The Great Train Robbery: First Look

The Great Train Robbery

“THIS is not just a robbery. This is an attack on the very cornerstone of England.”

The Great Train Robbery is a new two-part BBC1 drama which tells the story of the crime of the century from both sides.

Feature length A Robber’s Tale and A Copper’s Tale star Luke Evans as robbery mastermind Bruce Reynolds and Jim Broadbent as the detective who caught him.

Writer Chris Chibnall details for the first time on screen the minute by minute drama of the 1963 robbery, along with the story of how it was planned – and what went wrong.

Then turning his attention to the specially assembled squad of Scotland Yard detectives and the investigation that tracked down the gang and brought them to justice.

It’s a story of one man taking on the Establishment….and losing.

Along with a gripping tale of two teams of men both intent on achieving their goals on different sides of the law.

An authentic depiction of what happened, including the attack on train driver Jack Mills with the robbery scenes filmed on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in Yorkshire.

Broadcast 50 years after the robbery took place.

The BBC screened both films at a media preview in London yesterday attended by some surviving members of the police team who solved the case.

Coming to a TV screen near you soon, both are cracking, top class dramas.

From the people who produced the acclaimed United – with Chris, of course, also being the man behind award-winning ITV hit Broadchurch.

There will be more to say about The Great Train Robbery nearer the broadcast dates.

But, for now, here’s my first story from last night’s Q&A following the screening.


HARRY Potter actor Jim Broadbent said he would love to star in the return of hit crime drama Broadchurch.

The Oscar-winning star plays a top cop in The Great Train Robbery, a two-part BBC1 drama by Broadchurch writer Chris Chibnall.

Asked if he would consider working with Chris again in the second series of the award-winning ITV show, he replied: “Of course I would.

“I’d love to do something else that Chris has got up his sleeve.”

To which the acclaimed writer joked: “Yes, I’m going to sign him up now.”

Jim plays Detective Chief Superintendent Tommy Butler, the Scotland Yard Flying Squad officer who led the hunt for the Great Train Robbers.

He appears in The Copper’s Tale, which tells how police tracked down the gang who stole £2.6 million from a Royal Mail train in 1963 – the equivalent of over £41 million today.

Iris star Jim, who played Denis Thatcher in The Iron Lady, was just 14 when Britain was shocked by the crime of the century.

He recalled being gripped by the story and had hero worshipped racing driver Roy James, later revealed to be part of the gang involved in the Buckinghamshire raid.

Even watching him win at Jim’s local racetrack – Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire – in the summer after the robbery.

Many years later Jim saw Roy James and fellow train robber Charlie Wilson back in the dock when researching to play a role as a barrister.

“They were back in court to do with some VAT bullion fraud and when I went into the Old Bailey there was no-one else in the viewing gallery apart from me.

“I thought, ‘These are train robbers. These are stars! Where’s the audience?’”

Added Jim: “My point of view had matured somewhat since I was 14. I’m certainly on Tommy’s side now.”

The production was inspired by the book Signal Red by Robert Ryan.

Writer Chris used now published material from previously locked police files to tell the untold story behind the raid and how a crack squad of detectives put the gang behind bars.

“I wanted to show both sides of the coin,” he said.

Luke Evans plays train robbery mastermind Bruce Reynolds in both feature length films, starting with A Robber’s Tale, on screen soon.

One scene features two young uniformed policemen checking on a flat, unaware that it is the hideout of on the run Bruce – the most wanted man in Britain – and his wife.

They knock on the door to alert the occupiers that someone may have been planning to burgle the premises.

As his wife lets the policemen in, quick-thinking Bruce takes all his clothes off in an attempt to fool the officers about his real identity.

“It actually happened,” explained The Hobbit and The Three Musketeers star Luke, who revealed all about one take of the scene that wasn’t used in the final edit.

“Nude scenes are a nightmare. They’re really embarrassing and very uncomfortable and there’s lots of people in the room.

“But I managed to take all my clothes off very quickly, which was being filmed, and I’d left my glasses on – which is the obvious sign of Bruce Reynolds. They were the giveaway.

“He could have taken all his clothes off but if he’d left his glasses on they’d have totally got him straight away.

“So yeah. My butt’s on the BBC!”


The Great Train Robbery is on BBC1 at 8pm on Wednesday December 18 and Thursday December 19.

The Great Train Robbery

World Productions

BBC The Great Train Robbery

Signal Red

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway


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