The Gold first premiered in the UK on the BBC this past winter. It received widespread acclaim and became one of the UK’s most prominent new dramas of the year so far. Now, The Gold is available to stream on Paramount+. Inspired by the real-life events on November 26th, 1983, six armed men broke into the Brink’s-Mat security depot near London’s Heathrow Airport and made away with gold bullion worth £26m. According to detectives, what started as a typical Old Kent Road armed robbery became a seminal event in British criminal history that’s remarkable not only for the scale of the theft (at the time the biggest in world history) but for its broader legacy;
- The disposal of the bullion caused the birth of large-scale international money laundering
- The heist provided the dirty money that helped fuel the London Docklands property boom
- It united blue and white-collar criminals
- It left controversy and murder in its wake.
Created and written by Neil Forsyth (Guilt), The Gold stars Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Paddington 1 & 2), along with Dominic Cooper (The Preacher, The Devil’s Double), Jack Lowden (Small Axe: Mangrove, Slow Horses), Charlotte Spencer (The Duke, Cinderella), Tom Cullen (Becoming Elizabeth, Black Mirror), Emun Elliott (Guilt, Old), Sean Harris (Southcliffe, Mission: Impossible), Ellora Torchia (Ali and Ava, Midsommar), Stefanie Martini (Prime Suspect, The Last Kingdom), Daniel Ings (I Hate Suzie, Lovesick) and Adam Nagaitis (Red Rose, Chernobyl).
Co-produced by Tannadice Pictures, an Objective Fiction partner, and Paramount Television International Studios, The Gold provides a pulsating dramatization of this extraordinary and epic story for the first time. The show is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution outside of the Paramount+ markets.
All episodes of The Gold are now available to stream.
We thank Neil Forsyth for taking the time last week to field a few questions for V13 via Zoom. The audio (via SoundCloud) and video (via YouTube) are available here if you’d prefer to hear Forsyth’s answers in real time.
So tell me, what first brought your attention to the Brink’s-Mat heist of 1983?
Neil Forsyth: “Well, I was always aware of the robbery growing up. It was a very infamous robbery in the UK, but about five years ago, I spoke to people who were considering looking at it as a film. When I properly looked into the story, I was immediately attracted to the complexity of it. I mean, one of the first things I realized is this is a lot more than a film. I think you should be telling it across a bigger canvas, and it was just the more research I did, the more fascinating and surprising that this story is.”
So you wrote The Gold as a series. This was never a story. This was never going to be a book. You wrote this to be what it is: a series.
“I wrote it as a television drama series, and then after the researcher and I had done a lot of the research, we decided to turn the research into a book. So there’s a book that came out with the transmission of the show in the UK, but that was very much us turning our research into something. But my focus was always on the television series and the dramatization.”
So, when researching real-life events like this, how do you balance the historical aspects with what you know you want to be the entertainment aspects of the story?
“I think the big thing is just doing your research. I think putting the work in, we did six months of full-time research, and then it was ongoing from there. It didn’t end. So we trolled through newspaper archives in the 1980s, piecing together a very complicated story of lots of disparate events and then jigsawing it together, lots of interviews. I tracked down Brian Boyce, whom Hugh Bonneville plays in the show, who was the lead detective in the Brink’s-Mat task force. He’d never spoken to anyone at great length. He was hard to find, and when I found him, I then had to persuade him to talk to me. So I spoke to him maybe a dozen times while I was researching the show.
“I spoke to lots of other people. So I think if you do that research and you give yourself a comprehensive understanding of the story, then I think you can go into the dramatization with a clear conscience. I think the big thing about creative license is you need to know when you’re using creative license. You’re not just fudging things when you’re unsure what happened. So, put the work in, and then I think creative license becomes far easier and far more acceptable.”
What sources did you find helped you the most when you were researching for The Gold?
“Probably Brian Boyce, the lead detective. Just hearing firsthand how he ran the investigation and the things that happened along the way was really helpful. There were some great books as well and some fascinating newspaper articles. I mean, the great thing about the 1980s is people talked in a very different way in newspapers then. They give these quotes that are incredibly revealing because none of it’s going online. It was just a different world. It was very innocent if you like. So yeah, newspapers, books, and firsthand interviews were all invaluable.”
Do you remember the first paragraphs that you wrote for this series, and did they actually stay in the finished product?
“Well, the first thing I thought with this series, which did stay in, was we need to get past the heist as quickly as possible. That was my big thought. What’s interesting about this story is what happens next. What happens after the famous bit if you like? What happens after the robbery and the heist is really interesting. There was lots of stuff I could have done. They spent months grooming the security guard in a really interesting, creepy way. Things went wrong on the day that they had to deal with.
“There’s another version of the show where the heist is a whole episode, but I just thought that’s famous. That’s known. I want to get past that, so that’s why I burn it off in the cold opening, essentially.”
Is there any of that footage that you feel is worthy of letting fans see after the fact? Maybe on packaged media, if they decide to release this as a Blu-ray or a DVD… Any of the cut scenes?
“Well, I took that into scripts, that structure of the house being up top, there’s not a huge amount that we cut. There were very lean scripts. They weren’t long. I was aware that it was a very complicated show, and the last thing I needed was to hand in long scripts that we then had to film five pages we were never going to use.
“I think that there are bits of documentary out there that fans of the show could find that are really interesting. Just newspaper reports of the time. Some interviews with some of the criminals involved. I mean, Brink’s-Mat is a story that people can go down an internet rabbit hole for weeks if not months.”
What do you feel your main job is as a writer-creator once a project like The Gold starts into production and starts becoming a film?
“Just to make sure that the story is being told in the most powerful way possible. Also, that we are not valuing other aspects above that basic storytelling. Telling something cinematically is really exciting. I think that’s great, and that’s what we’re always looking for, but how we tell the story, don’t lose the story itself. I think that’s always very important, and very important to me.”
The Gold has already been released and viewed in the UK, correct?
What do you hope that your new global audiences will take away from this series that maybe would be a bit different from in the UK?
“I just hope it connects because I think that I’m a writer who definitely values having themes. I think that’s really interesting. There are some really interesting themes in The Gold, but I always see that as a secondary concern. My biggest thing is unashamedly entertaining the audience, and I’m just hopeful that the story lands and the story grips, and draws people in. That’s what the show is designed to do ultimately. I think it’s a really fascinating story, and hopefully, we’ve told it in a gripping, pacey, exciting way. So I hope people connect with it on that kind of fundamental level, really.”
Now, I’m assuming The Gold is a close-ended series. There’s not going to be a second season?
“Oh, no, I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say that. No. I think there’s more story to tell, and hopefully, we’ll get the chance to tell it.”