Ex-Top Gear director Brian Klein takes us on a Grand Tour of his career highlights at this year’s Great Northern Creative Festival, and tells us why he feels the new Top Gear is failing.
Brian Klein is one of the UK’s most sought after television directors. With almost 30 years’ worth of experience in the business. He has a number of impressive directing credits on his CV. He also boasts a number of famous friends and collaborators:
“I can’t tell you what Freddie Flintoff puts in our WhatsApp group chat” Brian exclaims, whilst recalling his time directing the A League of Their Own USA road trip. “You’ve got him, Jamie Redknapp, Jack Whitehall and James Cordon. It’s my favourite few weeks of the year. You go out for dinner with them every night and you’re spending company with these guys who become your friends. It’s a real privilege of the job”.
As well as the League of Their Own lads, Brian has also developed a strong bond over the years with Top Gear’s most prominent presenting trio. Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. He worked with the trio between 2002 and 2015 on the show whilst he was director. Brian has a particularly good relationship with Clarkson, who he first worked with back in the mid-90’s, and was heavily involved in the early stages of developing Top Gear:
“Jeremy came up with the idea and it was called ‘Carmageddon’, and I remember having lunch with him in 2001 and him saying I’ve got this new show and I want you to direct it. When I asked what it was he said “Well we’re going to have a racing driver called ‘The Gimp’, and he’s going to be in black leather in a cage and we’ll throw meat at him when we want him to drive”
Brian went on to explain that the Gimp name had to be dropped, as the BBC feared that they may be sued by Quentin Tarantino, who had a character of the same name in his hit film Pulp Fiction. One slight name change later, The Stig was born.
He also was not surprised by Top Gear’s decline following the departures of Clarkson, Hammond and May:
“I think it’s a bit like Friends, I said to the executives at the BBC, which was probably as big as Top Gear. Imagine if they all leave. Then Friends comes back: same theme tune and the same layout, but with different actors. Meanwhile the original cast goes off to make the same programme but with a different name. What are the public going to watch? Whoever took over Top Gear, you couldn’t make it a success”
Brian still works with Clarkson, May and Hammond today, on The Grand Tour where he is studio director. The second series of the Amazon Prime exclusive show becomes available to watch from the 8th of December.
Words by Daniel James Morris