Troy Kennedy Martin on ‘The Italian Job’

The full version of this interview first appeared in a special Italian Job pull-out in the October 2001 issue of the UK edition of">Esquire

Troy Kennedy Martin

Screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin

Troy Kennedy Martin was a successful TV scriptwriter for the BBC (working on such series as Z-Cars) when he bought a script from his brother Ian (who would go on to write The Sweeney) about a heist on London’s Bond Street.

He decided that resetting it in Turin, which at that point had one of the most advanced computerised traffic systems in Europe, would not only lend an air of credibility, but also parallel the current situation in Europe, with the UK criminals versus the Italian Mafia as proxies for the large corporations that were squaring up against each other in a united Europe.

But at no point did Kennedy Martin think that this little heist film woud get him $100,000 for the screenplay and a place in British movie history.

On Michael Caine

From the very beginning, I had set my sights on Michael Caine as the hero and wrote a draft treatment accordingly. I had known Michael at a distance. He had been in something I had done at the BBC and we had friends in common. I admired him as an actor and a person. He was the wittiest raconteur I’d ever come across, was swamped by girlfriends and never seemed to lose his cool.

I never thought the film would be iconic. I don’t think Michael did either. The reviews weren’t that good either and of course it didn’t have a traditional ending. We didn’t realise just how good it was.

On Fiat

Michael Deeley (producer, went on to produce The Deer Hunter) sent the script through a mutual friend to Giovanni Agnelli, who owned the giant Fiat car company in Turin (as well as most of Italy). Signor Agnelli read it, liked it and volunteered to help us out in any way he could. Apart from putting the town at our disposal, he loaned the production three brand-new black Ferrari-engined Fiat coupes to use as unit cars.

On the cliffhanger

None of us liked the ending at the time. I didn’t even write the final scene in the film. Michael Deeley added it after they’d run out of money. Peter Collinson hated it so much he wouldn’t film it and made the assistant director do it instead.

On the location

My brother came up with the idea, but his idea was to set in London, around Regent Street. We decided a financial agreement and I took it on. I decided to change it to Turin because it has a computer operated traffic light system.