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'The Ipcress File': Our essential guide to ITV’s adaptation of the famous spy thriller starring Joe Cole

'The Ipcress File' star Joe Cole as gangster John Shelby in Peaky Blinders
'The Ipcress File' star Joe Cole as gangster John Shelby in Peaky Blinders (Image credit: BBC)

In the upcoming ITV adaptation of The Ipcress File, Peaky Blinders and Gangs of London star Joe Cole takes on the iconic role of Harry Palmer, based on the globally renowned Len Deighton novel. 

The high-octane espionage series, set during the 1960s at the height of the Cold War, follows Palmer, a working-class British sergeant, who’s on the make in Berlin and ends up becoming a spy to avoid a stint in military jail for dodgy dealings and side hustles. 

Palmer’s first case is The Ipcress File, which involves a missing British nuclear scientist. But Palmer’s links to the man suspected of the kidnap takes him on a potentially deadly undercover global mission from Berlin, to London, Beirut and a nuclear atoll in the Pacific. But can Palmer survive brainwashing, inter-departmental rivalry, treason and a series of dangerous twists and turns? 

Who is starring in ‘The Ipcress File’ on ITV?

It’s been revealed that joining British star Joe Cole in The Ipcress File are Bohemian Rhapsody actor Lucy Boynton and Us and The Night Manager star Tom Hollander. Details of further casting are yet to be announced, but there are likely to be more top British and international stars joining the production.

The Ipcress File on ITV: what else do we know?

This six-part adaptation of The Ipcress File has been described as "an enthralling and atmospheric espionage thriller." It’s been penned by BAFTA-winning Trainspotting writer John Hodge and will be directed by James Watkins, who also took the helm on McMafia and Black Mirror

Hodge says, "We can’t wait to bring Len Deighton’s intoxicating web of spies – sexier than Smiley’s People, more real than Bond – to a wider television audience. With his sly wit and understated integrity clashing against the establishment, working-class spy Harry Palmer is more relevant than ever."

That famous The Ipcress File' screen adaptation from 1965...

Len Deighton’s original 1962 novel The Ipcress File was turned into a BAFTA-award winning film in 1965, starring a young Michael Caine as Harry Palmer. It was directed by Sidney J Furie and included Sue Lloyd (Crossroads) and Gordon Jackson (Upstairs, Downstairs) among the cast, with Michael Caine’s iconic performance hailed as being "anti-Bond".

Michael Caine in the Ipcress File

Michael Caine as Harry Palmer in the 1965 movie Ipcress File (Image credit: free)

When will The ‘Ipcress File’ be shown on ITV?

The Ipcress File will be filmed on location in Liverpool and Croatia in 2021, but the exact start date has yet to be confirmed.