Designing the world of The Night Manager

From paperwork used by arms dealers to an iris-scanning banking app, designers Julian Nix and Sarah Bradley had their work cut out in helping to realise the world of The Night Manager, the BBC’s recent six-part adaptation of John le Carré’s novel. In a video interview, they talk about the various props they made for this fantastic series.

The Night Manager reached its heady conclusion on Sunday night on BBC One (there are no spoilers in this post – though the video below covers scenes from throughout the series). Directed by Susanne Bier, the TV adaptation of le Carré’s 1993 novel kept the tension going over six episodes, the characters inhabiting a brilliantly-realised world of lavish hotels, dingy government agencies and nail-biting subterfuge.

In the video interview (at the bottom of this post), Nix, the programme’s graphic art director, and Bradley, its graphics assistant, discuss some of the props they had to make based on Tom Burton‘s production designs.

And, as we’ve seen from our features on the designers who worked on films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Grand Budapest Hotel and High-Rise, both the believability and unique aesthetic style of a project can hang on the talents of the production design team.

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Passport designs
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Nefertiti Hotel brochure
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Nefertiti Hotel brochure

While The Night Manager is set in the recent past – beginning in 2011, le Carré’s book is updated by nearly 20 years – the work of the design team included creating everything from the documentation attached to Dickie Roper’s dealings, to the rubber stamps used by the Independent Enforcement Agency – right up to the screen design of a real mobile app that used a phone’s built-in camera to produce a retina-scan on set.

The cumulative effect is the creation of a world that the audience accepts without question – and only adds to the power of the story.

If you’re in the UK, you can watch The Night Manager from episode three on the iPlayer, here; other watching options are available on the programme’s website at bbc.co.uk. The interview with Nix and Bradley is at the bottom of this post.

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Independent Enforcement Agency stamps
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Independent Enforcement Agency documents

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