The team behind Stonehouse and The Dig reunite for the project, developed by Clearwood Films and Menace Productions
Clearwood Films and Menace Productions are joining forces to develop 49 Days, a political drama by highly acclaimed writer John Preston based on the tumultuous and historically short-lived premiership of British Prime Minister Liz Truss.
With unprecedented access to many of those directly involved in the events of autumn 2022, the series will tell the, at times, scarcely believable story of the shortest serving prime ministership in British history.
Announced in the week of the first anniversary of Liz Truss becoming prime minister, 49 Days, which isn’t currently attached to a broadcaster, is backed by Banijay’s UK CEO Patrick Holland, along with Global Head of Scripted Christian Wikander, via Banijay’s Scripted Creative Fund, in an enhancement to the existing development deal Clearwood Films has with Banijay Rights.
It will be produced by Ellie Wood of Clearwood Films and Denys Blakeway and Melanie Fall of Menace Productions and distributed by Banijay Rights.
This is the latest collaboration between John Preston and Ellie Wood. Wood produced Preston’s novel, The Dig, which was adapted into a major feature film in 2021 for Netflix, starring Ralph Fiennes and Carey Mulligan, and received multiple BAFTA nominations. Wood also produced Preston’s screenwriting debut, the ITV/BritBox International TV drama Stonehouse, which told the story of the disgraced Labour politician and starred Matthew Macfayden as Stonehouse and Keeley Hawes as Stonehouse’s wife Barbara.
The series will give an intimate account of the 49 days of Liz Truss’s period in charge of Britain. It will shine a light on what happened during that strange time, dissecting how so much could have gone so wrong but also revealing Truss’s character in a way not previously explored or understood.
Said Ellie Wood of Clearwood Films:
‘After teaming up with John Preston on The Dig and Stonehouse, I’m thrilled to be collaborating with him on 49 Days. I’m also delighted to be working with Denys and Melanie at Menace Productions, whose background and contacts in politics will ensure John’s account is truly authentic and expertly sourced. The story of Liz Truss’s brief and bizarre tenure is a perfect fit for John. Deploying his journalistic skills, his writing is always intelligent and revealing but also reveals character in a way that is never judgmental, often funny and at times deeply poignant.’
Said John Preston:
‘The 49 days of the Liz Truss premiership has to be the most extraordinary story in recent British politics – and that’s really saying something. Never before has a government seen its aspirations, and support, dashed to nothing in so short a time. It’s a story that combines hubris and blind faith in an ideology set against a backdrop of national tragedy. I hope the show will both illuminate what happened and shine as much light as possible on the character of Truss herself. I also hope it will take viewers inside Number 10 so that they too feel caught up in the drama and chaos and mounting sense of disaster.’
Said Denys Blakeway and Melanie Fall of Menace Productions:
‘We are thrilled Menace is involved in this exciting project. Drama is a new venture for the company but we bring experience of working with former prime ministers such as Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron in landmark documentary series on their premierships. We hope some of the insights gained into the challenges of the job of PM and life at No 10 will help John Preston turn fact into his usual brand of highly compelling and witty drama and very much look forward to working with Ellie Wood and Banijay UK.’
Said Patrick Holland, Banijay UK’s CEO: ‘When I heard that John Preston and Ellie Wood were developing this project I was keen to do all I could to help support. Denys Blakeway and Melanie Fall have unrivalled journalistic and documentary expertise in British politics and John’s unique voice, combining such mischief, humanity and intelligence, makes for a hugely exciting combination. The eyes of the world were on the UK as it self-combusted during these 49 days so it’s a story with international resonance.’
About Clearwood Films and Ellie Wood
Ellie Wood spent eight years in-house at the BBC, working on a number of award-winning BBC dramas including Bleak House and The Line of Beauty. She was an executive producer at Clerkenwell Films (working on productions such as The Diary of a Nobody for the BBC) and Tiger Aspect Productions (where her projects included a BBC adaptation of Decline and Fall) before setting up Clearwood Films to develop her own film and TV slate. In March 2019, she signed a first look development deal with Banijay Rights, the leading distribution arm of Banijay Group. In 2019, she produced the multiple BAFTA nominated Netflix film The Dig, starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James and Johnny Flynn. In 2023, she produced Stonehouse, starring Matthew MacFadyen and Keeley Hawes, for ITV/Britbox. She is also an executive producer on Hot Milk, a forthcoming Film4 adaptation of Deborah Levy’s novel, written and directed by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and starring Emma Mackey, Fiona Shaw and Vicky Krieps.
About John Preston
John Preston is former Arts Editor for the Sunday Telegraph and London Evening Standard, is author of a number of bestselling books. A Very English Scandal, the story of the political scandal involving Jeremy Thorpe, was adapted into the BAFTA award-winning TV drama in 2018, starring Hugh Grant and Ben Wishaw and directed by Stephen Frears. His book Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell, won the 2021 Costa Prize for best biography of the year, and his new book Watford Forever: How Graham Taylor and Elton John Saved a Football Club, a Town and Each Other is published in November.
About Menace Productions and Denys Blakeway and Melanie Fall
Denys is a multi award winning producer (including RTS, two times, 2x Bafta Nominations, Broadcast Programme of the Year, BPG Award, Peabody, New York Gold Award), with many years’ experience in politics, arts and historical documentaries. He has made films with Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and David Cameron. These included The Cameron Years and The Art that Made Us for the BBC. Melanie is an Emmy-winning freelance producer who has worked with the UK’s top independent companies. Her credits include series producer and executive producer for the BBC’s landmark arts series, Civilisations and Art that Made Us, Simon Schama’s The Romantics and Us. She is developing a feature documentary for BBC Storyville with director Kevin Macdonald on the final years of the Nepalese Monarchy and before that produced Niall Ferguson’s series for Channel 4 and PBS.