BBC One and Stephen Poliakoff present Joe’s Palace later this month. The film explores the relationship between the two central characters: Elliot Graham, a reclusive billionaire, and Joe , the teenage son of a cleaner who takes care of Elliot’s grand, empty mansion.
Michael Gambon, who plays Elliot, laughs that when Poliakoff calls he never says no. Having previously starred in two of the writer-director’s most memorable works, The Lost Prince and Perfect Strangers, the distinguished actor had no hesitation in accepting Poliakoff offer to play the lead in his latest piece.
The 66-year-old, indisputably one of the finest actors of his generation, begins by paying the writer-director the highest possible compliment: “Stephen is the only person I would work for in television. All actors scramble to work with him, he’s a complete one-off!
“He is such a wonderful writer. I love the complexity of his characters, they all have such richness. He is brilliant at dialogue, too. His sentences are never predictable; they are never quite what you expect them to be. ”
When asked what attracted him to Joe’s Palace co-star Rupert Penry-Jones, best known for his starring role as Adam Carter in BBC One’s hit espionage drama Spooks, replies: “Stephen Poliakoff. It’s as simple as that,” smiles the actor, who plays Richard, the dashing cabinet minister who conducts a passionate affair with a married woman called Charlotte (Kelly Reilly) in the house at the core of the film. “I said ‘yes’ before I’d even read it! He’s someone I know I will always want to work with. He’s just brilliant.”
Elliot is plagued by a sense that his father has amassed the family fortune in a nefarious way. He recruits Joe (newcomer Danny Lee Wynter), the caretaker of his opulent central London mansion, to help him get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding his father’s possibly ill-gotten gains.
“Elliot smells a rat” says Gambon, “he can’t rest until he’s solved this puzzle. At first, when he finds out where the money has originated, he falls apart, but then he manages to pull himself together again. It’s a riveting story of one man’s journey into his family history.”
The actor was also drawn to the very touching relationship in Joe’s Palace between the ageing Elliot and his na�ve young prot�g� Joe. “Elliot really likes Joe because of his absolute openness. Joe is extremely unsophisticated and in that he is different from most people Elliot meets.”
“Everything in this world is alien to Joe,” says newcomer Danny Lee Wynter. “He comes from a completely different class, culture and age, so the responsibility bestowed upon him is enormous. But, unlike me, he just takes it in his stride. He’s not fussed about anything. He just lets it happen. This young man just says, ‘ok, I’ll deal with that”
Danny expands on Joe’s relationship with Elliot: “Elliot sees a lot of himself in this young man. He sees someone who needs to be cared for and nurtured. He feels it’s his duty to give something back to the world by taking on this bright young man. For his part, Joe sees Elliot as a father figure. He comes from a single-parent family and doesn’t have a relationship with his father, so Elliot fills that gap.”
Danny Lee Wynter also plays the same role of caretaker Joe in Capturing Mary, a brand new film that airs later in November on BBC Two and boasts a cast led by Maggie Smith (Ladies In Lavender), David Walliams (Little Britain) and Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre).