Julia Stiles returns to the screen in sexy crime thriller
BEHIND every great fortune is a great crime.
That iconic quote attributed to Honoré de Balzac, and made famous in Mario Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather, is the central premise of the lavish new crime thriller Riviera.
Those words were central to co-creator Neil Jordan's pitch to the 10-part drama's eventual star Julia Stiles, who plays an American art curator for the super-wealthy.
"That concept was enough to sustain my interest and (I thought) an audience's interest for more than just a few episodes," Julia tells Weekend.
"There's a lot to explore there. I just felt the setting - this beautiful cinematic setting - as a backdrop for all this corruption was interesting to me."
But it wasn't just Neil's pitch, or even living in the French Riviera for seven months, that sealed the deal for Julia. It was the fact that her then fiance, now husband, cameraman Preston J Cook - whom she wed in Seattle last month - was also working on the series.
"Before I knew he was going to work on it, I was panicking quite a bit about being away from home for that long and that far away," she says.
"But the fact that we could be there together was just a delight. The location was even more romantic because we got to share the experience. You spend so much time at work, to be able to share that with your spouse is a dream come true."
In Riviera, Julia plays Georgina Clios, whose blissful life of luxury is torn apart when her billionaire husband of one year, Constantine Clios (Anthony LaPaglia) is suddenly killed in a yacht explosion.
Georgina finds herself intertwined in the art world, the last unregulated frontier for money laundering, and in the messy relationships of the Clios family: Constantine's first wife Irina (Lena Olin), moody eldest son Adam (Iwan Rheon), playboy and heir to the family fortune Christos (Dimitri Leonidas) and troubled teenage daughter Adriana (Roxane Duran).
"The rest of the family wants to get rid of her - there's a lot of animosity there - and Iwan's character seems to be the only one she can trust," she says.
"But he's mysterious and also has his own baggage. Georgina doesn't quite know what to do with him. There's the possibility he has a bit of an infatuation with her that could be quite dangerous."
It's a world Julia has some familiarity with. Even though she was not the child of wealthy parents, her mother was a working artist (specialising in ceramics), she grew up in the arty enclave of Greenwich Village in New York City and graduated from New York's Professional Children's School.
"I do have an interest in art, not just a pure interest in beautiful visual art but also an interest in the business side of it," she says.
"I think that comes from growing up in New York City, surrounded by artist for most of my life.
"I've always had this background of a consideration about trying to fulfill your creative drive but also make your living as an artist. How do you put a price on art? It's something really interesting to explore through the show."
A second season of Riviera has not been officially confirmed, although Julia believes it's highly likely.
"I'm really excited at the possibility of a second season," she says. "Where we leave Georgina at the end of the first season opens up a whole world of possibilities in terms of where you could go."
Her next role though, is that of a new mum. Julia and Preston are expecting their first child any day now.
"It's all going to be new to me," she says. "It would be lovely to bring my newborn to the South of France.
"I have no experience being a working mother, so we'll see how it goes. I'm Lucky that I have options. I'm happy I'm going to be a mother and have a job."
Riviera premieres tonight at 8.30pm on SBS and will also be available to stream on SBS On Demand.