Hackney based screen writer, Tony Grisoni speaks to Clare Dickinson about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegan and the Channel 4 series Red Riding.
How did you come to work on Red Riding?
Andrew Eaton asked if I was interested in adapting the novels. When Andrew asks you, you cannot refuse. I was nervous about the idea of taking on four novels. But after I read the first novel, 1974, I knew I had to make it. It went from agreeing to do two, then three, then all four.
Were you surprised at its success?
Someone told me the previews and the reviews and figures were better than any drama for a decade. When you work on something like that it is so total the only thing that keeps you going is thinking it is special. Weirdly, bad reviews are easier to take; the anger fuels you on to the next project.
You are most famous for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, what was that like to work on?
That’s because it is the first film people bring up when they mention my name. It was actually the second time I worked with Terry Gillam. We decided early on to try not to write anything because the novel was so brilliant. We took the book and rearranged the pieces, it became a collage. It has become the most successful video and DVD ever but at Cannes (where it was premiered in 1998) it was rubbished. Then university and college students rented the video. They made it a huge success.
That was more than 10 years ago, do you ever get frustrated that you are living in its shadow?
No, it is a great shadow to be living under.
How does Hackney inspire your writing?
I am powerfully effected and inspired by Hackney, where I live. Last year I wrote and directed Kingsland, a series of stories told to me by Kurdish people living in Dalston. I made sure Kurdish people who weren’t professional actors were in the film.
What are you working on next?
I am bringing Don Quixote back with Terry Gillam. We tried to make it before but it collapsed.
What is your favourite place in Hackney?
I find the parts of Hackney which haven’t been polished and renovated most interesting. Hackney Cemetery is probably my favourite place. Being around all those dead people is very comforting.