Real life spouses Matthew Macfadyen (Succession) and Keeley Hawes (The Durrells in Corfu) are set to play infamous married couple John Stonehouse and his wife Barbara in a new three-part drama titled simply Stonehouse.
The series will tell the story of disgraced Labour politician John Stonehouse, a high-flying minister of Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s government vanished from the beach of a large luxury hotel in Florida in Nov. 1974, leaving a neatly folded pile of clothes as he swam into the sea, intent on faking his own death.
"What happened to John Stonehouse is the stuff of legend," Macfadyen said in a statement. "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 colorful life and I’m looking forward to taking on his character.”
A charismatic and confident politician, Stonehouse impressed Prime Minister Harold Wilson, as well as Labour leadership, from an early stage in his career. His working-class background, a degree from the London School of Economics, and experience with the RAF during World War II seemed to make him an ideal candidate for political success. But, it quickly becomes apparent that there was more to Stonehouse than meets the eye and his reputation of being a devoted family man masked much darker secrets---such as an extramarital affair with his secretary Sheila Buckley, his work as a spy for the Czech Secret Service during the 1960s, and a tangle of financial improprieties.
This web of secrets and lies eventually compounded to such an extent that Stonehouse deliberately stole the identity of a recently deceased constituent, applied for a passport in his name, and fled the country, with the intent of building a new life for himself in Australia under a false identity. As you might have guessed, Stonehouse unsuccessfully tried to fake his own death, was arrested in Australia, and ultimately brought back to the U.K., but the full extent of the story is even wilder than you likely imagine. (Stonehouse was a crucial piece of keeping Labour in power when he returned!)
“I’ve always been fascinated by John Stonehouse," series writer John Preston said in a statement. 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.”
Stonehouse also stars Emer Heatley (Showtrial), as Stonehouse’s mistress Sheila Buckley, Kevin R. McNally (Unforgotten) as Harold Wilson, Dorothy Atkinson (All Creatures Great and Small) as Betty Boothroyd and Igor Grabuzov (No Looking Back).
The series will air on ITV in the U.K. and come to America by way of streaming service Britbox, though we don't have a confirmed release date yet for either side of the pond.