Stephen Fry and Douglas Henshall are to head the cast of Doors Open, in which an art professor, a millionaire and a banker join forces to carry out a daring raid of priceless paintings.
But plans to film the key scenes at the National Galleries’ official collections centre on the city’s waterfront – which is featured in the novel – were scuppered when bosses turned down a request from Fry’s production company for security reasons.
The plot for the two-hour drama, being made for ITV, is even being changed so that the raid will be carried out on the warehouse attached to an Edinburgh bank’s private art gallery rather than from the Granton Centre of Art, which the film-makers wanted to use. Filming is due to get under way on 23 April. Rankin’s Doors Open was said to have caused “consternation” among staff at the National Galleries after it was published four years ago.
The crime writer, who is believed to be advising on the script for the adaptation, later wrote: “I heard on good authority that the galleries were ‘slightly worried’ because they could see how my heist might actually work. This may have left them scared of possible copycats.”
The organisation was forced to review security, scrap weekly tours and pull out of Edinburgh’s “Doors Open Day” –which is featured in both the book and forthcoming film as a front for the thieves – after officials realised how easy it could be to carry out the raid.
A spokeswoman said: “We never discuss security issues over any of our sites.
“It is true that we were approached earlier this year over the possibility of filming at Granton but given the nature of the story we felt it was not appropriate.
“Although weekly tours are no longer held at the centre it is still possible to book a private tour.”
Marion Williams, director of the Cockburn Association, the heritage group which organises Doors Open Day in Edinburgh, said: “It’s an understandable decision by the Galleries not to allow filming at the collection centre if they are worried about potential copycats.
“They took part in Doors Open Day there in 2009 and 2010, but haven’t since the security review.”
National Museums Scotland has also been approached by Fry’s Sprout Pictures company about the possibility of filming at its own collection centre in Granton, but nothing has been agreed to date.
Rosie Ellison, of Edinburgh Film Focus, said: “We’re very happy that such a major new production is being filmed in Edinburgh, but we do not discuss any locations before filming takes place, although they can often change at the last minute.