting. It's an ideal background for a detective series."

The setting is the south coast of England. "The geography itself is interesting - offering us beaches, ports and seaside towns as well as working villages, farms, castles and manor houses.

"And although the period is historical, it still has relevance today. We built a huge internment camp at more or less the same time that William Hague was talking about internment camps on the south coast for refugees."

Anthony is no stranger to murder stories, having written Murder in Mind, Poirot and Midsomer Murders.

"I think murder is popular because we have a killer instinct as early primates and like to see it from a distance. A magazine once called me a serial killer, saying how many people I had 'killed' over the years. But I think a murder-mystery has to rest on good storytelling. I am fascinated by puzzles and I like my dramas to be intellectual puzzles, just as viewers like to solve them for themselves.

"Foyle's War is a drama first and a murder-mystery second. I would say it's more egg in the sponge than icing on the cake when you have a murder amongst all the developing characters. In the first film, everyone asks why Foyle is bothering to investigate the murder of a German woman. In that way, the murder and the war are totally entwined."

Anthony undertook detailed research in order to create the setting and characters in Foyle's War - his first original detective series.

"I have always been interested in the Second World War period. I had great help from the Imperial War Museum in terms of research. I hope people feel the dilemmas that face Foyle and understand that the emotions and situations were out of the ordinary. However, it's a piece of entertainment, not a history lesson.

"Foyle is a widower with a son, Andrew, in the RAF. Andrew is leaving home and they say goodbye, knowing it could be forever. Milner, his sergeant, has a leg blown off and is a troubled character - his life and his marriage are now imbalanced. And the third member of the team is Sam, Foyle's driver. Before the war, women were not very independent. Sam is young and becomes his driver in a very male world."

Anthony was delighted with the casting of MichaelKitchen in the leading role.

"Michael is a magnificent actor. He studied the script, brought notes to the set and knew his lines perfectly. He had total command of the character and is calm and focused - a total professional.

"He is intimidating as the character, authoritative and intuitive - all good qualities for Foyle which he can play so well. But he underplays it. He can give so much in his eyes, and in one scene he tells the whole story through his eyes."

Anthony also watched the performance of another actor closely. "My 10-year-old Cassian is also in the first film, playing William. He plays the piano and gives a star performance!"


Jill Green - Producer

Producer Jill Green describes Foyle's War as a multi-layered murder-mystery, which she believes has huge potential as an on-going ITV1 series.

"For me, Foyle's War combines the appeal of an almost forgotten England and the depth of character and richness of Inspector Morse.

"All the elements of a successful whodunit are there - jealousy, blackmail, passion, revenge - but set against the extraordinary background of the Second World War, which is a tremendously popular period.

"It begins in 1941 when the south coast area is full of displaced people - evacuees, American servicemen, free Frenchmen, immigrants fleeing from the Nazis, troops in training and spies. There are blackouts, rationing, a flourishing black market. The first bombs are falling and the future is bleak. Yet day-to-day life must go on.

"As the war progresses, there are unpredictable and compelling new settings to explore. Although Foyle's War is about life on the home front, the Second World War will always be in the background. Foyle is on the edge of the war and his community don't know if they are going to live or die. But the mood of the piece is earthy and warm, rather than grim."

Foyle's War is the third ITV1 production for Jill's company Greenlit Productions, following on from The Swap and Trust.

"It's important for us and I believe it has great potential. The stories and characters are original, not based on a book, and it is quite serious and intelligent, yet still classy and populist."

Jill was delighted to attract such star names as Edward Fox, Robert Hardy, David Horovitch, Charles Dance and Maggie Steed, along with MichaelKitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks and Anthony Howell as the on-going cast.

"The cast have all given very powerful performances. Michael gives it class; he says very little but has enormous presence. He is not just another conventional detective."

Adds Jill: "Award winning composer Jim Parker has written the music and it is haunting and mysterious. He makes it private and unforgettable - totally apposite for the film."


Simon Passmore - Producer

Simon Passmore believes Anthony Horowitz has created a very strong concept for a new TV drama in Foyle's War.

"It's a new hybrid - unlike, say, Poirot, it's as much about the Home Front in 1940 as it is about solving crimes. There are many layers to the stories - among other things Foyle's War is a portrait of a society on the brink of tremendous change. But there's also the pleasure of trying to work out whodunit.

"There's a big range of ages in the characters, from children through to older people, and all of them react differently to the pressures of the war. We've tried to reflect this in the casting, and as well as instantly recognisable names and faces we've cast quite a few up and coming young actors and actresses."

What drew Simon to the project most was its sense of 'integrity'.

"MichaelKitchen plays a detective who has his own values, and refuses to play to the gallery. As Foyle he gives a strong, uncompromising performance. Anthony Horowitz's stories, too, have a moral edge - characters make choices between right and wrong, and suffer the consequences.

"Foyle's War also has its own look. It's not chocolate-box pretty, but nor is it gritty and harsh. There's a warmth to this world, even when things look bleak. The locations, costumes and props are very authentic, and that helps make it a solid and substantial place.

"Between them the four stories in this first series offer a great deal of variety. Although each one centres on a murder, they cover a lot of ground along the way. Fifth columnists, conscientious objectors, Fascist conspirators, evacuees and boffins jostle with vicars, RAF officers, factory workers, ARP wardens and secret policemen.

"Foyle's War takes us to some familiar places - the Dunkirk evacuation, the Battle of Britain - but always seen afresh from its own unique viewpoint. The same goes for a side of the Home Front we haven't seen before - the treatment handed out to a 'conchie', the victimisation of enemy aliens, patriotic Englishmen who can't wait to welcome Hitler. The war and the threat on imminent invasion put pressure on everyone, and some deal with it better than others.

"Foyle himself and other regulars - his son Andrew, Sergeant Milner and Sam his driver - are rays of light in a world that can seem very dark. After all, this was Britain's darkest hour - the moment when we stood alone, expecting every day to be invaded. But you feel that while Foyle and his team are on hand things are going to turn out all right in the end."

Simon's other credits include Imogen's Face, Forgive and Forget and Pretending To Be Judith.


Jeremy Silbertson - Director

Jeremy Silberston became involved in Foyle's War at an early stage and helped to shape the film's look and mood.

"Anthony Horowitz and I developed Midsomer Murders together so he asked me to read the script of Foyle's War quite early on. I felt it had a basis in reality that gave it interest and set it apart from other detective shows. The stories, the characters and the casting made it a very attractive project.

"The key to the film is the period. We do not attempt to portray war in terms of fighting, but its influence on the home front fills the stories. Our directors of photography David Odd and Peter Middleton looked for ways to create mood and atmosphere, using camera techniques that give a faint sense of another time, without creating huge barriers.

"A muted look was created by using a filter on the camera called antique suede. That diffusion helps to give the film a more enclosed feel. We also attempted to keep costumes naturalistic within the period. The result is a polished film which doesn't shout at you as chocolate box period drama."

Jeremy and his team needed to find locations without too many 21st century trappings.

"One of our main houses was Squeerys Court in Kent which hasn't been used very often. Finding a country house was not too difficult but small towns and villages and locations within London that are still in period can be tricky. We had to ensure there were no yellow lines, aerials, phone boxes, modern cars and modern noises.

"You struggle with modernity in every period drama. We recreated the little boats returning from Dunkirk and had a demanding day on the beach at Hastings working within the limits of a TV budget, rather than Spielberg conditions. Luckily the sea was calm and it worked extremely well.

"That was a highlight for me, along with the day Andrew Foyle flies a Spitfire. We had to fly out of a little period airfield, but the conditions were perfect and Julian Ovenden as the pilot had a tremendous day. When the real pilot took the Spitfire back to Duxford, he gave us an impromptu air display, complete with loop the loops. It was glorious and everyone was hugely moved."

Along with careful attention to period detail, Jeremy's job was to help the cast bring Anthony Horowitz's characters to life.

"The main point is to tell an enjoyable story with interesting characters. I believe the piece has depth of character and richness of quality. The events Anthony has depicted are not particularly well known, like the internment of enemy aliens, so it provides a new and powerful story. Human events are set against the background of politics.

"Our main characters are Foyle, Sam, his driver and Milner, who goes on to work with Foyle. Foyle is very straight and true, unwavering in his determination to solve crimes. There is also humanity to him - his love of fly-fishing shows his gentle side, even making his own flies with tremendous attention to detail.

"The same can be said of MichaelKitchen who is determined that everything should be right. Michael is admired in the profession, particularly for his dedication to do his best at every turn and be truthful to the part. He has given tremendous depth to his character and sees his way through a script with tremendous precision."

Adds Jeremy: "Sam's character shows the way the war offered new opportunities to women and Honeysuckle Weeks embodies that spirit of adventure. Anthony Howell who plays Milner is a star in the making and Julian Ovenden, as Andrew, has tremendous charisma. We also gave the first TV role to Sam Troughton, grandson of Patrick and son of David Troughton."

With thanks to Shelagh for the publicity material.