The award-winning Luther series has entered a new phase with the Netflix movie Luther: The Fallen Sun, where Idris Elba's character faces a new dark, despicable criminal, played by Andy Serkis.
The film, directed by Jamie Payne and written by the show's writer/creator Neil Cross, begins with John Luther (Elba) in jail, but he's being taunted by a psychopathic serial killer, David Robey (Serkis), who is terrorizing London.
In typical Luther fashion, he breaks out of prison to find Robey, whose crimes involve essentially digitally stalking his victims, finding their deepest secrets, and blackmailing them to fulfill his requests, or kill themselves.
“What was interesting about the character for me is that he in himself is not a remarkable person,” Serkis (who will be at Toronto Comicon March 18) told Yahoo Canada. “He's a very lonely, isolated individual who has become desensitized."
"The way that he connects with people is by being a voyeur, by looking into their lives, by watching them do the most mundane, boring, normal things as a way of somehow wishing he could be like them."
Serkis also highlighted that developing a character who has created his own sort of "moral world" was particularly attractive.
"In the moral world that he has created, [he] believes someone like John Luther is a hypocrite, who is in a position of authority of being a policeman and yet, he just carries out being kind of like a vigilante, according to his own rules," Serkis said. "It's like, how can those people get away with doing things like that, and yet, I'm being judged?"
"He goes about trying to create a safe space where other people who feel misjudged or judged in a particular way can come and get together."
The 'Luther: The Fallen Sun' scene that paused production
The film hits its peak of tension at the end of the story (which we won't spoil completely for you), but Luther ends up in Robey's Red Bunker with DCI Odette Raine (Cynthia Erivo).
As Serkis describes, that scene is the "crux" of the movie, in this sort of "safe haven" for people on the dark web to watch unspeakable acts take place.
“It is an extraordinary scene that Neil Cross has written and it took a long time to work out exactly the tone of that,” Serkis said.
As the actor recalled, the complexity led to them taking a pause from shooting the film to really nail down how to execute this pivotal moment.
“Interestingly, this scene, we stopped shooting for a day because it was so complicated and emotionally so complex, that we had to really work out what the beats of that scene were going to be," Serkis explained. "So it was the one time where Jamie Payne, our director, and Idris and I, and Cynthia Erivo, we sat down and really had to talk about exactly what we were saying with this.”
As Payne explained, there were "constant conversations" with Elba and Cross, but the final mode of torture in that sequence was not something they spoke about for some time. It's how Luther is held and tortured that led to the pause in shooting.
“We turned up to rehearse it and then I have to say, Idris Elba had another idea, and what you see in the film, which is 10 times more uncomfortable for Idris Elba, was the idea that we paused," Payne said. “We paused and we thought, OK let's run with that, which of course, made it five times more difficult for Idris, which tells you something about Idris, his commitment to Luther.”
“I think we all thought that ... we have this opportunity to play with a character. So it was literally overnight, Neil and I got together in response to Idris' idea, and we played with a whole set of things, which affected the character's story, more than just Idris being tortured at that point.”
'We only want to do it, if we could do it right'
The Luther series, which ran for five seasons, has been incredibly beloved and showcased some of the best character development any TV show has offered. When it came to creating a feature film continuation of this story, Cross knew it had to be done right.
“We only [wanted] to do it if we could do it right, and doing it right meant respecting and repaying the loyalty of the people who've been with us over 13 years,” Cross said. “So it's how to respect them, and the character, but in such a way as to make the world bigger and new, and also open to a new a whole new audience."
“How do you invite people in without being discourteous to your existing fans, and without being exclusive or kind of cabal-ish to the people that come to join you? So that was, in terms of the kind of practicalities of how we put the story together, that was the single most difficult aspect of it.”
What's interesting about Luther: The Fallen Sun is that you could likely watch this film without having seen the show and not be entirely lost. But for Payne, who directed the film after working on several episodes of the Luther series, it's the film's connection to Luther's "drive" that's particularly compelling.
“It could have been a two hour story that centred on Luther’s brilliance in his process, in how he works things out and makes the assumptions that he makes, but it became a two hour story that was connected to his drive,” Payne said. “He's a fugitive, he has to catch his man whilst he's on the run.”
“I love the whole idea, as a fan first of being with Luther for a two hour uninterrupted moment of time, as he's on the run pushing against time. I just got the blessing of being able to direct it as well. So I think what I loved about it is the audience could stand with John and breathe with John, and wheeze with John, as he gets exhausted pushing himself beyond all his natural ability to catch his guy. That's what excited me most about the feature.”
As writer Cross highlights, for any new idea it has to meet one simple criteria.
"If it makes we think, 'oh my God I want to watch that,' then we do it," he said.