As the producer of Edge of Darkness, I - along with director Martin Campbell - wanted to cast Bob in the lead despite the virtual non-existence of any screen footage of him to give the accustomed crumb of comfort to the investors, in this case the BBC. We knew he was right for the part. Rather miraculously from today's perspective, we were expected to know our business, and Bob was duly cast.
The choice was to have a profound effect on the future prospects of all involved, though at first Bob and Troy Kennedy Martin, as lead actor and writer, took time in warily measuring each other up. Troy, ostensibly using conventions of the policier, had written no ordinary conspiracy thriller.
Bob initially brought to the piece a politely inquiring and respectful mind together with a relentless and sceptical realism - the behaviour to be expected of one born and bred in the best Yorkshire traditions. Bob came to reconcile the diverse demands of Troy's imagination and research into a coherent whole through sheer mental perseverance.
Bob was interested in every aspect of filming. He seemed to regard this as a professional requirement if "screen acting" was ever to be demystified in his mind. We broke the then unwritten rule of keeping the rushes away from the actors. Bob would be found voraciously scanning the footage - not just his shots - with an editor-like diligence. He divined much from his co-lead, the Texan actor Joe Don Baker, whose work had been entirely cinematic and whose approach to character could scarcely have come from a more different school. Who learned the most from the other I'm not sure, but I have my suspicions. Perhaps it was just a Yorkshire-Texan thing but it was supremely gratifying to watch.
It was Bob's fearless entering into the emotional core of Troy's script which was most memorable - his depiction of male grief, the heartrending sense of waste and desolation at the loss of a child. The impact of this on the audience was palpable; men simply didn't weep in TV drama, well, not in 1985 they didn't, but in this case the audience cried with him.
Some time after the show was transmitted, Bob phoned me in a state of amazed self-deprecating perplexity to say that "he appeared to be seen now as something of a romantic lead". Scripts were arriving with offers of the sort of roles for which he considered himself to be totally unsuitable. "Had it all been a terrible mistake to have played Detective Craven?" he asked. This tone of surprise was no actorly display of false modesty. As a man you always sensed that he would remain true to his own sense of self and his proper place in the scheme of things.
Bob enriched the lives of all who saw him act. On the three occasions I worked with him I know that, then at least, I spent my own time well.Reuse content