Never mind Bill Nighy, the real star of Worricker is The Independent

Our newsroom stars in David Hare’s final Worricker TV drama. The award-winning playwright reveals why he chose it – and us

The normally spartan office occupied by the editor of The Independent has undergone a radical make-over. Tissues and Tesco dog-biscuits are strewn across the floor. Copies of The Field and Country Life adorn the shelves next to various canine-show rosettes. A framed picture of two lovable Labradors takes pride of place on the desk. Is our esteemed, Tooting-raised editor Amol Rajan now running with a very different set? The transformation is even more marked when the editor makes a grand arrival.

Instead of our cricket-loving leader, the imperious, award-winning actress Olivia Williams sweeps in and takes her seat, accompanied by those yapping Labradors.

A sound boom hovers over Williams, spotlights are moved into position and a hush descends over the boisterous newsroom outside.

Then the orchestrator of this scene, the distinguished playwright and director Sir David Hare utters those immortal words: “Lights, turning, rolling… action.”

For one blazing Sunday in June, The Independent has been transformed into a movie set and the editor’s office hasn’t witnessed such drama since the day Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch stormed in to berate a previous incumbent.

Sir David is here to film scenes for Salting the Battlefield, the final instalment of the Worricker trilogy of spy thrillers, starring Bill Nighy as a world-weary intelligence officer, which he has written and directed.

Paper tigers: David Hare talks to producer Celia Duval  

The Independent plays a central role in the finale, to be screened on BBC2 at the end of this month, which follows the paper’s campaigning editor as she uncovers shocking evidence of a corruption scandal which extends to the very heart of Downing Street.

A believer in cinematic naturalism, Hare determined to shoot the newspaper scenes during a working day in the office itself.

“Attempts to create newspaper offices are absolutely doomed,” he says.

“A real paper has got so much life to it and there’s no way you can recreate that. The Independent newsroom still has a bit of the romance about it that other newspapers lack.”

For the journalists, sub-editors and production mangers working this Sunday shift, that romance is tinged with the task of getting The Independent and i papers out on deadline, while negotiating an office teeming with runners, camera operators, script editors and dog wranglers – and most disturbingly, extras acting as their doubles.

The hulking catering truck parked outside Derry Street indicates that the film, produced by Carnival, the company behind Downton Abbey, is a big deal.

For some Independent scribes, the filming is an overdue opportunity to make their mark in Hollywood, or at least get their heads in shot.

But, tragically, the real journalists are required to relocate to different desks at the rear of  the newsroom whilst their seats are taken by a team of immaculately dressed, perfectly gender- and ethnically-balanced – and frankly, better-looking – extras.

Were the Independent hacks too much of a box-office turn-off? “I don’t think they’re better looking, they’re just more obedient than you lot,” said the director, of the stand-ins.

Filming in the Independent offices  

The shooting schedule creates challenges for the journalists. The office televisions, typically tuned to Sky News for breaking news, instead screen a specially-prepared loop of a fictional news channel reporting the story at the heart of the film.

Tom Howard, supervising location manager, said: “We have to be very careful about clocks, they have to be removed. Video footage on screens has to be cleared.

“We dressed the editor’s office to reflect Belinda’s character and we made a huge branded Independent sign to reinforce where we are visually. You get to keep that. Some people are surprised we’re here. Hopefully it won’t upset their day.”

The newsroom hubbub rises when sub-editors arrive in the afternoon and take over the bank of desks next to where Williams’s editor, Belinda, is filming a scene in which she discusses the source of a scoop with an ambitious young  reporter, Allegra.

“We were tipped off that a lot of Monday’s paper is prepared in advance so it wouldn’t be the most hectic day in a newspaper office,” Hare said. “We were quite impressed about how quickly everybody went about their business. It is quieter than it used to be. People don’t scream, ‘hold the front page’, anymore.”

Hare’s 1985 play Pravda employed a Rupert Murdoch-style mogul to satirise newspaper journalism. Salting the Battlefield, which follows Page Eight, aired in 2011, and its sequel Turks & Caicos, which stars Winona Ryder and was screened yesterday, is a post-Leveson plea for the importance of investigative journalism.

Sir David said: “I wanted it to be set at a newspaper [office] in which the people must be working there for the right reasons, not that over-weening power we associated with the press in the Eighties and Nineties.

“It’s about a heroic, sort of old-fashioned, romantic view of newspapers because they have been having a hard time and they still do a job. At the moment when people appear to have lost all hope in their democratic institutions then clearly the press becomes more, rather than  less, important.”

Hare’s country squire-ess editor has the freedom to be “independent” by virtue of her wealth and background.

“She’s totally fictional,” the writer of Plenty and The Absence of War explains. “As far as I know there aren’t any posh, toff women editors at the moment, are there? I liked the idea of a newspaper editor who didn’t deal in peddling influence at all.”

The atrium at Northcliffe house (also home of The Daily Mail)  

The crew, somewhat jet-lagged after 18 days shooting in the Bahamas, suddenly step up the pace. Producer Celia Duval explains: “It’s an 8pm finish or we’d have to pay overtime. We are very tight on budgets so we must finish at eight. Then the art department will take out everything we’ve put in.”

Belinda gathers her fictional journalistic team in front of the television screens to hear Alec Beasley, the unscrupulous prime minister played by Ralph Fiennes, make a statement.

Champagne corks are popped as The Independent celebrates a breakthrough in its investigation. Sir David asks the cork-popping scene to be re-shot several times, to the apparent envy of the real journalists.

On the stroke of the 8pm, it’s a wrap. “The strike crew is ready to remove the set dressing and have the equipment wrapped in 30 minutes,” said Howard. “Nobody on Monday will be any the wiser.”

The movie circus moves on as quickly as it arrived but perhaps the paper’s day in the screen spotlight has left a legacy.

A move upstairs means the editor’s office is now the main studio for the company’s new London Live television station – and those Independent journalists cast into the shadows will now be given their chance to appear on camera, without any scene-stealing extras.

‘Salting the Battlefield’ will be broadcast on Thursday at 9pm on BBC2

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee