Stonehouse: Everything you need to know about Matthew Macfayden and Keeley Hawes’ incredible real-life political drama

Married couple Macfayden and Hawes star together in Stonehouse, a drama about disgraced Labour Minister John Stonehouse, who faked his death and fled to Australia in 1974.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 10 November 2022 - 2.35pm
Getty Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes on the red carpet

Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes will star together in Stonehouse

Succession star Matthew Macfadyen will return to UK TV in 2023 in new ITV drama Stonehouse – the true story of disgraced Labour minister John Stonehouse.

Macfadyen will be joined in the series by his real-life wife Keeley Hawes, who will play Stonehouse’s wife Barbara.

The incredible events of the 1970s have been dramatised by John Preston (A Very English Scandal) and BAFTA-nominated director Jon S. Baird (Stan & Ollie, Vinyl, Filth).

With incredible talent on screen and off, the three-part series looks like an early must-watch TV event of 2023.

Here is everything you need to know about Stonehouse...

The best ever TV political dramas

What is the Stonehouse release date?

Watch Stonehouse on ITV and ITVX in early 2023.

The full series will be available to stream on ITVX after the first episode airs on ITV.

What is the true story of John Stonehouse?

Matthew Macfadyen as John Stonehouse ITV
First look at Matthew Macfadyen as John Stonehouse

The series will reveal how Stonehouse, a high-flying member of Harold Wilson’s Labour Government, vanished from the beach of a large luxury hotel in Florida in November 1974, leaving a neatly folded pile of clothes as he swam into the sea, intent on faking his own death. 

“I’ve always been fascinated by John Stonehouse," said writer John Preston said.

"The story of how he faked his own death and tried to start a new life in Australia under an assumed name is one of the most bizarre true-life tales I’ve ever come across. I’m absolutely thrilled that it’s being brought to the screen with such an outstanding cast.”

The MP for Walsall North left behind his loving wife Barbara and three young children as a shocked public and media presumed he had drowned or been eaten by sharks.

Charismatic, oozing with charm and brimming with confidence, Stonehouse had impressed Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Labour stalwarts from an early stage in his parliamentary career. Coming from a working-class background, he’d graduated from the London School of Economics, served in the RAF during World War II and seemed the ideal candidate for a life in politics.

As the drama unfolds, it becomes apparent his reputation as a devoted family man masked the truth, as he’d embarked on an extra marital affair with his secretary, Sheila Buckley and acted as a spy for the Czech Secret Service in the 1960s.

His complex financial status and relationships eventually took their toll, with Stonehouse deliberately stealing the identity of a recently deceased constituent.

Stonehouse applied for a passport in the dead man’s name and began to weave an elaborate conspiracy to establish a new life in Australia. But his plans soon turned sour as Stonehouse was arrested by Australian police who had been under the mistaken impression that he was the fugitive peer Lord Lucan.

Brought back to the UK by Scotland Yard detectives, Stonehouse found that he was crucial to keeping the Labour Government in power with its wafer-thin majority and so survived expulsion from the party.

Who's in the Stonehouse cast?

Keeley Hawes Getty
  • Matthew Macfadyen (Succession, Quiz) – Plays John Stonehouse
  • Keeley Hawes (Honour, It's A Sin) – Plays Barbara Stonehouse
  • Emer Heatley (Showtrial) – Plays Sheila Buckley
  • Kevin R McNally (The Crown) – Plays Harold Wilson
  • Dorothy Atkinson (All Creatures Great and Small) – Plays Betty Boothroyd
  • Igor Grabuzov – Plays Alexander Marek

“What happened to John Stonehouse is the stuff of legend,” said Macfadyen, who takes on the lead role.

"I’ve always been intrigued by what motivated him to fake his own death, and leave behind the family he loved and doted upon and a promising political career.

“John Preston’s script truly captures the man and his colourful life and I’m looking forward to taking on his character.”

Watch Stonehouse on ITV and ITVX in early 2023.

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