Former U2 manager says Riviera will always be a show about rich people behaving badly'

From musical juggernauts to TV, the show goes on for Paul McGuinness, who has no plans to hit the brakes any time soon

Rupert Graves and Julia Stiles take the action to Venice in the latest series of Riviera

A slimmed down McGuinness in Wicklow last week

Kevin Palmer

Dreams tend to be transformed into reality when Paul McGuinness is the maestro composing the scripts.

For 35 years, he was the backseat driver behind the juggernaut that is U2, with his reign as manager of the world's biggest rock band not only transforming the lives of the four icons he helped to mould, but also reinventing the phenomenon that became stadium music events.

Yet throughout his latter stages of his tenure as string puller-in-chief for Bono and his band of brothers, McGuinness had a vision of a TV show following the lives of the super-rich, in what has become a second home for him and all members of U2, the south of France.

And so the Sky Atlantic smash hit show Riviera was born, exploding on to our screens in 2017 with a brash arrogance that made for irresistible viewing.

Former U2 manager Paul McGuinness.

As has been the case for all of McGuinness's projects in a career that also included involvement with the global phenomenon that is Riverdance, Riviera was a runaway success story as it became Sky's most successful original series. While retirement might feel like a welcome option for many in his position after such a fulfilling life, the drive that McGuinness has always possessed shows no sign of dimming now that he is in his 70th year. He spoke to Magazine+ in an exclusive Zoom interview from his home in Wicklow.

"This was an idea I wanted to develop even when I was still working with U2 and the success we have enjoyed with Riviera has been a delight," says the executive producer of the show, led by lead actress Julia Stiles and bolstered in season three by the introduction of Rupert Graves.

"I couldn't resist having a little look when season one of Riviera popped up on Sky the other night and I was refreshed by what was on the screen. I thought it was really good and clearly the viewing figures backed that up.

"Riviera has been a huge hit for Sky. Our second season did great numbers as well, so I'm hopeful that this new run of eight shows will get a positive reaction.

"The pandemic has ensured that we don't have too much fresh, dynamic dramas coming out right now, but thankfully we finished filming in early March and it has allowed us to continue with post-production and go to air this week. We all need some escapism in our lives at the moment, so hopefully this show is well-timed.

"Everyone involved with the show is delighted with season three. There are some wonderful fresh locations and compelling new characters this time. We have moved some of it away from the south of France, with episodes in Venice, Saint Tropez and Buenos Aires.

"Even though we have moved away from the show's initial base in Nice, we believe we have retained the glamour and style of the first two seasons of Riviera.

"It will always be a show about rich people behaving badly, but it is darker and more sophisticated this time."

While Riviera is the new baby currently being cradled with care by McGuinness, his association with U2 will forever be a huge part of his legacy and, in particular, his role in re-designing stadium music events.

U2's stadium shows were ground-breaking spectacles that set the bar for all who followed in their giant footsteps, yet the prospect of 60,000 fans gathering in a stadium to dance, sing and drink their way through an evening seems like a fantasy from a different life as we try to find a way to live with Covid-19.

"U2 were still the biggest touring act in the world as they finished two massive tours last year and they were absolutely thriving creatively before lockdown, but we don't know where that industry is going now," continued McGuinness.

"Overnight, gigs were cancelled and venues are wondering when they will be able to open again. It is terribly sad and how it will come back, I just don't know.

"Until we get an effective vaccine, I find it hard to see how we can have live music events with large numbers in attendance and that is putting thousands of jobs at risk across the industry.

"On the last U2 tour I supervised, there were 400 people travelling and, of course, there were more hired locally at each city we performed in.

"Multiply that by all the bands in the world and it a shocking loss of employment... The music industry flipped in recent years as concerts used to be vehicles to promote records and yet that has changed to a point where records were now used as a launchpad for a tour, where all the money could be made. For a young band starting out, I just don't know how they can get through this and build a career and it is a real crisis for the music industry."

Bursting with enthusiasm and looking trim after shedding the pounds with a diet of swimming, healthy eating and a general detox of the mind, McGuinness is already thinking about the next series of Riviera. It is a restless work ethic that has helped him to become one of Ireland's great achievers and he doesn't intend to slow down any time soon.

⬤ All episodes of the third season of Riviera are available on Sky Atlantic now.

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