THE SINGING DETECTIVE - 1986 BBC series written by Dennis Potter hits the big screen

THE SINGING DETECTIVE
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1986 BBC series written by Dennis Potter hits the big screen

Synopsis

Unsuccessful detective story novelist Dan Dark (Robert Downey, Jr.) lies in a hospital bed, covered with a visibly painful, devastating psoriasis. His diseased skin mirrors his inner world where his tortured childhood, career disappointments, and failing marriage have brought him to the brink.

Is his wife (Robin Wright Penn) cheating on him with a strange figure from his childhood (Jeremy Northam) and plotting to steal the script he wrote and tucked away? Are the doctors that encircle him, poking and prodding truly as mad as they seem when they suddenly burst into musical numbers, or is their wild behavior a function of Dark's tormented psyche? It seems as though only the sweet nurse (Katie Holmes) and the eccentric Dr. Gibbon (Mel Gibson) can rescue him from his own sardonic ranting, from the memories of his difficult childhood, and from slipping into fantasy where gangsters (Adrien Brody and Jon Polito) follow him through noir landscapes.


FILM ORIGINS

"The Singing Detective" is a title best known to audiences in Britain and the United States as the 1986 BBC series written by Dennis Potter. Though a fan of Potter's acclaimed BBC series, Keith Gordon says he fell in love with the Potter's film adaptation script separately, and all before he ever became involved with the project.

Says Gordon, "I loved the series but it's not like I wanted to turn the series into a film because I think that is in some ways a fool's errand-if something is great, to think, 'I'm going to redo

fILM - THE SINGING DETECTIVE
fILM - THE SINGING DETECTIVE
fILM - THE SINGING DETECTIVE

that.' I loved the series when it aired on PBS for all the same reasons I loved the script-for it's bravery, it's style and emotion, a combination of comedy and drama. Potter managed to do all these ideas with tremendous fun, and both touched your heart and excited your brain at the same."

Gordon got excited about the project early on. "My agent sent it to me and I flipped out for it and said I would kill to direct this but couldn't get within miles of it because it was immediately snapped up by studio-type people. It was always going to be an A-list picture with huge stars and huge directors. I would just keep calling my agents, and they would keep calling about it saying, 'no, this is going to be a $60 million movie, and we need a huge name director.' The studios wanted someone who'd won an Oscar. I basically couldn't get anywhere close to it."

"Icon picked it up and Robert Downey, Jr. got involved. He and I had worked together as actors back in "Back to School," and I gather from a couple of interviews he'd given that he had actually followed my career after that, and liked the films I'd made-which is highly flattering. And we'd talked once or twice about working together, and then called me to come in for a meeting with Robert and [Associate Producer] Kevin Lake."

Gordon's perseverance paid off. "We met with Keith early on," says Downey, "and I just felt like he was qualified and hungry which is an unusual combination nowadays."

Says producer Steven Haft, "No one was more dogged over a longer period of time, or gave more of his heart to trying to claim this project, this prize, than Keith Gordon. I had my first meeting with him, I guess, seven years ago."

About twelve weeks before shooting started, Gordon got a call asking if he would take the job. Says Gordon, "I was utterly thrilled and utterly terrified-there was not much time to prepare and it wasn't like we had all the money in the world to fling at problems-which is what you usually do when you don't have lots of time, so it meant diving in head first. On the other hand I'd thought about it and loved it for such a long time it wasn't like I didn't have some real ground to stand on." So Gordon agreed and began working fifteen hours a day preparing for the scheduled production start date.

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