The man who pulled together the BBC’s hit adaptation of War & Peace has admitted he had moments of doubt he could successfully make the epic drama.
What’s on TV asked Tom Harper, 36, about the huge challenge of trying to adapt the 1,440 page classic Russian novel for television: “[You] definitely have those moments when you think, ‘what am I doing?!’ I don’t know, you sort of just struggle through, same as like anything, same as any job really, you have moments when you’re “Ohhh… WHAT?!” [You] definitely have moments like, ‘how do we get past this? How will we ever get past this?’
“But I don’t know, somehow in life you do.”
He added: “I [found] myself thinking about War & Peace at night, a lot… I have been dreaming about it for years!”
Tom explained why he, the writer Andrew Davies and the production team concentrated on the complex human relationships, bringing some sniffy suggestions that it’s a high-brow soap.
“What we really went for were the character stories,” he said. “There is a lot in the book about political history, about philosophy, about military tactics, which is wonderful, but it’s difficult to dramatise and it takes away from what television does so well, which is follow characters and people as they go on their journeys. So that’s why we focused on the lives of the characters in the novel.”
Then there was the challenge of filming massive battle scenes and opulent society events.
“There’s so much in the book that we needed to try and capture…,” he said. “There are a lot of ballroom scenes, there are a lot of battle scenes, there are also a lot of intimate scenes in sitting rooms as well. It’s really difficult to replicate 200,000 people in a battlefield. Having said that, we’re making War & Peace at a time when visual effects have come on massively and television is going through a wonderful period where budgets are bigger than they have been in the past… I think we’ve given it a good go!”
War & Peace continues on BBC1 on Sunday evenings.