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Meet the man who directed Doctor Who at Christmas – and Aidan Turner’s topless scything in Poldark

posted: December 24th, 2016 in Career, Interviews

Radio Times interviewed Ed Bazelgette, the director of the first episodes of “Poldark”. I’ve copied the parts of the interview that have to do with Aidan Turner and Poldark below. You can read the full interview here:
Meet the man who directed Doctor Who at Christmas – and Aidan Turner’s topless scything in Poldark

Director Ed Bazelgette and Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark)

You directed the opening episodes of Endeavour, Poldark and Doctor Who spin-off Class. What particular challenges or freedoms are there for a director in getting a brand-new series off the ground?
In directing opening episodes, you get to set the look and tone of a new series. Like everything in TV it’s a collaborative process but you’re right in the middle of it all – it’s a lot more responsibility but allows you more creative licence. Of course the process is different in each instance and the key for me is finding my own entry point into the story. Once you find that, things start to flow. With Poldark, it was seeing the landscape as a character: understanding how the wild and unpredictable nature of Cornwall – the climate, the terrain, the sea – had informed the way Winston Graham had created his characters in the novels and seeing how Debbie Horsfield had threaded that idea through her scripts. Once I had that, so much fell into place – I loved all the jokes about “there goes Ross, galloping off on his horse…again”. It kept the sense of place front and centre throughout those opening episodes where we were establishing our world.
And coming in at the start gives you the opportunity to spend more time with the writer. Debbie Horsfield on Poldark, Patrick Ness on Class, Russell Lewis on Endeavour, Chris Lang on A Mother’s Son – I’ve worked with some great writers and they’ve all been really collaborative. And despite having so many projects to juggle, Steven was always available to work through the Christmas script. That time spent together and those conversations gave me so much more depth and detail: it was invaluable.
You are also pivotal in the casting, one of the best parts of the process. You’re at the start of prep, a million decisions to be made – there’s so much on your plate. But hearing the script come to life, each actor bringing their own interpretation, interrogating each line, never fails to inspire me. It’s like shining light on a brilliant diamond, constantly seeing the script from a fresh angle, in a new light. You get this real sense of momentum building. It’s thrilling.

“Directing Poldark series one, you were responsible for Aidan Turner’s famous topless scything scene, which put many of our readers, and the ladies in our office, into a lather. Anything you’d like to say about that?
Ha! I love it when a plan comes together! Debbie had written this wonderfully sensuous scene: she describes Demelza watching Ross from a distance, hidden in the long grass, seeing her boss very differently after the events of the previous night – so it was all Demelza’s point of view! This scene that came to define Poldark, that got everyone talking about Aidan, was actually written from Demelza’s perspective.
Aidan’s physique isn’t what I remember from the shoot. When we first recce’d the field it was perfect. Come the day of filming, cow parsley had shot up everywhere, Eleanor [Tomlinson] kept disappearing in it, we had to constantly increase the camera height to allow us to see Aidan and Phil [Davis] over the grass, and I wanted the late afternoon light so we were racing to get it shot before the sun set. And of course we did – I think it’s safe to say we got the scene…”

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