With a cast of 243 characters, including a doggie actor playing Dilyn, it’s the big-budget television drama series which promises to reveal the true story of Boris Johnson’s first year in No 10.
Starring Kenneth Branagh as the Prime Minister and Ophelia Lovibond as his fiancee Carrie Symonds, filming began this week.
However, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that the series, called This Sceptred Isle, risks igniting controversy, like Netflix’s The Crown, for mixing fact and fiction.
Indeed, the storyline shows that the Sky Atlantic series, to be screened next year, is highly intrusive into the personal lives of Boris and Carrie – including scenes of her giving birth to the couple’s son, Wilfred.
Haunted: Kenneth Branagh in This Sceptred Isle, which claims to reveal the true story of Boris Johnson’s first year as Prime Minister
It’s written by staunch Labour supporter Michael Winterbottom, a core member of the so-called group of ‘Leftie luvvies’ that includes actor Steve Coogan, and who was criticised for defending scenes that portrayed extreme violence against women in his 2010 film The Killer Inside Me.
Despite the involvement of Tim Shipman, Political Editor of The Sunday Times, scenes bend the truth and seem designed to portray Boris and Carrie’s relationship as one riven by jealousies while he is ‘plagued’ at night by dreams of ‘the women in his life’ and of ‘babies being born’.
As well as inventing a fictitious character as Carrie’s ex-boyfriend, of whom Boris is suspicious, Carrie herself is worried about his closeness to his female physiotherapist.
The Prime Minister will also be shown talking to a young girl, given the fake name of ‘Sally’, who is believed to be the lovechild from one of his mistresses.
Meanwhile, the couple’s much-loved rescue Jack Russell cross, Dilyn, makes numerous appearances – with a running theme that he causes ‘utter chaos’ and ‘irritates’ staff.
Without a shred of evidence that it happened in real life, there is a disrespectful scene in which the PM is shown changing baby Wilfred’s nappy as he watches the Queen make her heartfelt TV address to the nation about the Covid crisis.
Power play: Ophelia Lovibond, pictured in 2019, will play the PM’s fiancee Carrie Symonds
Carrie Symonds attending the State Opening of Parliament by the Queen in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in October 2019
But it isn’t just the writing that is likely to cause disquiet. Scenes have been prepared to show a pregnant Carrie vomiting, her waters breaking and ‘on all fours screaming and biting Boris’s hand’. Someone who has seen the storylines says viewers will even see her character give birth.
Three of Boris’s ex-lovers, Petronella Wyatt, Jennifer Arcuri and Helen Macintyre, also make an appearance, as well as his second wife Marina and two of the couple’s adult children. Political power and sex are running themes, too, with Boris saying that ‘absolute power is an absolute aphrodisiac’ and Carrie’s use of an expletive to describe the post-Brexit power-play involving Dominic Cummings.
Filming is taking place across the country at various locations that represent Chequers; the Chancellor’s grace-and-favour residence Chevening; Downing Street; the intensive care unit at St Thomas’ Hospital where the PM was treated for Covid; and the home in Camberwell, South East London, where it is suggested Carrie moved back while her fiance fought off the virus.
Here, we reveal the details of the drama…
According to people working on the series, the script takes gratuitous swipes at the state of the couple’s relationship. Insinuating that it is based on jealousy, sex and power, the inclusion of a fictitious character called ‘Rob’ will prompt viewers to think that Carrie has a close male friend who Boris doesn’t approve of her seeing.
The Boris character tells his fiancee that he isn’t happy with ‘Rob’ attending the baby shower she is planning in the run-up to baby Wilfred’s birth. ‘Rob’ also sends the new-born a present: which is ‘blue because the baby’s a Tory’.
As for Boris’s ex-lovers, a character called ‘Linda’ is introduced in a role thought to be a former mistress who Carrie doesn’t like him talking to.
But in what is perhaps the most outrageously fabricated moment, viewers will see a scene in which ‘the women of his life continue to plague his dreams’. They include ‘Linda’, ex-wife Marina, Petronella Wyatt and Helen Macintyre.
He continues ‘to be haunted’ by the women and the writers mention a dream with ‘babies being born, blood and screams.’
The Prime Minister and his fiancee seen leaving after the Commonwealth Service at London’s Westminster Abbey in July last year
A source says: ‘If anything proves scenes are made up, it’s these dreams. How can anyone know what Boris dreams about?’
At another point, Carrie tells him: ‘Don’t talk about that woman!’ and during a bedroom scene, after Carrie’s waters break, there’s a reference to Boris ‘having roving hands’.
There are happier moments. For example when they listen to Radio 4’s Today programme and paint together – something which did happen and was revealed by The Mail on Sunday in 2019.
Carrie’s No10 makeover sparks ‘Tory snobs’ row
By Mail on Sunday Reporter
Carrie Symonds’s apparent dislike of John Lewis furniture could give Labour a leg-up in the polls, it was claimed last night.
Labour MPs suggested voters were fans of the department store and would punish Tory ‘snobs’ who weren’t.
Former Labour Minister John Spellar told The Mail on Sunday: ‘For most people, John Lewis and its products are an aspiration. They will be appalled by the sneering contempt shown by snobs in Downing Street towards what represents good living for ordinary people.’
But with Labour trailing 13 points in the polls, Tory MP Peter Bone said it was mark of how desperate the party was ‘if in the middle of a pandemic, they are hoping for a poll boost based on where someone buys their sofa’.
The Prime Minister’s fiancee reportedly wants to rid their Downing Street flat of the ‘John Lewis nightmare’ left by previous occupant Theresa May and replace furnishings with more expensive items inspired by upmarket designer Lulu Lytle.
Boris’s adoration of all things Greek is also a recurring gag, with a bust of his hero Pericles being moved into Chequers.
The story will also follow the couple’s controversial post-Christmas trip to Mustique, where it is thought Boris proposed to Carrie in 2019. While Boris is shown trying to get into better physical condition, Carrie wonders what ‘Shakespeare thinks of sex’. However, these scenes will not be filmed in the West Indies, but in southern Europe.
Before flying off though, viewers will be told the pair shared the news of her pregnancy over Christmas lunch to their mothers, Charlotte Johnson Wahl and Josephine McAfee – something unlikely to have happened.
Most unnecessarily, viewers will see Carrie in labour, ‘vomiting in the bathroom’.
After her waters break, she is taken to hospital where she asks Boris to feed her chocolate as she prepares to give birth.
‘It will literally show Carrie having her contractions, gripping Boris’s hand,’ says a well-placed insider working on the project.
In the delivery room at University College Hospital, in Central London, Carrie is shown ‘on all fours, screaming – she bites into Boris’s hand’.
This will be shockingly invasive and cruel television.
DISRESPECT OF THE QUEEN
In a scene which many may think is a double-barrelled slur against Boris and the dignity of the Queen, the PM is shown changing his baby’s nappy while watching her broadcast to the nation on April 5 last year.
One source says: ‘Given how much Boris adores the Queen, it seems in pretty bad taste.’
The couple’s much talked-about, beloved dog has a starring role, but it’s a good job he isn’t a human because he might feel somewhat hurt by how he’s presented – constantly palmed off on staff to walk, once to an ‘irritated-looking RAF man’.
Boris will also be seen moaning about him always creating his ‘usual chaos’.
Dilyn’s lavatorial habits are repeatedly discussed, with Chequers staff made to deal with the results because Boris can’t be bothered to clear up the mess.
It will also hint that Boris is disinterested in the dog, though, in reality, the PM’s friends say he ‘absolutely adores’ Dilyn.
Barking mad: Dilyn is seen causing ‘chaos’ while the Prime Minister takes him for a walk in the grounds of Chequers
The now infamous meeting of members of the Johnson family at Chequers will be written into the script. As simmering emotions boiled over, one of the clan was said to have shouted about Boris’s behaviour: ‘He’s destroyed the family!’
His siblings were furious that their father, Stanley, had shaken Carrie’s hand at a public meeting. In This Sceptred Isle, they will be seen playing tennis together and later swigging whisky.
While Boris fiercely protects the privacy of his children, Winterbottom’s script doesn’t.
As well as a scene where ‘Sally’ – presumably Boris’s then nine-year-old daughter by a mistress – meets baby Wilfred over a Zoom call, she also features in a dream alongside the PM’s exes.
Meanwhile, his son Milo and daughter Lara call in to check on him as he battles coronavirus.
His divorce from Marina doesn’t escape. She is said to have Boris ‘over a barrel’.
In scenes that could infuriate Boris and his Cabinet, viewers will be left with the impression that Dominic Cummings – played by Simon Paisley Day – was running the Government at the start of the pandemic.
Significantly, the script features Carrie swiftly catching on as to how he was game-playing with her fiance. She tells Boris that ‘he must rein Dom in’ and then describes the fallout over Cummings’s lockdown-breaking trip to Barnard Castle as a ‘total s*** show’. For his part, Boris ‘wants Dom to start “giving a f***” ’. While Cummings is portrayed as bullish, other key players during the crisis are treated more lightly – for example, Matt Hancock’s former special adviser, the much-liked Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, who is chastised by Cummings for speaking to the press.
Cummings’s Brexit-buddy-in-arms, Lee Cain, then the PM’s communications director, is seen coaching Boris as he prepares a Covid emergency video address.
Viewers will also see him bossing Boris around and coming across like the ‘calm and sensible one’ who presents the PM with the ‘facts’.
According to people involved with the TV series, Boris calms himself down amid rows by quoting Shakespeare’s most famous verse.
His ITV interview with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby is also expected to feature.
In scenes that could infuriate Boris and his Cabinet, viewers will be left with the impression that Dominic Cummings – played by Simon Paisley Day – was running the Government at the start of the pandemic
Ophelia Lovibond will play Carrie, and while her brunette locks are the opposite of Carrie’s blonde hair, the pair have much in common. Ophelia, 35, is just three years older than the PM’s fiancee but both grew up in West London and attended ‘sister’ schools: Carrie at the £22,000-a-year Godolphin and Latymer School for Girls; Ophelia at Latymer Upper.
While Carrie grew up in Sheen, Ophelia, who was in the BBC series W1A which satirised the Corporation’s bureaucracy, spent her childhood in Shepherd’s Bush, five miles away.
While much of This Sceptred Isle is fictitious, one theme running throughout is that Boris is already busy penning his memoirs.
Knowing his love of words and hero-worship of Winston Churchill, that could, actually, be true.