There’s no point making a historical drama these days about facts and, ugh, historical accuracy.
Get with the programme, grandma, we want sexy people doing sexy things in sexy period clothing. Preferably while solving a murder.
A show, then, about Italian artist, inventor and Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci is probably not a bad idea – especially when Poldark’s Aidan Turner is your lead, with support from Bates Motel star Freddie Highmore and Italy’s angelic Matilda De Angelis, who recently played the object of Hugh Grant’s lust in pulpy thriller The Undoing.
As sizzling as this saucy ensemble already is, there was one thing missing to make the eight-episode Amazon Prime Video drama Leonardo even hotter – beards.
Highmore sports a rousing effort but Turner won out with a sensational bit of facial fluff to play the man who painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
‘That’s three-and-a-half months’ growth there,’ the Irish actor says, admiringly, of his own hirsuteness.
Aidan has grown a seriously bushy beard for his role as the famous painter (Picture: Amazon Prime)
‘I think I would have probably needed a fake beard if I didn’t grow that.’
Ditching his razor wasn’t his only prep for the role – he read books, such as Charles Nicholl’s biography The Flights Of The Mind, and spent time in Paris studying da Vinci’s artworks.
‘It’s not just a straightforward historical look at his life,’ says Turner. ‘We were trying to get to the essence as to who the man was behind the artist.’
Highmore, who plays Stefano Giraldi, a policeman who comes into da Vinci’s orbit, agrees.
Aidan wants to show the essence of the man behind the artist (Picture: Amazon Prime/ Lovino)
‘I think it’s a very modern interpretation of who Leonardo is… he’s very much an outsider, he’s an illegitimate child. He’s a gay man and the show isn’t afraid of portraying him in a way that I think speaks to many issues that we’re dealing with today.’
While many academics have concluded that da Vinci was gay, the 25-year-old De Angelis knew little about his personal life.
‘In Italy, I don’t know why… maybe because of the Vatican… we don’t know a lot about the sexuality [of Leonardo].’
She plays Caterina da Cremona, a muse to da Vinci. ‘Their relationship is completely platonic, pure and honest,’ she adds. ‘It’s beyond sexuality… that is what makes their relationship very strong and modern.’
The Undoing’s Matilda De Angelis plays Leonardo’s muse and close friend, Caterina da Cremona (Picture: Vittoria Fenati Morace)
Little was known about Caterina – she featured in a sketch for the lost painting Leda And The Swan – allowing film-makers to use artistic licence about her time with the great artist.
In a first episode flash-forward, da Vinci is accused of her murder – a case investigated by Highmore.
‘Most of my scenes with Aidan are like chess matches,’ says Highmore. ‘Two people who are circling each other and trying to figrt into anything further, however.
‘I enjoy painting, but I don’t take it too seriously,’ he chuckles. ‘It’s hard when you’re talking da Vinci, then discussing your own daubings. It’s something I enjoy doing. But, yeah, it’s incomparable to someone like this guy!’
Leonardo launches on Amazon Prime Video this Friday.