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How ITV bosses sexed up The Ipcress File – 57 years after Michael Caine original

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IT was the movie that helped to turn Michael Caine into an international star – and now The Ipcress File is being rebooted as a sexed-up ITV series.

The 1965 cult classic, adapted from Len Deighton’s 1962 spy novel of the same name, was the thriller that introduced the world to Harry Palmer.

ITV

As The Ipcress File is being rebooted as a sexed-up ITV series, we give you a top-level briefing on the main characters[/caption]

ITV

Director James Watkins, who worked on 2018 BBC1 thriller McMafia, said: ‘This is very different’, here Joe Cole as Harry Palmer[/caption]

Played by Caine, the short-sighted, working-class geezer was supposed to be the everyman alternative to super-smooth posh boy James Bond.

But with a charm all of his own, former army sergeant Harry still has a way with the ladies and a way of ingratiating himself with people at every level of society.

And though he and 007 are supposedly chalk and cheese, in fact several members of the Bond production team also worked on Ipcress.

The new six-part series, starting next week, is a more glamorous, international twist on the original film, which was set and shot entirely in London.

The 2022 version’s creators found retro backdrops in Berlin, Croatia and Tokyo to reflect the original Ipcress era, though ironically, any scenes that were set in London were actually filmed in Liverpool.

The series expands the story, which was compressed into the original film’s 109 minutes, with new characters added.

Director James Watkins, who worked on 2018 BBC1 thriller McMafia, said: “I absolutely love the 1965 film, it’s a classic. But this is very different.

“It does enable us to go much more under the surface into the emotions of the characters, and to explore how the world in which we now live came to be.


“It is hopefully a twisty, sassy, gripping spy story, but baked within it are these collisions in a world of social mobility.

“I thought that was really interesting — to have a working-class central character who lives by his wits.

“Harry Palmer is not about his fists, he’s not about his gun. He is the smartest guy in the room.”

Which is just as well, because as the Cold-War world is on the brink of apocalypse, the secret services are relying on Harry to find out why our top scientists are going missing.

Today we give you a top-level briefing on the main characters . . . 

  • The Ipcress File starts on ITV on March 6 at 9pm.
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The 1965 classic is the movie that helped to turn Michael Caine into an international star[/caption]

THE FEMME FATALE

Jean Courtney (Lucy Boynton)

IN the movie she was a temptress who caught Harry’s eye when he joined his new secret service branch.

Yet the actress in the original film, Sue Lloyd, barely got more than a few scenes.

ITV

Lucy Boynton’s supercharged character as Jean Courtney is slick and reflects the huge decade of change that were the Sixties[/caption]

However the rebooted version’s Jean, played by Lucy Boynton, gets a far more substantial role.

Her supercharged character is slick and stylish, but more importantly, more closely reflects the huge decade of change that were the Sixties.

Lucy, who is dating Bohemian Rhapsody actor Rami Malek, said: “This newness of the rock ’n’ roll era and liberation for young people and for women specifically was a catalyst for so much of the way we live now and has remained one of the more consistent cultural reference points, I think.

“But to get to add the world of espionage to that and this stylised, romanticised world of double identities and edge-of-your-seat risk is just very cool.”

Rex

Sue Lloyd, in the original film, barely got more than a few scenes[/caption]

THE HERO

Harry Palmer (Joe Cole)

THE 1965 film’s lead character was a womanising wide boy without a care in the world.

But in the new version Harry is in jail, with a wife to conder, and Joe, 33, reckons he is probably suffering from PTSD from his military days.

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The 1965 film’s lead character was a womanising wide boy without a care in the world[/caption]

The actor, best known for playing John Shelby in BBC1’s Peaky Blinders, didn’t want to use Caine’s performance as a reference point.

He said: “I didn’t plan to watch the 1965 Michael Caine film but when I got up to Liverpool to start shooting, I thought, ‘maybe I’d better check this out’.

“So I watched it. I appreciated it for what it is and what it was, but my Harry is something a little bit different.”

Even so, he still has the same style, and the creative team bought a pair of glasses from a specialist shop in London and scoured vintage shops for suits that were later tailored to fit Joe.

He said: “For me, costume is such a big part of a character, getting the costume, hair and make-up right. It just makes your job as an actor easier.

“I’m looking forward to people seeing the costumes too.”

THE BOSS

Major William Dalby (Tom Hollander)

ANOTHER military man, Dalby heads up his own secret service department which is at the forefront of fighting the Cold War.

Hyper-intelligent and super-sarcastic, he quickly spots Harry’s abilities and helps to get him out of jail for flogging stolen goods when he was stationed in Berlin.

ITV

Tom Hollander as Dalby heads up his own secret service department[/caption]

But after hiring him, Dalby has to use all his guile to keep him on his toes. Tom said: “I read John Hodge’s scripts and thought how clever and sharp they were, what good-quality writing it was – unusually good.

“I enjoyed the part. I enjoyed the sparring between Dalby and Harry Palmer. That was good stuff. He has been around a bit and is slightly weathered. There is a cynicism to Dalby and a superiority in terms of condescension to MI5.

“Dalby has another life which emerges as the series goes on. He’s an interesting character with a military background – security services, Home Counties, upper middle-class person of that time. But there is also something else going on.

“There are echoes of Le Carré and the true story of the Cambridge Spies. It’s that time, the Cold War. Dalby is like a chess player who is always several moves ahead of everybody else.”

Rex

Here, Dalby played by Nigel Green in 1965[/caption]

THE CIA GUY

Paul Maddox (Ashley Thomas)

ALTHOUGH American intelligence officers did feature in the original movie, Maddox did not.

He is an entirely new addition to the plot, and plays an integral part in Harry’s operation as it progresses.

ITV

Actor Ashley Thomas as Paul Maddox, plays an integral part in Harry’s operation as it progresses[/caption]

He also starts to make a play for the affections of Jean, who, like him, finds herself trying to make her way in a world where white men are still in charge.

Actor Ashley, better known as the musician and rapper Bashy, says: “She is a woman in the Sixties who has to deal with how society looks at women at that time.

“And he has to deal with being a black man, an African American man, a person of colour, and how society deals with him at that time. I think they immediately have an understanding of each other, especially in that world which is dominated by a white male patriarchy.

“They have an instant connection which is very flirty, cool and fun in a world that is quite serious. Their relationship is very playful and dynamic.”

THE BADDIE

Housemartin (Urs Rechn)

HE is the dodgy middle man who says he can get Harry in contact with the missing scientist he has been tasked with retrieving.

But our hero gets way more than he bargained for when he takes Housemartin at his word.

Getty

German Urs Rechn gives us a stand-alone Cold War villain – who executive producer Will Clarke insists is more relevant in our modern world[/caption]

In the film, Housemartin, originally played by Irish actor Oliver MacGreevy, then leads Harry to encounter another baddie, Bluejay, played by Frank Gatliff.

But in the new ITV version, German actor Urs gives us a stand-alone Cold War villain – who executive producer Will Clarke insists is more relevant in our modern world than at almost any other time.

He said: “We still have an international threat. America, China and Russia are still at odds, and we’re still snapping at their heels.”

Rex

In the film, Housemartin was originally played by Irish actor Oliver MacGreevy[/caption]

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