Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole to play Harry Palmer in ITV’s adaptation of spy classic The Ipcress File

The actor will play the role made famous by Michael Caine in the 1965 film.

Joe Cole

Peaky Blinders star Joe Cole will take on the iconic role of Harry Palmer, first played by Michael Caine, in ITV’s new adaptation of the classic Len Deighton spy novel, The Ipcress File.

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He’ll be joined by Bohemian Rhapsody star Lucy Boynton and Us star Tom Hollander in the planned six-part series which has been written by  Trainspotting scriptwriter John Hodge and will be directed by Emmy Award-winner James Watkins (McMafia, Black Mirror, The Woman In Black).

Cole,32, is best known for playing gangster John Shelby in BBC One’s Peaky Blinders for four seasons and for his starring role in Sky Atlantic’s Gangs of London.

Watkins said: “We can’t wait to bring Len Deighton’s intoxicating web of spies – sexier than Smiley’s people, more real than Bond – to a wider television audience. With his sly wit and understated integrity clashing against the establishment, working-class spy Harry Palmer is more relevant than ever.”

The Ipcress File is set in Berlin in 1963, with former British Army sergeant Harry Palmer making a load of money in dodgy dealings as a fixer and smuggler while the threat of nuclear war hangs over the divided city.

Harry’s varied interests bring him into contact with everything and everyone – until the law catches up and it all comes crashing to a halt. Harry is sentenced to eight years at Her Majesty’s leisure in Britain.

However, Harry’s skills and his shadowy network may be his saviour. British intelligence make him an offer: if he becomes a spy on their behalf he will avoid prison. So begins Harry’s global search for the man who kidnapped British nuclear scientist.

Writer Hodge said the series will chronicle a period in history that “bridged” the post-war transition into modern life.

He 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.”

Caine played Harry Palmer in the 1965 film, which won the BAFTA for best British film, while Caine’s iconic performance was hailed as the “anti-Bond”.

The Ipcress File will be filmed on location in London and Croatia in 2021.

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