Claire Foy (The Crown; Wolf Hall) and Paul Bettany (WandaVision; Uncle Frank; Avengers: Infinity War) will lead the cast of BBC One and Amazon Studios’ A Very British Scandal, from the makers of A Very English Scandal, Blueprint Pictures.
Written by Sarah Phelps (The Pale Horse; Dublin Murders), A Very British Scandal focuses on the divorce of the Duke (Paul Bettany) and Duchess of Argyll (Claire Foy), one of the most notorious, extraordinary and brutal legal cases of the 20th Century.
Famed for her charisma, beauty and style, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, dominated the front pages as a divorce featuring accusations of forgery, theft, violence, drug-taking, secret recording, bribery and an explicit polaroid picture all played out in the white-hot glare of the 1960s media.
A Very British Scandal turns this scandal inside out in order to explore the social and political climate of post-war Britain, looking at attitudes towards women, and asking whether institutional misogyny was widespread at the time. As her contemporaries, the press, and the judiciary sought to vilify her, Margaret kept her head held high with bravery and resilience, refusing to go quietly as she was betrayed by her friends and publicly shamed by a society that revelled in her fall from grace.
Sarah Phelps said: “Writing the story of Margaret’s life and the events leading up to and including her divorce from the Duke has been a passion project of mine since 1993 when I first heard her name and started learning about her. I felt very strongly that she’d been punished for being a woman, for being visible, for refusing to back down, be a good girl and go quietly. This drama is my tribute to her.”
Claire Foy said: “I’m so excited to work with Anne, Sarah and Paul on this extraordinary project, and to explore through this story, how often shame, judgement and controversy surrounds a woman’s sexuality.”
Paul Bettany said: “I’m delighted to be working with the remarkable Claire Foy to tell the fascinating and scandalous story of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll and their very complicated lives. I’m also extremely happy to get the chance to once again be working with the wonderful teams at the BBC and Amazon Studios.”
Pete Czernin, co-founder of Blueprint Pictures, said: “We’re thrilled to be able to bring together the uniquely brilliant voices of Sarah Phelps and Anne Sewitsky with the class of Claire Foy and Paul Bettany. Uniting their outstanding talents, A Very British Scandal will shine a new light on the scandalous divorce of Margaret Argyll for a 21st century audience.”
Piers Wenger, Director of BBC Drama, said: “Argyll v Argyll was one of the defining scandals of the 1960s. In the face of vilification in the press, Margaret fought valiantly but often in vain to control the narrative around her. With the help of our incredible writer Sarah Phelps, director Anne Sewitsky, the perfect casting of Claire Foy and Paul Bettany and the team at Blueprint, we are delighted to be able to shine a new light on these events and reframe the life of this infamous character.”
Brad Beale, Vice President, Worldwide Licensing for Prime Video, said: “A Very English Scandal was a tremendous success among Prime Video customers and critics alike, and we’re incredibly excited to work with the BBC and Blueprint again. We can’t wait to see Claire and Paul bring the fascinating Duchess of Argyll Scandal to life.”
A Very British Scandal will be directed by Anne Sewitsky and produced by Chris Ballantyne. Executive Producers are Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Diarmuid McKeown and Delyth Scudamore for Blueprint Pictures, Lucy Richer for the BBC, Sarah Phelps, Anne Sewitsky, Claire Foy, Kate Triggs and Dominic Treadwell-Collins. It was commissioned by Piers Wenger, Director of BBC Drama and Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer. Amazon Studios is co-producing in the US.
At 3 x 60 minutes, A Very British Scandal will premiere on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK and be available on Amazon Prime Video in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Sony Pictures Television are the international distributors and brokered the deal with Amazon Studios.
Filming will take place across the United Kingdom later this year. Further casting will follow in due course.
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