In one of the most surprising yet somehow perfect casting announcements of recent memory, Oscar nominated actor and thespian legend Kenneth Branagh has signed on to play bumbling UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Sky series This Sceptred Isle. The miniseries will detail the nation's muddled response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, charting the events surrounding Johnson and his government as they struggle to gain control over the situation, and specifically the first wave. A situation which Johnson and his government are still struggling to gain control over to this day.
The series will consist of five episodes and is due to be directed by The Trip helmer Michael Winterbottom, who has also co-written This Sceptred Isle alongside Kieron Quirke. Winterbottom will also executive produce alongside Richard Brown (Outlaw King, True Detective), with Revolution Films' Melissa Parmenter set to produce the project alongside Josh Hyams and Anthony Wilcox. This Sceptred Isle is the first project to emerge from a multi-year first look deal for scripted drama series struck by Fremantle and Passenger with Revolution Films.
Kenneth Branagh most recently played the villainous Andrei Sator in director Chrisopher Nolan's sci-fi action thriller Tenet, so he already has more than enough scenery-chewing experience and nefarious behind the scenes plotting to accurately portray Boris Johnson.
Despite seeming way too soon to be turning the ongoing situation into a serial drama, Winterbottom has discussed the importance of the project.
"The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered forever. A time when the country came together to battle an invisible enemy. A time when people were more aware than ever of the importance of community. Our series weaves together countless true stories - from Boris Johnson in Number 10 to front line workers around the country - chronicling the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policy makers to protect us from the virus."
This Sceptred Isle promises to "tell the tale of some of the most devastating events to ever befall the United Kingdom, and of a Prime Minister leading in these unprecedented times," and will be based on first-hand testimony from members of the government, the Department of Health, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and hospitals and care homes across the country.
Despite all this time, the United Kingdom is still in the throes of the pandemic, with the nation recently entering its third national lockdown and once again bringing everything to a standstill. The death toll has not shown much sign of slowing down over the last few weeks, with each day bringing with it a record-breaking number, adding to the ever-increasing total 97,939.
"COVID-19 has presented once-in-a-generation challenges to the world, and in the U.K. the resilience and fortitude of the public over the past year has been nothing short of extraordinary," said Sky U.K.'s Zai Bennett. "Portraying NHS staff and key workers on the frontlines of the extraordinary fight, to those in government facing unprecedented challenges, Michael Winterbottom has a clear and compelling vision in telling this remarkable story. The incredible creative talent Fremantle have assembled including the central performance from Kenneth Branagh will make 'This Sceptred Isle' a drama we are proud to be part of telling."
Executive producer Richard Brown added, "Michael is a master of weaving compelling drama from factual stories and he has an undeniable, distinct vision for this project. He and Kieron have written remarkable and meticulously researched scripts which powerfully dramatise these extraordinary events that continue to affect us all."
This Sceptred Isle will launch on Sky in fall 2022. Shooting will begin early this year, with the series expected to premiere on Sky Atlantic across all Sky territories. This comes to us from Variety.