How Strike filmed Tom Burke’s missing leg scenes

The BBC series used some ingenious techniques to portray the amputated limb of private detective Cormoran Strike

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New BBC mystery series Strike has many twists and turns, but by the end it may not be the identity of any murderers, the mysterious backstory to Strike’s ex-fiancé Charlotte, or even why an adaptation of a book by JK Rowling is credited to Robert Galbraith that has viewers scratching their heads.

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Instead, they might be baffled as to how the series managed to portray Strike’s amputated leg quite so seamlessly, with the character’s book-accurate missing limb displayed in several scenes despite star Tom Burke not being disabled in that way himself.

And while the other mysteries may remain unsolved until later episodes, we do have some information on this one, with series director Michael Keillor (who worked on first mystery The Cuckoo’s Calling) explaining his filming techniques to RadioTimes.com at a recent preview screening.

“There were a few different tricks that we employed,” Keillor said.

“I was very keen that we see the [prosthetic] leg off, [with] Tom and no leg all in one shot, not just done with a cutaway. And I’d seen this film, Rust & Bone, where Marion Cotillard gets both her legs taken off in an accident. So I kind of studied how they did that using greenscreen technology, then we used trick photography to remove the leg.”

Cutting himself short, Keillor said: “I don’t want to give away all the tricks, in case the other directors do it differently as the books go on! But yeah, we basically digitally removed it then replaced the stump.

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Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger in Strike

“We also had a double who was a very close double for Tom’s legs, who only had one leg, but exactly the same injury. So we doubled up that whenever we’re going very very close and seeing the leg.”

“It’s a balance – we didn’t wanna see too much of the leg so it becomes leg porn, it is a BBC1 drama,” Keillor reasoned.

“At the same time we didn’t wanna shy away from it, it’s a guy who’s lost his leg in an IED in Afghanistan. It’s so common now, we see these soldiers who have all sorts of different things. It’s in the public mind.”

And even when the missing leg wasn’t in view (Strike uses a prosthetic most of the time), Tom Burke took care to make sure he was moving as a man with that particular disability would, working with amputees to get the movement just right.

“I asked as many questions as I could think of,” Bruke recalled, “and spent about a day with a movement director called Toby Sedgwick.

“And a guy called Barney who is incredibly generous with his time, who had basically the same condition. And a day going upstairs, downstairs, sitting down, standing up. Sort of everything you could think of, trying to break it down to what one notices and what one doesn’t notice.”

In the end, we’d say the finished effect is pretty convincing – but have a watch yourself and see what you think.

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Strike: The Silkworm concludes on BBC1 on Sunday 17th September at 9pm