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Matthew Macfadyen and wife Keeley Hawes to star in ITV’s John Stonehouse drama

Matthew Macfadyen (PA)
Matthew Macfadyen (PA)

Matthew Macfadyen and his wife Keeley Hawes will star together in a new drama for ITV about Labour minister John Stonehouse, who attempted to fake his own death in 1974.

The Succession star, 47, will play Stonehouse alongside his wife of nearly 20 years, Hawes, who will play Stonehouse’s wife Barbara, in the real-life drama written by former journalist and newspaper editor John Preston.

The three-part mini-series will be led by Bafta-nominated director Jon S Baird, whose credits include Stan & Ollie, Vinyl and Filth, with BritBox International as co-production partners.

Virgin Media BAFTA TV Awards 2019 – Arrivals – London
Keeley Hawes and Matthew Macfadyen (PA)

Mr Stonehouse, who served under Prime Minister Harold Wilson, disappeared from the beach of a luxury hotel in Florida in November 1974, leaving a neatly folded pile of clothes.

It was suggested at the time that he had drowned or been killed by a shark.

In fact, he had left for a new life in Australia with his secretary Sheila Buckley, with whom he had been having an affair, and it was later revealed he had also been working as an agent for the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic military intelligence.

Mr Stonehouse was later arrested by Australian police who initially believed him to be the disappeared peer Lord Lucan, and he died in 1988.

Macfadyen said: “What happened to John Stonehouse is the stuff of legend.

“I’ve always been intrigued by what motivated him to fake his own death, and leave behind the family he loved and doted upon and a promising political career.

“John Preston’s script truly captures the man and his colourful life and I’m looking forward to taking on his character.”

The series will also star Showtrial actress Emer Heatley as Mr Stonehouse’s mistress Buckley, Kevin R McNally of The Crown as Mr Wilson and All Creatures Great And Small’s Dorothy Atkinson as Baroness Boothroyd.

Crime – Fraud – John Stonehouse MP – London
John Stonehouse (PA)

Preston is the former arts editor of the Sunday Telegraph and his books include A Very English Scandal and The Dig, both of which have been adapted for the screen, while a TV version of his biography of media mogul Robert Maxwell, Fall, is also in the works.

He said: “I’ve always been fascinated by John Stonehouse.

“The story of how he faked his own death and tried to start a new life in Australia under an assumed name is one of the most bizarre true-life tales I’ve ever come across.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s being brought to the screen with such an outstanding cast.”

Hawes and Macfadyen also both previously starred in spy drama series Spooks when the first series aired in 2002.

BritBox International will host the series in countries including the US, Canada and Australia.

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