When One Door Closes. Film Director Marc Evans Has Got Everyone's Favourite Polymath, Stephen Fry, Stealing Masterpieces in the Big Boxing Day Drama on ITV1 This Year, Doors Open. the Welsh Visionary Leads Our 10 Pages of Christmas and New Year TV Highlights Compiled by the Ever Festive Nathan 'Santa Baby' Bevan
Marc Evans talks a lot and always very fast. Sentences emerge like runaway freight trains, forever threatening to derail or shunt the thought in front as they barrel along at tangents, writes Nathan Bevan.
It's like his mouth is struggling to keep up with the all the ideas that are constantly churning around inside his brain.
And you've only got to look at his CV to see what I mean. Thematically-speaking, it's all over the map.
"I think 'random' is the word you've looking for when it comes to my back catalogue," laughs the Cardiff-born 52-year-old, who scored his first big breakthrough with the 1996 Matthew Rhys-starring House Of America, in which a trio of siblings embark on a drink and drug-fuelled attempt to escape their drab backwoods existence in Wales for a better life Stateside.
Very much inspired by such classic US films as Badlands, it then gave way to a string of horror movies - most notably 2002's Big Brother, reality television-inspired My Little Eye - before taking in a family drama about autism and, most recently, the Glee-evoking, Swansea-set, '70s high school musical Hunky Dory.
"I think it's safe to say I don't have a master plan, never have done," he adds, explaining that now he's able to add that other cinematic chestnut - the heist movie - to his roll call of projects.
Adapted from a novel by celebrated crime writer Ian Rankin, Doors Open is the Edinburgh-set tale of a self-made millionaire, an art professor and a banker who, incensed by wealthy patrons hiding works of art away in private collections, come together in an audacious attempt to steal priceless masterpieces and replace them with brush-stroke perfect forgeries.
"It's kind of down to Stephen Fry that the whole thing is happening at all," says Evans of the national comedy treasure, rampant tweeter and all round clever clogs who'll be starring in the two hour crime caper which screens on ITV1 on Boxing Day.
"Stephen had picked up Rankin's book at an airport one day, loved the story - God knows how he found the time in his schedule to actually read it though - and really saw himself playing the character of Professor Gissing.
"Luckily having your own TV production company (Sprout Pictures) can really help in turning those sorts of dreams into reality, so here we are."
Coming to the shoot straight from New Zealand where he'd been filming his part as Master of Laketown in Peter Jackson's big screen version of The Hobbit, Fry's involvement was one of the main reasons Evans was drawn to the project in the first place.
"Stephen flew in, did his thing and then was off to play Malvolio in a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at The Globe.
"He just fires on all cylinders all the time and is a complete joy to work with - it became as much about the anecdotes he'd deliver off set as the work we'd be doing on it.
"But it's a question his character asks that really sealed the deal for me: why, if a perfect copy can be made of a famous painting, do we still hanker after the original? "And that really got me interested in exploring from where that allure and attraction stems and why, in this time of widespread recession and rising poverty, do the prices on the art market never seem to dip?" To paraphrase Rankin himself, not only is this a crime with no victims, but one that appears never to have been committed in the first place.
He also says it's the best adaptation of any of his books.
"Yeah, good that isn't it?" smiles the director, who's married to actress wife, Nia Roberts, with whom he has a daughter, Edith.
"Like, does the current financial climate make ripping off a private art collection owned by a national bank all the more forgivable? It's a great moral dilemma and we really gave the script a nudge or two in that direction."
Boning up on other famous movies in the genre, such as The Italian Job, Ocean's 11 and The Thomas Crown Affair, also helped Evans acquaint himself with how to stage a good old-fashioned caper. …