PRODUCTION. SLOW HORSES
DOWN FOR THE COUNT Life in Slough House is dull, until the team get dragged into nefarious games
Did you know?
The Stansted chase scene was originally meant to be in King’s Cross station.
of the Realm. In it, a journalist exposes a Member of Parliament as a spy. “It has an amazing sense of place, set around Fleet Street and Whitehall. It’s very specific, which I tried to translate to Slow Horses . There’s a ton of spy movies like The Third Man , The Spy Who Came in from the Cold ; they’ve all got something, you just need to mash them together. It needs to be logically done to work for Slow Horses , however.” On location – and on-set as much as he could – Cohen used practicals to light scenes, especially in Slough House, which always had to have this sparse, ‘sticky carpet’ vibe. Aesthetically, he was searching for a naturalistic feel as an initial instinct, to control and shape
the look organically. “That was a big part of what I was up to. Director James Hawes wanted to deliver something that people hadn’t seen before within this upside-down spy genre.” DUCK AND COVER If you haven’t read the Herron books or seen the show, you won’t know about the added element: comedy value. This is a typically British depreciation of others, which is the bed the plot lies in. It’s inherent in the way the narrative is driven and brings a dark humour to scenes. But violent action is often only around the corner. Cohen needed to reflect this, bringing in three Arri Alexa Mini LF cameras to cover the ensemble’s banter. And lenses were from Panavision. “There were always two cameras, because you want to cover more than one person in every take. We used three as much as possible. It’s all about coverage, as you don’t want the actors to repeat it and repeat it. You need to try and reduce the number of takes by increasing the number of cameras. It’s the way to go. “There’s inevitably a compromise with lighting, as with a single camera you can shape it a lot more. If you go multicam, some shots might not look that pretty, but you strike a balance. You get an immediacy with the acting by getting the coverage.”
and grimy office spaces set against the splendour of MI5’s slick and shiny fortress. The production had also been able to build out Slough House and the MI5 HQ, maximising the oppressive nature of one against the professionalism of the other. It’s a weird kind of Upstairs, Downstairs arrangement. “Having the build, we could design the shoot to really flow. The fun of it is, you can do interesting things that would be difficult in a real location.” Cohen had plenty of previous spies to reference, including Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer films, which also accentuated a bleached and low-contrast look. But he was to hark back to one of cinematographer Sir Roger Deakins’ first films, made in 1986: Defence
“The director wanted to deliver something people hadn’t seen before in this upside-down spy genre”
Did you know? Writer and adapter Will Smith also worked on Veep , The Thick of It and Avenue 5 .
HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVE The sleek interiors of MI5 contrast with the home of the slow horses
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