New BBC One drama The Trial of Christine Keeler takes a deep dive into the Profumo Affair with the help of some big-name actors.
The show’s on Sunday night on BBC One at 9pm throughout January 2020.
Here’s who you’ll see on screen:
Sophie Cookson plays Christine Keeler
Who was Christine Keeler? A model and topless showgirl who had a fling with married government minister John Profumo – an incident which later blew up into the Profumo Affair.
Christine Keeler (1942-2017) was brought up by her mother and stepfather in a house made from two railway carriages in Berkshire. She was sexually abused by her mother’s lover and by his friends, and as a child was found to be suffering from malnutrition. After leaving the family home she found work in London at 15, had a premature baby at 17 who did not survive, and soon she was working at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho. Here she had a fateful meeting with society osteopath and artist, Stephen Ward…
What else has Sophie Cookson been in? She is perhaps best-known for playing Roxy in the Kingsman movies – The Secret Service and its sequel, The Golden Circle. Other credits include Greed, Red Joan, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and Moonfleet.
James Norton plays Stephen Ward
Who was Stephen Ward? An osteopath with a roster of high-profile clients, including Lord Astor. He was also a talented artist with a profitable sideline in sketching portraits, and at his London flat he entertained an eclectic mix of friends and contacts including showgirls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, Russian military attaché Yevgeny (Eugene) Ivanov, and politician John Profumo. As the Profumo Affair came to light in 1963, he was investigated by police, charged with immorality offences, and convicted (despite a lack of evidence) of living off immoral earnings – i.e. pimping. He died by suicide on 3rd August 1963, at the age of 50, after taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
What else has James Norton been in? The actor starred as ex-convict Tommy Lee Royce in Happy Valley, and is also known for playing Sidney Chambers in Grantchester. He appeared as Alex Godman in the TV series McMafia and Andrei Bolkonsky in War & Peace, and has also opped up in Black Mirror, Doctor Who, Death Comes to Pemberley, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Ben Miles plays John Profumo
Who was John Profumo? The Secretary of State for War. Known as Jack Profumo (1915-2006), he was a prominent Conservative politician until his career came to a grinding halt in 1963. That was when his 1961 extramarital affair with 19-year-old model Christine Keeler came to public attention. There were concerns that their relationship could have led to breaches of national security, as Keeler had also had an affair with Soviet attaché Ivanov (though, ultimately, no information was ever found to have been passed).
Profumo initially denied the affair and received the backing of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan – a grave mistake. He was later forced to admit he had lied to Parliament and resign from government, and the scandal of the Profumo Affair contributed to the downfall of Macmillan and the Tory government.
What else has Ben Miles been in? Ben Miles had a starring role as Peter Townsend in The Crown. We’ve recently seen him as Commander Danny Hart in BBC thriller The Capture, DSU Jack Haley in Collateral, and Jerry Fredericks in The Catcher Was a Spy; he’s also well-known for starring as Patrick Maitland in the comedy drama Coupling.
Emilia Fox plays Valerie Profumo
Who was Valerie Profumo? Known professionally as Valerie Hobson, she was an actress who had an impressive career on the stage and on the big screen. Her credits included Werewolf of London, Knave of Hearts, 1946’s Great Expectations, The King and I, Kind Hearts and Coronets, and Bride of Frankenstein – but she gave up acting shortly after marrying her second husband, John Profumo, in 1954. She already had two sons by her first marriage, and in 1955 she gave birth to David Profumo.
After news of Jack Profumo’s affair with Christine Keeler broke, Valerie stood by him. The couple spent the rest of their lives doing charity work, with Valerie dying in 1998 aged 81.
What else has Emilia Fox been in? She stars as Dr Nikki Alexander in Silent Witness, a role she has held since 2004. We’ve also seen her as Sam Vincent in Delicious, Sally Porter in Strangers, and Vanessa Hamilton in The Tunnel.
Ellie Bamber plays Mandy Rice-Davies
Who was Mandy Rice-Davies? A model and showgirl, who was friends with Christine Keeler and Stephen Ward. She worked as a dancer at Murray’s Cabaret Club in Soho despite her young age (she was just 16 or 17 at the time) and was introduced by Stephen and Christine to slum landlord Peter Rachman; shortly afterwards she was installed in his house and became his mistress, though he died in 1962. She was caught up in the press and notoriety around the Profumo Affair, but built her own career off the back of it, performing on stage and screen and releasing her own EP; Mandy also operated nightclubs and restaurants in Tel Aviv, and married three times – with her third husband a millionaire. Mandy died in 2014.
What else has Ellie Bamber been in? The actress starred as Cosette in the BBC’s recent adaptation of Les Misérables. Her big-screen roles include India Hastings in Nocturnal Animals, Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Mary Alice Walker in Extracurricular Activities.
Anthony Welsh plays Aloysius “Lucky” Gordon
Who was Lucky Gordon? Born in Jamaica, jazz singer and hustler Aloysius “Lucky” Gordon (1931-2017) arrived in London a few years after the war. In August 1961 he met young Christine Keeler when he was selling marijuana in Notting Hill, and was besotted by her – soon becoming her lover. But their difficult relationship quickly broke down and he became violent, once holding her hostage for two days. After Christine got together with another man called Johnny Edgecombe, Lucky’s rage and jealousy escalated.
What else has Anthony Welsh been in? It’s been a great few years for Anthony Welsh, who played Jack in the first series of Fleabag. Since then he’s appeared in Black Mirror and Hanna and Brassic, and starred as Joe Mudaki in the TV series Pure. He’s also bagged the role of Ham in The Personal History of David Copperfield.
Nathan Stewart-Jarrett plays Johnny Edgecombe
Who was Johnny Edgecombe? Christine’s boyfriend, who had emigrated from Antigua. Johnny (1932-2010) met Christine in 1962 and moved into her flat, but things went wrong after Johnny confronted her violent ex-boyfriend Lucky Gordon. There was an incident at the Flamingo Club and Johnny confronted Lucky with a knife; afterwards Lucky was left a gash on his face that required 17 stitches. Christine refused to find Johnny a solicitor or back him in court, and sought refuge with Mandy at Stephen’s flat – but a few weeks later, Johnny turned up outside demanding to see her. When she didn’t come out he fired several shots at the door.
Johnny was acquitted of assaulting Lucky, but got seven years in jail for the firearm offence. However, the whole incident put the spotlight on Stephen Ward, Christine Keeler and their social circle – alerting authorities to the Profumo Affair.
What else has Nathan Stewart-Jarrett been in? The actor starred as Curtis Donovan in E4 series Misfits, and as Ian in Utopia. In the rebooted Four Weddings and a Funeral TV series he plays Tony, and he has an upcoming part in Dracula – playing the character Adisa.
Tim McInnerny plays Martin Redmayne MP
Who was Martin Redmayne MP? A British Conservative politician. At this point in his career, Martin Redmayne (1910-1983) was Chief Whip – that is, he was responsible for making sure all Conservative MPs voted in Parliament the way his party’s leaders wanted them to.
What else has Tim McInnerny been in? Blackadder fans may remember him for playing both Lord Percy Percy and Captain Darling. Recent roles include Arthur Bach in Strangers (also co-starring with Emilia Fox), Airy in The Aeronauts, and Robett Glover in Game of Thrones; he’s also been seen in Notting Hill, Eddie the Eagle, Peterloo, National Treasure, Harlots, and as Winston Churchill in Castles in the Sky.
William Gaminara plays John Hobson
Who was John Hobson? The Attorney-General – that is, the chief legal adviser to the Crown and the Government.
Along with the Solicitor-General and Chief Whip Martin Redmayne, John Hobson (1912-1967) helped John Profumo and his solicitor to draft his ill-fated statement to the House of Commons in which he denied “impropriety” with Christine Keeler and threatened to sue anyone who claimed otherwise.
What else has William Gaminara been in? He is best-known for playing pathologist Professor Leo Dalton in Silent Witness, a role he held from 2002 until 2013 – alongside his ‘Christine Keeler’ co-star Emilia Fox. Other credits include Becca’s Bunch, Summer of Rockets, and voice work for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
Paul Ryan plays Rees-Davies
Who was Rees-Davies? William Rees-Davies QC (1916-1992) was a Conservative MP and barrister. He lost his arm during service in the Second World War.
What else has Paul Ryan been in? He starred alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in TV movie Brexit: The Uncivil War, playing UKIP’s Nigel Farage, and has also appeared in Cinderella Man, The Five, and Waffle the Wonder Dog. And if Paul Ryan’s name sounds familiar, that might also be because he shares it with the US Republican politician and former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Anton Lesser plays Michael Eddowes
Who was Michael Eddowes? A lawyer and author. Michael Eddowes (1903-1992) was a close friend of Stephen Ward and was introduced to Christine Keeler in October 1962. By her account, he was interested in her – but she found him too old.
Two months later, after the shooting incident with Johnny Edgecombe, Christine contacted Michael Eddowes for legal advice. During this meeting with Christine, Michael became suspicious about the link with the Soviet attaché – later contacting Scotland Yard to pass on his information.
What else has Anton Lesser been in? Anton Lesser has had a long and prolific acting career, but in the last few years he’s played some particularly big roles: Qyburn in Game of Thrones, CS Reginald Bright in Endeavour, Thomas More in Wolf Hall, and Prime Minister Harold MacMillan in The Crown. Other notable credits include Pirates of the Caribbbean, Miss Potter, Allied, On Chesil Beach, Dickensian (as Fagin), and The Hour.
Michael Maloney plays Bill Astor
Who was Bill Astor? Lord Astor (1907-1966) was a businessman and Conservative Party politician, and belonged to the wealthy Astor family. It was at his family estate in Cliveden that Christine Keeler met John Profumo for the first time, accompanied by Stephen Ward. During the scandal in 1963, Lord Astor was accused of having had an affair with young Mandy Rice-Davies; when she was told in court that he’d denied it, she replied: “He would, wouldn’t he?”
What else has Michael Maloney been in? Like his Christine Keeler co-star Anton Lesser, Michael Maloney has also played a Prime Minister in The Crown: he’s recently appeared as Edward Heath in season three. With more than 140 acting credits to his name, Maloney has been seen in The Young Victoria, Notes on a Scandal, Paranoid, The Five, Mr Selfridge, River, and The White Queen. He is also a prolific video game voice actor.
Visar Vishka plays Eugene Ivanov
Who was Eugene Ivanov? Yevgeny “Eugene” Ivanov (1926-1994) was a naval attaché at the Soviet embassy in London, living in the UK with his wife Maya. He was also a spy. He became friendly with Stephen Ward, and in the early 60s he had an affair with Christine Keeler.
There was a question mark over whether Stephen and Ivanov had asked Christine to quiz her lover Profumo about when West Germany was going to receive nuclear weapons – but no information was ever found to have been passed.
What else has Visar Vishka been in? The actor, who was born in Yugoslavia, has previously appeared in Legends, Open Door, and Shanghai Gypsy. Recently he played the Russian Captain in Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens.
Dorian Lough plays Len
Who is Len? Len appears to be a composite of various journalists looking for a story. In The Trial of Christine Keeler, he is an editor at the Daily Mirror looking for dirt to bring down the Macmillan government.
What else has Dorian Lough been in? Over the last few years, you may have seen him as Mario in Peaky Blinders, Clay Whiteley in Prime Suspect 1963, Detective Breem in The Witness for the Prosecution, or DI Martin Heywood in New Blood. And another fun fact: he starred in the music video for 1995 Radiohead song “Just”.
Sam Crane plays Alan
Who is Alan? A newspaper reporter, digging for dirt and trying to get to the truth.
What else has Sam Crane been in? The stage and screen actor has made appearances in Call the Midwife, The Crown (as Patrick Plunket) and Poldark. Back in 2009, he was Fred Walters in the TV series Desperate Romantics.
Jack Greenless plays Paul Mann
Who was Paul Mann? A racing driver, and a friend (or possibly boyfriend) of Christine Keeler who became a key figure in her life when the scandal broke.
What else has Jack Greenless been in? On TV, he’s been in Shetland series three (as Craig Cooper), Penny Dreadful (as Lead Familiar), In Plain Sight (as DS McLeod), The State (as Abu) and Harlots (as Justice Stuart Knox). In recent years he’s also popped up on the big screen, playing a Resistance Officer in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Alexander Bruce in Outlaw King. In 2020, Jack Greenless will play Luke in David Tennant drama Deadwater Fell.
Rosalind Halstead plays Bronwen Astor
Who is Bronwen Astor? The wife of Lord Astor. She was his third wife, and 23 years younger than him; they married in 1960 and had two daughters together before his death in 1966 from a heart attack. Bronwen had enjoyed a successful career as a model before her marriage, and she went on to become a spiritual advisor and train as a psychotherapist. The Profumo Affair haunted the rest of her life.
What else has Rosalind Halstead been in? She played Emma in the John Simm TV series Strangers, and has also appeared in Dominion, The Day of the Triffids, and Holby City.