If you are making any plans for this Sunday evening, make a note that at 10pm (local time) the first episode of the six-part series The Night Manager, shot partly on location here in Majorca, goes to air. The Night Manager stars Olivia Colman, Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie, who all came to Majorca last year, where Palma Pictures were deeply involved with the production and facilitating the shoot and were therefore key to the project. It is a co-production with the US company behind Breaking Bad and Mad Men. The new thriller cost over 20 million pounds to make and is being hailed as the “most radical ever” Le Carré adaptation, according to the author’s son.
“British television has stepped back up to the plate” with this project, said Simon Cornwell, noting that his father, now 84, “always loved the original treatments of his work”, in which Alec Guinness played taciturn spy George Smiley for the BBC.
The lavish six-part adaptation of le Carré’s 1993 novel sees Olivia Colman star as “a 21st-century version of Smiley” alongside Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston and Tom Hollander. Published in 1993, the novel was quickly optioned by Paramount Studios, but two attempts to make the movie – the second involving Brad Pitt – fizzled out because of the story’s complexity and the difficulty, Cornwell now believes, of cramming the action into a 90-minute movie.
The plot revolves around three memorable characters: Jonathan Pine, a former soldier, now a suave hotel manager, who turns informer out of disgust, revenge and guilt; his nemesis, Richard Roper, a bewitching arms dealer dubbed the “worst man in the world”; and the British secret service investigator, bluff, straight-seeing Leonard Burr.
In this new adaptation, le Carré’s spy becomes female, with Olivia Colman playing Angela Burr. The setting has also been shifted to 2011 and the Arab Spring, rather than focusing as the book does on murky Central and South American drug warlords. A fan of Le Carré, Laurie said at a recent screening of the drama that many years ago he had unsuccessfully tried to buy the rights to the book. His aim had been to play the hero, Pine, because the story was “so romantic, noble, stirring and thrilling”. Now, more than 20 years later, he is cast as Roper, playing the older villain, while Hiddleston plays Pine.
Laurie explained: “You could, if you chose, read this story as a very ferocious indictment of a particular class, of privilege, money.” His challenge has been to avoid playing the pantomime villain, while exuding superficial charm and a glamorous no-expense-spared lifestyle. “It’s a case of the devil has the good tunes.”