The Grand Tour showrunner Andy Wilman tells all of the show’s struggles while filming the show during the coronavirus pandemic, despite having to cancel a major shoot in Russia and catching the dreaded virus himself.
The executive producer spoke to Deadline as Amazon Prime promote the launching of the next Grand Tour Special, A Massive Hunt. The special was filmed in Madagascar last year but the film’s editing was done at the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns, during which Wilman fell ill with the virus for 10 days.
The Grand Tour Special Presents: A Massive Hunt will be launched in Amazon Prime Video on December 18. This time, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May will be out in one of the most vicious roads they have ever driven across. With vicious roads like this, they have to appropriately modify their cars, just like what Hammond did with his Ford Focus RS with the tank tracks.
After being forced to cancel their Russian road adventure in March due to the coronavirus pandemic and losing thousands of pounds along the way, Wilman had to devise a plan to continue their show in the middle of the pandemic. They have found a solution: The Grand Tour in Scotland to replaced the recently called-off Russian road trip.
Wilman started filming the series as an experience all its own, with hosts and the production team having to strictly follow Covid safety protocols set down by Amazon. These protocols that, may have hold Clarkson, Hammond, and May up in any other scenario.
“Amazon has protocols, and you have to follow them. If you lose your money, it’s all down the drain. We were all really grown up about that he said. “We’re not suffocating about health and safety, as we’re all still alive after 20 years, but these kinds of processes, we usually groan and roll our eyes. But we thought we had to do this because if you follow them, you have a chance to do it to the end.”
Amazon “Scooby-Doo” van that serves as a mobile testing unit was provided for the production team. He described the specially trained-medics as:
“They were really tough on us. On the third day, we started to get a bit slack and revert back to muscle memory, so I jumped in someone else’s car. The chief medic guy, f***k did he bollock me, to bring us back into line. But it was what we needed.”
Wilman added the production spendings of £500,000 ($67,000) for the swab tests which were carried out frequently at the end of the day. They will receive the results by 11:00 pm and if the results were negative, it was definite that they would resume filming for another day. Wiman confirmed that all tests were negative for the virus and it as a bit of relief which gave his team “a bit of a zip.”
The showrunner tagged the show as a “rolling bubble,” which, unlike all the other static shoots, implied that producers and presenters connected with the outside through needs such as gas station stops. “Everything was much more measured and disciplined,” Wilman went on.
“The sound man would put on all the nuclear Chernobyl gear before he mic-ed up the presenters, whereas normally they would be sharing a fag. It was all in the detail.”
To Sum up, he was proud of what had been recorded and stated that in certain ways, the Scottish adventure reflected a few of their Top Gear roots, when UK-based shoots were the mainstay.
“Scotland was tremendous. In adversity — a slight element of backs to the wall — we’ve got a really great film. If you don’t have Madagasgar or the Mekong River… it makes you work harder. We don’t leave as much to chance, you set up more scenes and that is like going back to the old days,” he further explained.
The Grand Tour Scotland special will be released next year and then the trio will have two more specials to produce under their current Amazon contracts.
Wilman is considering more UK shootings in the new pandemic setting, but he is also planning to revive the special in Russia and other trips around the world. For the next two series, Wilman confirms there’s already a potential to continue collaborating with Amazon.
“They’ve got to want us and we’ve got to want to,” he said. “There’s still plenty of petrol left in the tank. As long as people want to watch, and as long as Jeff [Bezos] wants to go “here’s a few quid to do it,” then we’re all good to do it.”