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NEW YORK, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Scottish screenwriter Neil Forsyth says the real-life Brink's-Mat heist is such an extraordinary story that he wanted to recount it from both a dramatic point of view in the new miniseries, The Gold, as well as in a similarly titled non-fiction book.
Premiering on Paramount+ Sunday, the caper stars Hugh Bonneville, Dominic Cooper, Jack Lowden, Charlotte Spencer, Tom Cullen, Emun Elliott, Sean Harris, Ellora Torchia, Stefanie Martini, Daniel Ings and Adam Nagaitis.
Like the book, it narrates how six armed men broke into the Brink's-Mat security depot near London's Heathrow Airport in 1983, intending to snatch some quick cash, and inadvertently stumbling across gold bullion worth $32 million.
Their efforts to dispose of the loot purportedly led to an international money laundering scheme that sparked the London Docklands property boom.
"The robbery is famous, but what happened afterward is very lightly known in the United Kingdom. I think that's what was attractive to me as a writer -- I was telling a story that viewers didn't have an already preconceived ideas around," Forysth, who was 5 when the heist occurred, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.
"The television series came first and, as we wrote the series, the researcher and I realized we were sitting on this vast amount of [material] -- a far more comprehensive telling of the Brinks-Mat story than had ever been told before," he added. "The book was a secondary aspect, really."
Viewers in 2023 might connect with the idea of financially strapped underdogs taking great risks in an attempt to change their fortunes.
"People do put themselves in the shoes of the protagonists and it is interesting. If you accidentally steal 3 tons of gold, what do you do next?" Forsyth asked.
"Showing the people who get dragged in through their greed is interesting because it is not just out-and-out villains," he added. "There are a lot of people in The Gold who woke up as respectable members of society and, by the time they went to bed, were involved in a major international criminal conspiracy."
He felt a keen sense of responsibility to portray the complicated story accurately since many of the people involved -- and their families -- still are alive today.
"You want to respect the sensitivities of the story and make sure you are very careful with how you approach those subjects and chronicle those events," he said. "I spent a lot of time making sure we get that right."
The writer wanted the show to be fast-paced because that is the type of entertainment he likes to watch.
"I think about the viewer who has had a long day at work and has turned on a show called The Gold and [I want to know], 'Why are they still watching after 10 minutes?' That's the question I ask when I am structuring the scripts," Forysth said.
He said he also tries to weave humor into the dramas he writes.
"It's a very important part of storytelling. I'm really surprised and confused by dramas that go on for 10 episodes and no one ever says anything remotely amusing," Forsyth said.
"That's not a realistic representation of humanity," he said. "When I'm writing a scene and I feel that a character would react to the pressure that they're under by using humor in some sort of way, then I allow my character to do that."
Forsyth said he enjoyed working on a project that was set in a not-so-distant, but vastly different past in which police conducted their investigations by using old-fashioned shoe leather, going door-to-door and asking questions instead of relying on cellphones, security cameras and the Internet to help them catch lawbreakers.
"It's dramatically a great period to write in -- the 1980s," he said. "It's quite an optimistic age. The characters are very motivated, perhaps wrongly so. There is a certain energy to the '80s that I think is quite attractive."
The stars of the series were game for all of its twists and turns, showing appreciation for how it proved the old axiom that truth is stranger than fiction.
"There were loads of times the actors would be sidling up to me behind the cameras, saying, 'Well, this bit, this scene has to be creative license,'" Forysth recalled.
"And I'd say, 'No, it happened in January 1985 in this location.' And they couldn't believe it. It's such a great story and we're all very lucky to have the opportunity to tell it."