New BBC Two drama Peaky Blinders commences shooting

Peaky Blinders, an epic gangster family saga, has started shooting in Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool, boasting a distinguished cast that includes Cillian Murphy (Inception, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, 28 Days Later), Sam Neill (The Tudors, The Piano, Jurassic Park), Helen McCrory (Hugo, Harry Potter, The Queen), Annabelle Wallis (Snow White And The Huntsman, The Tudors), Iddo Goldberg (Secret Diary Of A Call Girl) and Charlie Creed-Miles (Nil By Mouth, Wild Bill).

The story begins in 1919 in the lawless slum neighbourhoods of post war Birmingham. Returning soldiers, newly-minted revolutionaries and criminal gangs all fight for survival in an industrial landscape gripped by economic upheaval. Guns smuggled home from the trenches find their way onto the streets and become lethal currency.

Communists don’t just dream of revolution – they are planning for it and the Government is expecting it. As Churchill mobilizes his Special Branch forces, illegal bookmakers make fortunes in speak-easy betting shops and traumatised infantrymen drink away their shell-shock in riotous ale houses.

There is still a gentler city at the fringes, where gypsies and canal boatmen deal horses and tell fortunes but sitting at the top of this industrial jungle are the extended Shelby family, whose many brothers and sisters, cousins and uncles, make up the fiercest gang of all, the ‘Peaky Blinders’. Named for their practise of sewing razor blades into the peaks of their caps, the Peaky Blinders make their money from off track betting, protection and robbery.

Their boss Tommy Shelby (Murphy) is the most ruthless brother of them all, but his leadership is about to be put to the test. A ruthless new Police Chief C.I. Campbell (Neill) arrives in town from Belfast to clean up the city and, perhaps more lethally, a beautiful woman Grace Burgess (Wallis) arrives in the neighbourhood with a mysterious past and a dangerous secret. McCrory plays Aunt Polly Gray, the Shelby family matriarch.

Peaky Blinders is a dazzling picture of England which will blow away preconceptions even though the characters and events are taken directly from the pages of our secret history. They will now burst into life in a vibrant evocation of a hedonistic age where the clothes will be razor sharp, the music fast and the dancing outrageous. The real Peaky Blinders were a scandal and this fiction will be the same. The Shelbys will be a family not to be taken lightly.

This is the first TV drama by series creator Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises) who says: “The story I want to tell is based on family legend and historical fact. It is a fiction woven into a factual landscape which is breathtakingly dramatic and cinematic, but which for very English reasons has been consigned to historical text books.”

Executive Producer and Chief Executive, Caryn Mandabach Productions, Caryn Mandabach, says: “Speaking on behalf of all the producers who are fortunate enough to be associated with this ground breaking work, we couldn’t be more honoured or more lucky to be supporting Steven’s vision. This is television at its best.”

Greg Brenman is Executive Producer for Tiger Aspect.

Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, Ben Stephenson, says: “Building on BBC Two’s reputation for world-class drama, Peaky Blinders is a phenomenally authored drama series shedding light on a piece of hidden British history. Authentic, bloody and utterly compelling, Peaky Blinders welcomes Steven Knight and Otto Bathurst to BBC Two and adds another boldly crafted drama to our roster of upcoming shows.”

Peaky Blinders is the first recipient of finance from the new Yorkshire Content Fund, which is managed by Screen Yorkshire, and will film throughout Yorkshire.

Sally Joynson, Chief Executive of Screen Yorkshire, said: “This is the first project to receive investment from the Yorkshire Content Fund and what a project it is. It is the type of production we are looking to attract to Yorkshire – big budget, epic storyline and with immense talent involved across the project. Peaky Blinders shows how our new fund is attracting productions of scale to the region.”

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