A drama series depicting the curious story of MP John Stonehouse faking his own death begins on ITV tonight (Jan 2). The tale will be told in three episodes and features many familiar faces.
Starring Matthew Macfadyen as Stonehouse, the drama tells the story of how the MP vanished from a Florida hotel’s beach in November 1974, leaving a neatly folded pile of clothes as he swam into the sea. Macfadyen stars alongside real-life wife Keeley Hawes who plays Stonehouse’s wife Barbara.
The drama, directed by Jon S. Baird and written by John Preston, will show the MP’s rise to prominence in Harold Wilson’s Labour government and the bizarre events surrounding him. Matthew Macfadyen, who plays Mr Stonehouse in the drama, said: “What happened to John Stonehouse is the stuff of legend.
“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 colourful life.”
Writer John Preston added: “I’ve always been fascinated by John Stonehouse. 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.”
The MP for Walsall North left behind his loving wife Barbara and three young children as a shocked public and media presumed he had drowned or been eaten by sharks. Charismatic, oozing with charm and brimming with confidence, Stonehouse had impressed Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Labour stalwarts from an early stage in his parliamentary career.
From a working-class background, he’d graduated from the London School of Economics, was in the RAF during the War and seemed the ideal candidate for a life in politics. As the drama unfolds, it becomes apparent his reputation as a devoted family man masked the truth, as he’d embarked on an extra marital affair with his secretary, Sheila Buckley, and acted as a spy for the Czech Secret Service in the 1960s.
His complex financial status and relationships eventually took their toll, with Stonehouse deliberately stealing the identity of a recently deceased constituent. Stonehouse applied for a passport in the dead man’s name and began to weave an elaborate conspiracy, seeking a new life in Australia.
But his plans soon turned sour as Stonehouse was arrested by Australian police who had been under the mistaken impression that he was the fugitive peer Lord Lucan. Brought back to the UK by Scotland Yard detectives, Stonehouse found that he was crucial to keeping the Labour government in power with its wafer-thin majority.
- Matthew Macfadyen plays John Stonehouse
- Keeley Hawes plays Stonehouse’s wife Barbara
- Emer Heatley plays Stonehouse’s mistress, Sheila Buckley
- Kevin R. McNally plays Harold Wilson
- Dorothy Atkinson plays Betty Boothroyd
- Igor Grabuzov plays as Marek.
How to watch Stonehouse
Stonehouse will be available to watch on ITV at 9pm on January 2, 2023. Episode two will air at the same time on January 3 and the final part of the series will be shown at 9pm on Wednesday January 4.
All episodes will also be available to watch on ITV’s rebranded catchup service, ITV X.