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Is Riviera a True Story?

November 6, 2020
3 min read

Created by Neil Jordan (‘Interview with the Vampire’), ‘Riviera’ tells the story of Georgina Marjorie Clios (Julia Stiles), an American art curator whose life becomes embroiled in treachery, danger, and crime following the mysterious death of her billionaire husband, Constantine Clios (Anthony LaPaglia). Set in the French Riviera, which lends the show its title, the series focuses on the dichotomy between the glitz and glamor of its uber-rich characters and the dark and dangerous aspects of their personalities.

‘Riviera’ is by far one of the most expensive British shows of all time and has been filmed on location in the Cote d’Azur, Monza, Nice, and Monaco. Since its premiere, the show has garnered both controversy and praise. Jordon has publicly disassociated himself from the production, citing creative reasons. The show’s unflinching portrayal of wealthy people has made many members of the audience wonder whether it is based on real-life events. Here is what we have been able to find out about it.

Is Riviera Based on a True Story?

No, ‘Riviera’ is not based on a true story. Paul McGuinness, the erstwhile manager of the Irish rock group U2, came up with the concept while vacationing in the eponymous coastline. “Anyone in the world who starts to make a large amount of money, be it legitimately or illegitimately, tends to come to the South of France to spend it. Russians, Kazakhs, Americans, Arabs, they all come here,” he explained. “It creates an incredibly fertile environment for a story.”

He subsequently asked several writers to come with a premise for a show that will have what he describes as four “basic ingredients” of the Riviera – glamor, wealth, family, and crime. Ultimately, it was Jordon’s pitch that he liked the best. Jordon is a highly-respected screenwriter in the industry and has won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the 1992 thriller film ‘The Crying Game.’

It didn’t take them long to make Sky Atlantic interested in the project. While the particular story depicted in ‘Riviera’ is fictional, the beautiful coastline is known to attract all kinds of people, from Russian oligarchs to mob bosses to renowned artists to world leaders. English playwright Somerset Maugham once referred to the Riviera as a “sunny place for shady people.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald used the Riviera as the backdrop for his last-completed work, ‘Tender Is the Night,’ and masterfully depicted its seedy underbelly that lurks where the Mediterranean sun doesn’t shine. The two main protagonists, Dick and Nicole Diver, were supposedly inspired by an affluent American couple living in the Riviera at the time, Gerald and Sara Murphy. However, Fitzgerald also heavily drew from his relationship with his wife Zelda to flesh out these two characters.

Aside from Stiles and LaPaglia, the series also stars Lena Olin, Dimitri Leonidas, Roxane Duran, Igal Naor, and Iwan Rheon (season 1). Scottish entrepreneur and billionaire Douglas Barrowman let the producers use his $65m, 180-foot mega yacht for filming, on the condition that he would appear in the show. He makes a brief cameo as a Russian oligarch.

Read More: Where Is Riviera Filmed?

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