Benedict Cumberbatch to star in TV drama

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch

LONDON • Actor Benedict Cumberbatch will play Brexit mastermind Dominic Cummings in a new television drama airing in Britain next month.

It will focus on the controversial tactics used ahead of the 2016 referendum.

The two-hour-long Brexit: The Uncivil War will air on Channel 4 on Jan 7 - the same day that Members of Parliament return to Westminster after their Christmas break and ahead of a critical parliamentary vote on Brexit the following week.

Cumberbatch, 42, who supported staying in the European Union in 2016, said he wanted "the challenge of transforming into someone that's pretty far from myself, in many ways, and to see the world through his eyes".

The British actor added: "It's such an important story that's continuing to define our nation and I didn't know an awful lot about how the Leave vote was won."

Cumberbatch revealed he was initially "wary" about the project because Brexit was "the most divisive issue in politics that I can remember in my lifetime".

"It's far more complex than just the question of in or out on the ballot paper," he said in a statement, admitting the issue had divided his family and friends.

He also predicted that the film "is not going to please everyone" as "politics, especially around this issue, gets incredibly personal".

Mr Cummings, a former political adviser to Eurosceptic MPs, was the campaign director of Vote Leave, the pro-Brexit group that helped win the referendum against all odds despite the government backing continued EU membership.

Little known by the wider public, Mr Cummings is credited with playing a decisive role behind the scenes, particularly through his insistence on a data-driven social media campaign rather than traditional electioneering.

Scriptwriter James Graham said Cumberbatch had worked hard not to make the portrayal biased.

"Benedict's absolute obsession all the way through was to make sure that it wasn't too one-sided. That the film wasn't blaming him," Graham said.

Cumberbatch said he met Mr Cummings, studied the few video clips of him available and spoke to members of his staff about what he was like in person during the campaign.

Cumberbatch said: "One of the most striking things was how calm and composed they said he was throughout the entire campaign. He has an even spirit level."

The characters in the film include Mr Boris Johnson and Mr Nigel Farage, two leading Brexit campaigners, as well as businessman Arron Banks, an influential pro-Leave donor who is under investigation over his finances.

Channel 4 said the film was "an enlightening, eye-opening exploration of how modern data-driven campaigning techniques contributed to one of the most unexpected, highly charged and controversial decisions in modern political history".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline 'Benedict Cumberbatch to star in TV drama'. Print Edition | Subscribe