“This isn’t James Bond, this all feels very real” - hmv.com talks to Jack Thorne, creator of The Last Panthers
Released on TV screens in late 2015, The Last Panthers is a six-parter inspired by the Pink Panthers, the Balkan jewel thieves credited with some of the biggest heists over the last decade.
It stars Samantha Morton as Naomi, an independent claims specialist who is given the task of getting back diamonds stolen by in a heist that has all the hallmarks of the panthers, diamonds that are also in the sights of Khalil, a police officer played by Tahar Rahim. Their search will take them into the dark heart of Europe, a journey that crosses the continent and is packed with endless twists and turns.
Also starring John Hurt and Goran Bogdan, the show is an elegant thriller, powered by an elegant theme from the wonderful and late David Bowie, which will have you in its clutches in no time at all.
To celebrate its release on DVD, we sat down with writer Jack Thorne, who is currently putting the finishing touches to the much-anticipated Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, to find out all about the journey of this powerful drama…
When did you first come up with the idea for The Last Panthers?
“It wasn’t actually my idea it was Jérôme Pierrat’s (a journalist with a dedicated record of working in organised crime) idea. He thought it should be a film and he took it to some French producers who in turn took it to their partner in the UK, which turned out to be Warp Films, Warp then went looking for someone to steer the whole thing and that’s how I got involved.”
What attracted you to the story?
“I love Europe and it felt like an opportunity to tell a story about Europe that I didn’t know and really delve into a brand new world. It was really interesting doing the research, especially looking into the diamonds, this isn’t James Bond, this all feels very real once you look into it.”
How long did it take you to write the scripts?
“It took about four years all in all. The first year was just research, meeting people, it was a really long burner this once, you need to do the work because you don’t want to get anything wrong. Initially it was set in Paris and we spent a lot of time there meeting people, I met a great loss adjuster, people from the big diamond firms, I knew the world pretty well by the end, I could have researched together.”
How did it compare to writing some of your other projects? You’ve worked on Glue and Skins in the past…
“Much more complex. This was much more stop start, working with Jerome made things much slower, he wanted everything to be based on fact and obviously that means you have to be a lot more meticulous. It was one of the most brilliant experiences of my life and one of the hardest, it was very different, but really rewarding, it challenged me as a writer.”
It’s an incredible cast, how involved were you in that process?
“I was sat on the phone hearing the names come through and drooling slightly. I couldn’t believe the cast we got. Tahar was first and he gave me some great notes on the script, but to have him, Samantha and John, it was such an embarrassment of riches.”
Do you ever write with specific actors in mind?
“No I never do that. The characters just exist in my head, you just rely on the fact that you get good enough actors to play the role, I never dreamed we’d get a cast like this though.”
Were you able to go to the set much?
“Not much, I was actually still writing the series while it was being filmed so I was pretty taken up with that, it was very full on. I saw all the rushes come through though and so I knew what was being created was very special indeed.”
How did you react when you found out you had a theme tune from David Bowie?
“Like a lot of things with this project, I couldn’t believe it was happening. Even the idea that David Bowie watched something I’d written was just nuts!”
Finally are there plans to do more?
“No. This is a self-contained thing, there’s not much room for this to go further, recovering from what the characters go through would take a lifetime and I don’t think there’s any story left to tell. End of series cliff-hangers annoy me, stories need to be told and finished.”
The Last Panthers is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now.