In 2021 the UK commercial channel ITV announced a new TV adaptation of the classic Deighton novel The Ipcress File, famously made into what became a series of three blockbuster films in the 1960s which made Michael Caine a household name as Harry Palmer.
The series will be broadcast in the UK from 6 March 2022, and rights have also been sold to a number of countries, including to AMC in the USA which will broadcast the series first there.
While clearly drawing elements from the movies series - no least, the overall look of the main character, still dubbed Harry Palmer (although in the books he was an unnamed spy) - the early publicity indicated the TV series format has given the show more licence to include elements from the book not used in the original film, and to bring in a couple of new characters.
The pre-publicity push by ITC online and in the media has highlighted certain aspects of the story, introduced the actors behind the main characters, and also given a glimpse of the locations and plot points to be featured in the series. What is clear is that ITV has put a lot of budget behind this production and is clearly pinning a lot of hopes that this 1960s spy story will translate well for a modern streaming audience. They have also opened up the possibility that, should the series prove to be a success, then there is scope for developing stories from the other books - Funeral in Berlin, Horse Under Water and Billion-Dollar Brain. There will also, evidently, be some nods back to the original 1960s film.
Early indications suggest that while the core plot remains the same - Harry Palmer is recruited as a spy to track down missing British scientists - the TV series is making more of plot points and back story information in the original books that didn't make it to the film. For example, the publicity information indicates there will be scenes on the atoll where Harry is sent on the trail of a missing nuclear scientist, and also the scenes in the book in the Near East, as Harry tracks down the network behind the kidnappings.
Liverpool has evidently stood in for London as the main backdrop for Harry Palmer's engagements in London and his scenes with Major Dalby and Jean Tonneson, his love interest in the book and - evidently - the TV series too. Palmer's office was apparently filmed in a former school.
Filming also took place in Croatia, standing in for 'sixties East and West Berlin; scenes at Checkpoint Charlie in East Berlin were filmed in Rijeka in the country, while a location near Split in Croatia doubled for the Pacific atoll. Apparently, too, Tokyo also provides a number of backdrops for scenes which, in the original film, were film in a very different world which has largely disappeared - the urban and cultural aesthetic of 1960s Britain. A number of scenes set in the US were filmed at a disused diner in Wales
Actor Joe Cole, 33, plays Harry Palmer. Although known in the UK for his role in Peaky Blinders, he is not yet regarded as a major 'name' in the UK, so this will certainly be his biggest role to date, carrying a whole series. Early publicity photos show that Cole and the wardrobe team has leant heavily on the overall look of Harry Palmer as created by Michael Caine - though, with some differences, notably in the style of glasses used.
Actesss Lucy Boynton plays Jean Tonneson. In the series, she is no longer Palmer's secretary but an agent herself, with early publicity shots demonstrating that she will have a much more dynamic and frontline role in the overall plot arc. Evidently, she is set up to be a match for Palmer.
Hollywood actor Tom Hollander plays William Dalby, who is the head of War Office Operation Communications (dubbed W.O.O.C.(P). in the original books), and he should bring some real star quality to the series. Early scenes show he has the subtle contempt for working class Harry and disdain for his approach that Harry's boss had in spades in the original movie.
A new character is African-American CIA agent Paul Maddox, played by Ashley Thomas; he does not appear in the original books.
Writers and directors
The director of the series is James Watkins, who worked on the BBC 1 thriller McMafia.
This trailer video from ITV highlights a number of stylistic cues from the original 'sixties film, but demonstrates a significant number of plot adaptations or additions that should provide for a richer story development across the six episodes.
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