New images of Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe in BBC1 drama A Very English Scandal

Radio Times gets an exclusive first look at BBC1's upcoming drama starring Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw

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If the Jeremy Thorpe affair had never happened and some bright spark pitched the story as a fictional TV drama project it would be in danger of being dismissed as too sensational.

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But the truth, portrayed in new drama A Very English Scandal, coming soon to BBC1, is that in 1979 the former leader of the Liberal Party really did stand trial for conspiracy and incitement to murder. Thorpe was accused of planning to have his ex-lover Norman Scott killed, in a bungled shooting that resulted in the death of a dog.

Hugh Grant (Thorpe) leads the cast in Russell T Davies’s telling of the story, directed by Stephen Frears, with Skyfall’s Ben Whishaw playing Scott.

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The three-part series is an adaptation of John Preston’s novel centring on the political scandal. Prior to the attempted murder, Scott had been threatening to expose his relationship with Thorpe at a time not long after homosexuality had been decriminalised in Britain. The torrid tale gripped the country, and although Thorpe was acquitted in 1979, it ended his political career.

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“Hugh won’t mind me putting words in his mouth — I think both he and Stephen have genuinely been fascinated by Jeremy Thorpe for a long, long time,” Davies told RadioTimes.com. “It was a project they were dying to do. So it’s very exciting – and Ben Whishaw as well. It’s just a dream casting. It’s so exciting, I can’t begin to tell you. It’s very, very exciting.”

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“The trial of Jeremy Thorpe changed society forever,” a BBC synopsis reads, “illuminating the darkest secrets of the Establishment.”

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The BBC is yet to announce an exact date or time that the show will air but it’s expected to hit the small screen in May 2018.

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