Neil Gaiman has revealed the inventive methods that the Good Omens team used to achieve their vision – including how they roped in fans to help make one ambitious sequence a reality.
Gaiman, who served as showrunner on the TV series version of his and the late Terry Pratchett’s novel, told RadioTimes.com that the adaptation was “done with a phantom Terry looking over my shoulder”.
“It was always done asking myself, ‘Would Terry like this?’ – because I only did it because Terry asked me to,” he said.
“I didn’t plan to be a showrunner. I prefer to be a novelist – it’s a lovely profession being a novelist, you don’t have to get up in the morning and people pay you about five times as much as they pay you to show-run. So from that perspective, it’s a much easier job!
“But when Terry Pratchett said to me, ‘You have to make this – you have to make it ’cause I want to see it’ and then died, which made it a last request… then I decided I would make it, but the flip-side of that was saying, ‘I’m not making it for anybody else – I’m making it for me and I’m making it for Terry. I’m not making it for the fans. I’m not making it for the BBC. I’m not making it for Amazon. I’m just making it purely for Terry – and so the question of ‘Would Terry like this? Would Terry want to see this?’ became a hugely important one all the way through.”
Though he was determined to produce a faithful adaptation of the 1990 comic fantasy novel, Gaiman acknowledged that “there are always things you lose for time and budget reasons” – though the Good Omens team were able to save one key sequence using an unorthodox method…
“Six days before the table read, we were told that we needed to lose about £1-and-a-half million – we were £1-and-a-half million over budget,” he recalled. “I sat down with the scripts and that was when the other Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse left, just because we didn’t have the money to do them justice any longer and we couldn’t have done them cheaply. When you’ve got people on motorbikes driving down stretches of motorway and crashing it enormous piles of fish, it’s going to cost money! So that one I let go.
“But it was interesting, because sometimes we’d come up with other solutions. I remember we were told that we couldn’t shoot the Agnes Nutter sequence in 17th century… with the witch burning and the explosions, all of the villagers – everything like that. We were just told ‘We don’t have the money for that’ – and i checked in with the phantom Terry Pratchett on my shoulder and he said something very rude!
“I thought, ‘Well, Terry wrote that bit and that has to be in there’. So Rob Wilkins, who is Terry’s representative on Earth, and I and the BBC put our heads together and we agreed that we’d do the Good Omens Companion Book and the Good Omens script book and we would put all of the money from those books into the production.
“So anybody who buys the Good Omens Companion Book or the Good Omens script book is actually contributing to the cost of blowing up Josie Lawrence!”