EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a hot one: ITV is turning Len Deighton’s spy novel The Ipcress File, which inspired the 1965 Michael Caine film of the same name, into a television series — and the UK broadcaster has assembled a stellar on- and off-screen team to make the drama a reality.
The adaptation will be penned by BAFTA-winning Trainspotting writer John Hodge, while the cast will be led by Gangs Of London and Peaky Blinders star Joe Cole, alongside Bohemian Rhapsody actress Lucy Boynton, and The Night Manager’s Tom Hollander. The Crown and Rush producer Andrew Eaton will serve as an executive producer, while the six-part Berlin-set series will be helmed by McMafia and Black Mirror director James Watkins.
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The Ipcress File is the first major project housed at Will Clarke and Andy Mayson’s Altitude Television, a production arm of the British film and TV company Altitude Media Group, which was behind the release of Asif Kapadia’s Amy and Diego Maradona, as well as Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie. ITV Studios is an associate producer.
Deadline hears that the project has been bubbling away for some time, with Altitude knitting together a patchwork of finance. ITV Studios is providing a “significant” investment in the series, while other backers include the Liverpool Film Office, Lipsync, Filmgate, and the Finnish National and Regional Funds, with Cofiloisirs Bank cashflowing. Production will take place in Liverpool and Croatia next year, while ITV Studios is selling internationally.
Cole, a fast-rising star on the British acting scene, will take on the title role of Harry Palmer, who is serving as a working-class British sergeant in Berlin as the Cold War rages in the 1960s. Palmer is a sharp and savvy operator, with varied side-hustles that ultimately land him trouble with the law for crimes that could mean an eight-year stretch in a grim English military jail. But spotting Palmer’s potential, and his network in Berlin, an intelligence officer offers him a way to avoid prison by becoming a spy. His first case is The Ipcress File — a dangerous undercover mission on which Palmer must use his links to a man suspected of kidnapping a missing British nuclear scientist.
Sidney J. Furie’s 1965 film won three BAFTAs and helped cement Caine’s status as a rising screen icon. Deighton’s original 1962 book has sold 10M copies and sparked a series that spans seven Palmer books, meaning there would be plenty of other material if ITV wished to turn The Ipcress File into a returning franchise.
Hodge said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to inhabit a time when the post-war world was morphing into the way we live now, when social mobility, civil rights, and modern feminism were forcing their way into public consciousness, and all of it happening with the world divided in two and both halves threatening to blow the whole thing sky high.”
The show will be executive produced by Will Clarke and Andy Mayson for Altitude Television, Eaton for Turbine, Sandy Lieberson, Watkins, Hodge, and Hilary and Steven Saltzman. Paul Ritchie is the producer. ITV’s head of drama Polly Hill commissioned the series and described Deighton’s novel as “iconic.”
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