The Grand Tour's Richard Hammond: "we'd be pretty bad astronauts"
Hammond chats French cars, Jeff Bezos' rocket and boring outtakes.
We sat down with Richard Hammond to talk about the latest special, what it was like driving a propeller-powered car and what the chances are of the trio filming a Grand Tour episode aboard Jeff Bezos' rocket.
Spoiler: don't hold your breath.
ShortList: Where did the idea for the new show come from?
Richard Hammond: The idea came from us asking, 'what's wrong with the French?' What is it with their funny attitude to cars? And as you have seen in the film, it sets up with that and then slowly it changes and becomes quite a fond examination when we realise, ‘Hang on a second, I think they might be onto something. I think the French might be right.’ So it's quite an affectionate film, which has landed rather neatly, because we've since been having a big squabble with them.
SL: Do you think the show could ease current tensions with France, then?
RH: [Laughs] Wouldn't it be hilarious if, for once, we are actually diplomatically useful? We didn't know we were going to be at loggerheads with the French when the thing came out. We had no idea and it's genuinely fortunate that the story took us the way it did, because we set out ready to have lots of fun at the French’s expense.
SL: Does it sometimes surprise you when you're creating these specials that they go on different tangents?
RH: That's what's great about them. Because when something takes you in a different direction, it means that you are being led by the editorial, by the narrative of the story and that's got to be a good thing. This special could have just been an endless stream of Mickey taking but, actually, that's not where it took us. What we do isn’t important work obviously, it's stupid, but at least we were led by the story.
SL: How long does it usually take to shoot a special like this?
RH: Shooting could be a couple of weeks but it depends on what we're doing. The production, however, takes months and months and months as it's a big show to make. You see the production values on the screen - there's no doubt that's one of the show signatures and always has been. All of that is thanks to the skills of the crew we have and [showrunner] Andy Wellman's efforts in the edit. All of that costs time and resources and that needs organising.
SL: Do you think we’d ever see the outtakes of The Grand Tour - maybe a special episode of them on Prime Video?
RH: The problem with outtakes for us is that the bits where something goes wrong or it falls over or someone says the wrong thing, that pretty much guarantees it going in the show. That means the outtakes will generally be the more written pieces that we've thought about before that get thrown out in favour of what was spontaneous, because that's what people want.
You know, we have to go with an idea of what we're going to do because we can't say to Amazon, we're going to spend a giz-billion pounds of your money making this show and we're just going to turn up and hope something fun happens. We just can't, so we have to have a plan. Then again, we've learned over the last 20 years that 90% of what’s planned goes out of the window and what will go into the show is the stuff that happens spontaneously.
SL: You use a Matra Murena throughout the beginning of the special and aren’t exactly a fan of the car, nor the name - we were wondering what’s your favourite name a car’s been given?
RH: Well, the standard answer to that would be the Jensen interceptor. It's just a cool name.
SL: What was the propeller-powered car in the special like to drive?
RH: Terrifying, so dangerous. The most terrifying thing is the fact that somebody genuinely thought it was a commercially viable idea and that it should be unleashed on the world.
SL: Finally, is there a form of transport you haven't tried on the show yet that you'd like to? And has Jeff Bezos been in touch about making The Grand Tour in space and lending his Blue Origin spaceship?
RH: Well, you've just answered that question in the question! And, no, he hasn't been on the phone, inviting us to have a go.
We've always said we'd be pretty bad astronauts anyway, because one of us would forget his gloves and another one would have had a bad pie the night before. It just wouldn't be a good idea.
The Grand Tour Presents: Carnage A Trois will launch Friday 17th December on Amazon Prime Video.
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