A new BBC One Second World War drama will be ‘mainly about men’ and will not feature women in lead roles because it would not be historically accurate, a producer has confirmed.
Mini series SAS: Rogue Heroes, from Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, stars Jack O’Connell and Dominic West and will tell the story of the foundation of the special force unit in a male dominated warzone.
It is produced by independent production company Kudos, which wanted to put accuracy at the forefront of the project.
SAS: Rogue Heroes, a new mini-series set to air on BBC One later this year, will tell the story of how the special force unit came to be during World War II and will not have women in leading roles
The 2019 BBC adaptation of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, which starred Eleanor Tomlinson in a leading role that does not exist in the source material, was slammed by fans
Some fans felt that World on Fire, which aired on BBC One in 2019 starring Matthew Romain, pictured, had a cast that was too diverse for the time era it was set in
‘There is no getting away from it, it is a story mainly about men,’ managing director Martin Haines told the C21 Media podcast.
‘We were… clear, and the BBC recognised, that it wasn’t something where you could pretend that it wasn’t the case, so we sort of lent into it and celebrated it.’
It comes after several BBC period dramas, including War of the Worlds and World on Fire, were criticised for putting diversity above the realities of the times they depicted.
Speaking on the C21 Media podcast, the producer went on to say that the show would reflect the lives of the early SAS servicemen, describing them as often violent, and tough.
Algerian actress Sofia Boutella holds one of the show’s few female roles, playing a spy named Eve, a female counterpoint to the men.
Haines said Boutella’s character is a ‘combination of real-life women who played pivotal roles in the espionage and security services in North Africa.’
The BBC’s period dramas have been criticised in recent years for not accurately depicting the time periods they are set in.
In 2019, the broadcaster’s adaption of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds, which takes place in Edwardian times, was slammed after the minor character of Amy was turned into the heroine of the show, played by Eleanor Tomlinson.
More recently, the Second World War drama World on Fire drew criticism for its diverse cast, which some viewers felt was not representative of the population of the 1940s.
Algerian actress Sofia Boutella is one of the very few female roles appearing in SAS: Rogue Heroes
Boutella plays Eve, a north African spy which is based on real women who played a pivotal roles in the espionage and security services in North Africa
Meanwhile, a 2020 version of A Christmas Carol also raised eyebrows after the BBC decided to give Victorian clerk Bob Cratchit a mixed-race family.
Time will tell how SAS: Rogue Heroes, which is based on a novel of the same name by Ben Macintyre, will be received by viewers.
The six-part drama is written and executive produced by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and will focus on how warfare was changed after one officer – David Stirling (Connor Swindells) – decided to form his own squad to infiltrate enemy lines in a bid to gain the British infantry an upper hand
A synopsis for the show reads: ‘Cairo, 1941. David Stirling (Connor Swindells) – an eccentric young officer, hospitalised after a training exercise went wrong – is bored
‘Convinced that traditional commando units don’t work, he creates a radical plan that flies in the face of all accepted rules of modern warfare.
The Affair star Dominic West plays spy Dudley Clarke, pictured, in the upcoming World War two drama
The show focuses on the early day of the SAS, picturing the tough and violent men who were the first on the service (pictured: Jack O’Connell as Paddy Mayne and Connor Swindells as David Stirling)
‘He fights for permission to recruit the toughest, boldest and brightest soldiers for a small undercover unit that will create mayhem behind enemy lines.
‘More rebels than soldiers, Stirling’s team are every bit as complicated, flawed and reckless as they are astonishingly brave and heroic.’
In a statement, Steven said of the programme: ‘It has been a privilege to work on a project which tells the story of a renegade band of soldiers who used wit and imagination as much as firepower to halt the march of Fascism across North Africa during the darkest days of World War Two.
‘This is a war story like no other, told in a way that is at once inspired by the facts and true to the spirit of this legendary brigade of misfits and adventurers.’
While producer Karen Wilson added: ‘With filming now complete, we’re incredibly excited to give the world a first look at our Rogue Heroes.
The show has decided to steer clear of token female roles and is focusing its plot on the men of the SAS (the cast on a jeep in the desert)
‘A huge thank you to the series’ peerless cast and crew for bringing Steven Knight’s ambitious, extraordinary scripts to life with such skill and style.’
Connor Swindells’ character, Colonel David Stirling, was a founding member of the SAS, a commando force that operated behind enemy lines during the North African campaign of the Second World War.
The SAS began with five officers and 60 other ranks when it was conceived, and their first mission was a parachute drop supporting Operation Crusader in 1941 which ended in disaster, and may well be what Jack and Connor were filming.
During their first skirmish 22 men were killed or captured, however their second mission was a huge success after the SAS successfully destroyed 60 aircraft over three airfields.
Stirling, who Connor plays, was captured by enemy combatants in 1943 and Paddy Mayne, played by Jack, replaced him as commanding officer of the SAS, which was split into two factions the Special Raiding Squadron (SRS) and the Special Boat Section.