Steal of a lifetime

Hailed in Britain as among the best series in years, “The Gold,” streaming its first two episodes Sunday on Paramount+, charts the complex, decades-spanning true crime case known as the Brinks-Mats gold bullion heist.

In 1983 near Heathrow Airport, six thieves robbed the Brinks-Mats warehouse, surprised to find a then-historic gold haul in history, worth nearly $100 million today.

The sudden acquisition meant melting the gold bars, converting them into British pounds and making them “disappear” as Scotland Yard was on the trail of what became an international hunt involving Swiss bank account secrecy, murder and international extradition law.

Neil Forsyth, an award-winning Scottish writer, created and scripted this 6-episode epic. “I’ve been aware of this story obviously my whole life. About five or six years ago, I knew people were looking at it as a possible film”, he said in a Zoom interview from London.

His initial research convinced him: This is much more than a film. This story demands a big canvas.

“I started to properly develop it over six months’ research with a full-time researcher. The story was so rich and complex, just incredible. The more I looked, the more story I found.”

He put together for the first time a comprehensive history of all that happened after the robbery. “We trolled through newspaper archives, police transcripts, old interviews. It was almost a jigsaw piecing it all together.

“As a writer it’s very rare to find a true story that has all this, a story that gives such complexity. Six hours of television is a long time and I like to wake everyone up with the pace, so you burn through story.”

Dramatic license making composite characters was inevitable.  “It’s already a pretty sprawling show. That was so the narrative didn’t become completely unmanageable.”

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“Writing the show with incredibly strict black and white rules of morality in the characters is dramatically uninteresting,” Forsyth, 45, said. “It’s not about sympathizing with some of these characters. But you have to understand the characters and the level of nuance and surprise within them.

“The end result is that the morality in the show is not always clear cut.  Also, within our worlds, we have criminals whose motivations might be universally understandable and we have corrupt policemen. They’re supposed to be striving in a righteous path and in fact are as corrupt as the criminals they’re looking to catch.

“When you’re writing dramatically, black and white morality is far less interesting than the grey area. That’s what’s interesting: Writing in the grey.”

“The Gold” streams on Paramount+ Sunday

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