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The Grand Tour presents Lochdown - How we made it: 'It’s gone back to what we were doing 10 years ago'
The Grand Tour’s executive producer Andy Wilman talks to BT TV about how they made the new Scotland special Lochdown during a global pandemic.
Not even a global pandemic can stop Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May from hitting the road.
Filmed under Covid restrictions in 2020, the chaps are celebrating the finest in retro American cars and hitting the Scottish highlands in a Cadillac Coupe Deville, a Lincoln Continental and a Buick Riviera Boattail, among others.
Returning to the UK means the views might not be quite as exotic for British fans, but back on home turf the presenters have upped the ante when it comes to pranks and challenges making Lochdown one of their funniest and most charming adventures ever.
BT TV caught up exclusively with the brains behind the show, Andy Wilman to find out some Grand Tour behind-the-scenes secrets…
Filming The Grand Tour at home 'stirred the creative pot'
"I think what happens when you go the Mekong and places like that, part of your brain, you can’t help but fall back on this scenery, this backdrop - it gives you x per cent of your film," said executive producer Wilman.
"Now Scotland is as beautiful as anywhere, but driving across Scotland isn’t much of a story, so you go into overdrive trying to come up with things to do. You work harder, you dig deeper.
"We’d come off the Madagascar special and that film was good, but if there was one thing wrong with it, not as much happened as there should have.
"This one, we had nothing to fall back on, so we went to town with things to do.
"The second thing that happens is the relationships and banter goes up a notch because we’re just riding along like we used to 10 years ago. And then that fired up all those neurons in your brain about how that used to me. In terms of stirring the creative pot - a smaller film in Scotland was brilliant."
Did Clarkson, Hammond and May respect the Covid rules?
Despite Wilman's worst fears, the Grand Tour trio put their egos to one side and, as we have all had to over the last 18 months, followed the strict lockdown rules to the letter.
"I thought, ‘Oh no, this is going to be toys out of the pram non-stop’," Wilman admitted.
"It can be pretty miserable, you sit in the bar in the evening, you have to book out the whole hotel and you all have to sit about 10 feet away from each other, which isn’t really conducive. Then the bar shuts at 9 and you’re off back to your room. All of that stuff and then you have all the finickity rules that you have as a film crew for Covid.
"But Jeremy [Clarkson] was actually the best. He said, ‘I’m 60, I’ve smoke three quarters of a million fags’ - he was very scared about catching this thing. ‘I’ll do the rules’, he said. And the other two were the same.
"We all knew it was a butterfly’s wing, a chain reaction. If one person caught it, our shoot with 50-odd people could tumble and you’d never get that money back because there is no insurance cover. We had an opportunity to do it, we had an opportunity to work, let’s not f**k it up."
The magic of Clarkson, Hammond and May
Why do kids watch our show? Because we behave like kids in the playground.
- Andy Wilman
"This film was back to what we did 10 years ago. [They] having the mental age of 9.
"Why do kids watch our show? Because we behave like kids in the playground. What are kids like? They’re mean, they are unfair, they are hopefully funny and charming with it, but they will screw each other over."
Catching a massive Jeremy Clarkson accident on camera
One moment in the show - and you'll get no spoilers from us - will undoubtedly get people talking. And like much of the best Grand Tour action over the years, it was completely spontaneous.
"One person who saw it said, ‘Wow you timed that thing to happen brilliantly’," said Wilman.
"I just said ‘f**k off! It just f**king happened’, because it did.
"Once you had got over the hilarity of it, it was very… I’m talking around it because I don’t want to give anything away… but you could see from Jeremy’s reaction it wasn’t planned.
"It’s times like that you think, ‘God watches this show’. He just obviously thought the lads were having a quiet morning and he would intervene with fate.
"And to your point, yes, that’s why every camera is always running. The amount of footage you come back with is ridiculous, but then you get those moments on a couple of cameras and it’s joyful."
The show will go international again… eventually
Like many of us, Wilman and the team can't wait for normal service to resume, and in the case of The Grand Tour, that means heading off to foreign climes for more exotic specials. But when, and where, that will be is still the great unknown.
"I don’t know where it’s going to be, but it’s bloody tricky at the moment," Wilman admitted.
"We want to finish the Russia shoot that got cancelled. We had to kill that one off in April, 2020. We’d like to do that again, but we can only do that in winter. Before we do that, we’d like to get another film in the bag. Where that is? I do not know.
"There is so much shifting sands going on. We worked on one for a month and then it goes on the red list. I don’t know where the next one will be. We’ve shot two in England, what you’d call the mini-specials and that should keep us going with material fan-wise until Christmas.
"But we need to shoot another one and where that will be, I really don’t know. Because it has to fill all the criteria, it has to be exotic, it has to be somewhere where people say, ‘Ooh you’ve never been there’.
"With the greatest respect, it can’t be Japan or Australia, because we’ve shot big things there.
"We need to find somewhere a bit more out there. But the out-there ones are the ones that are all bloody shut down. It’s tricky. But leave it with us, we’ve got nothing else to do…"
The Grand Tour presents Lochdown is released on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, July 30.
All previous Grand Tour episodes and specials are available to stream now on Prime Video.