It was the movie that helped turn Michael Caine into an international star – and now The Ipcress File is being rebooted as an ITV series embellished with sex.
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.
Played by Kane, the nearsighted, working-class old man was meant to be the usual alternative to the super-smooth posh guy James Bond.
But with his own charm, ex-army sergeant Harry still knows how to get along with the ladies and fawn over people at all levels of society.
And although he is 007 ostensibly chalk and cheese, in fact, several members of the Bond production team also worked on Ipcress.
The new six-episode series, which launches next week, is a more glamorous, international take on the original film, set and filmed entirely in London.
The creators of the 2022 version found retro backdrops in Berlin, Croatia and Tokyo to reflect the original Ipcress era, although ironically all the scenes set in London were actually filmed in Liverpool.
The series expands on the story, which was compressed to 109 minutes of the original film, with the addition of new characters.
Director James Watkins, who worked on the BBC1 thriller McMafia in 2018, said: “I really like the 1965 film, it’s a classic. But this is completely different.
“It allows us to delve much deeper into the emotions of the characters and explore how the world we now live in came to be.
“I hope this is a twisted, daring, exciting spy story, but it has these collisions in the world of social mobility.
“I thought it was really interesting to have a working-class protagonist who lives his mind.
“Harry Palmer is not in his fists, he is not in his gun. He is the smartest guy in the room.”
And that’s a good thing, because with the Cold War world on the brink of apocalypse, the secret services are relying on Harry to figure out why our top scientists are going missing.
Today we’re giving you a top-level briefing on the main characters. . .
- Ipcress File starts on ITV on March 6 at 21:00.
Jean Courtney (Lucy Boynton)
In the film, she was a seductress who caught Harry’s attention when he joined his new Secret Service branch.
However, the actress from the original film, Sue Lloyd, only got a few scenes.
However, the rebooted Jean, played by Lucy Boynton, gets a much more substantial role.
Her charged character is sleek and stylish, but more importantly, more accurately reflects the huge decade of change that was the sixties.
Lucy, who is dating ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ actor Rami Malek, said: “This newness of the rock ‘n’ roll era and the liberation for youth and women in particular has been a catalyst for the way we live now and remains one of the more consistent cultural landmarks. I think.
“But to add to that the world of espionage and this stylized, romanticized world of dual identities and precarious position is just really cool.”
Harry Palmer (Joe Cole)
The protagonist of the 1965 film was a dissolute boy who doesn’t give a damn about anything in the world.
But in the new version, Harry is in prison with his wife, and 33-year-old Joe believes that he probably suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his days in the army.
The actor, best known for playing John Shelby on the BBC1 series Peaky Blinders, did not want to use Kane’s performance as a guide.
He said: “I didn’t plan to watch the 1965 Michael Caine film, but when I got to Liverpool to start filming, I thought, ‘Maybe I’d better watch this.’
“So I watched it. I appreciated him for what he is and for what he was, but my Harry is a little different.”
Despite this, he still has the same style, and the creative team bought a pair of glasses from a specialty store in London and scoured vintage shops for suits that were later made for Joe.
He said, “For me, the costume is such a big part of the character, the right costume, hair and makeup. It just makes your job as an actor easier.
“I’m also looking forward to people seeing the costumes.”
Major William Dolby (Tom Hollander)
ANOTHER military man, Dolby leads his own Secret Service branch, which is at the forefront of the fight against the Cold War.
Super intelligent and super sarcastic, he quickly notices Harry’s abilities and helps him get out of prison for flogging stolen goods while he was in Berlin.
But having hired him, Dolby has to use all her cunning to keep him on his toes. Tom said, “I was reading John Hodge’s scripts and thinking how smart and sharp they are, what a quality script – extraordinarily good.
“I liked this part. I liked the sparring between Dolby and Harry Palmer. It was good stuff. He’s been around a bit and a bit weathered. There is cynicism about Dolby and superiority in terms of leniency towards MI5.
“Dolby has a different life that comes out as the series progresses. He’s an interesting character with a military background – security, home districts, an upper middle class man of the time. But something else is also happening.
“There are echoes of Le Carré and the real story of the Cambridge spies. It’s time for the Cold War. Dolby is like a chess player who is always a few moves ahead of everyone else.”
Paul Maddox (Ashley Thomas)
While the original film did feature American intelligence officers, Maddox did not.
He is a brand new addition to the story and plays an integral role in Harry’s operation as it progresses.
He also begins to play on the feelings of Jean, who, like him, is trying to break into a world where white men still rule.
Actor Ashley, better known as musician and rapper Bashi, says: “She’s a woman from the sixties who has to deal with how society views women at that time.
“And he has to deal with being black, African American, a person of color, and how society treats him at the time. I think they immediately understand each other, especially in a world dominated by white male patriarchy.
“They have an instant connection that is very flirtatious, cool and fun in a pretty serious world. Their relationship is very playful and dynamic.”
Housemartin (Urs Rechn)
HE is a dodgy go-between who says he can connect Harry to the missing scientist he’s been assigned to find.
But our hero gets much more than he bargained for when he takes Housemartin at his word.
In the film, Housemartin, originally played by Irish actor Oliver McGreevy, then leads Harry to meet another villain, Bluejay, played by Frank Gatliff.
But in the new ITV version, German actor Urs gives us a standalone Cold War villain that executive producer Will Clark says is more relevant to our modern world than almost any other time.
He said: “We still have an international threat. America, China and Russia are still at loggerheads and we are still on their heels.”