David Thewlis stars in this new adaptation of Bradford-born JB Priestley’s novel. Set in 1912, a time when society was transforming and women’s lives were about to change forever, the detective thriller opens following the suicide of a young woman called Eva from the local town.
Thewlis plays the inspector unexpectedly called to interrogate the wealthy Birling family. As their world unravels, each member of the family is revealed to have unwittingly played a part in the victim’s demise.
Thewlis says: “An Inspector Calls is a British classic and I am thrilled to be working on this beautiful screen adaptation with Aisling Walsh.”
The production also gives a starring role to a number of Yorkshire locations, including Saltaire where the streets of the model village were transported back in time to the heyday of the textile industry.
Producer Howard Ella said: “The play is the classic drawing room genre, where all the drama is contained in that one space. For it to translate to television we need to show the scale and atmosphere of the world the Birlings inhibit, and the contrast of their lives with girls like Eva. We needed a mill and I knew straight away I wanted Saltaire. “It is an ideal location, it’s completely untouched and it looks amazing on camera.”
The one-off drama also showcases the market town of Malton as the home of the Birlings, with two Fitzwilliam Malton Estate-owned properties used for some of the interior shots.
“Yorkshire is a fantastic place to film, there is such a unique mix here,” added Mr Ella. “I know I’m biased because I am from here and I still live here, I know the actors were blown away by it too.”
Filming on-location finished earlier this year and An Inspector Calls, which also stars Miranda Richardson and Rebus’s Ken Stott, is being screened as part of BBC One’s season of classic 20th-century literature. Other adaptations include Adrian Hodges’ adaptation of The Go-Between, and Jed Mercurio’s adaptation of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
It is hoped that while providing a fitting testament for fans of what is often deemed Priestley’s greatest work, the themes of An Inspector Calls will capture the imagination of modern television audiences.
“This is a timeless play,” continued Mr Ella. “GCSE students up and down the country still study it and I think a lot of the issues he explores will really resonate with people today.
“It’s remarkable to think that divides between the rich and the poor in the early 20th century which Priestley wrote about are still around today.”
While it may be impossible to get the seal of approval from the great man himself, who died in 1984, Mr Ella and the team at Drama Republic, which is producing the programme for the BBC, have the next best thing in the writer’s son, Tom.
Mr Ella said: “We’ve worked with Tom closely throughout the production process and he has given us lots of advice, so we’re hoping it will be as authentic as possible.”
An Inspector Calls, BBC1, Sunday, 8.30pm