Steven Knight is no stranger to penning a compelling story—whether it be a Charles Dickens classic (such as the upcoming ‘Great Expectations’) or a fictional plot (like his project with co-collaborator Tom Hardy, ‘Taboo’)—and the writer, director/producer hits another historical story out of the park with ‘Rogue Heroes.’
Based on true events, the six-part series is based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. Taking place in the summer of 1941—right in the heat of the Western Desert in the height of WWII, a young officer named David Stirling has a vision for a new kind of war. He hatches a plan and asks to recruit some of the brightest in the army to go rogue and attack the enemy where they least expect it, from behind their own lines.
Knight has a connection to the story already with his father having been in the Eighth Army that fought for the British in North Africa during these campaigns in 1941. Then, when the book and project was brought to his attention, he jumped on the chance to bring this story to life.
“I was always aware of [the regiment,’] Knight recalls,”It is quite an incredible story—so weird and bizarre and unbelievable. The actual truth is that I had to take out a lot of things that really happened. As a writer, it’s your job to shape the story.”
What Knight used as the blueprint for this adaptation was simple: The truth. Although the BBC series starts off with the cheeky note that it’s mostly true —”There’s so much wild stuff in there I wanted to keep it wild, but try and make it digestible [as well],” Knight says.
One of those moments happens when the character of David Swindel throws a hand grenade onto a snooker table to clear the room out for a meeting. In the show, it’s a dummy, but the true story? The grenade being thrown was very real.
That doesn’t ring true when it comes to characters actually dying in real life, and mission failures however. Those plot points remain, and as Knight puts frequently, some of the story was certainly just stranger than fiction.
The cast of ‘Rogue Heroes’ consists of a slew of talented performers who match the caliber in terms of being impressive as a group amongst one another. ‘Rogue Heroes’ stars Connor Swindells (‘Sex Education’, ‘Vigil’), Jack O’Connell (‘Skins’, ‘The North Water’), Alfie Allen (‘Jojo Rabbit’, ‘Game of Thrones’) and Sofia Boutella (‘Modern Love’, ‘Atomic Blonde’). And Swindells takes on the role of Stirling.
In true Knight fashion, the show’s years in terms of settings have no effect on the score. Similar to Knight’s other hit ‘Peaky Blinders,’ while watching the WWII tale, audiences will hear AC/DC and Sham 69 hits amongst other rock and punk hits.
And as a writer, Knight also masters the craft of adding levity to an otherwise extreme situation. But when taking into account the extreme circumstances of the story, it seems like the proof is in the pudding.
“The truth is when I’m adapting something, I try where possible to be real to the truth. That usually gives me things that are so far out that it really helps with the imagination process,” explains Knight. “When you’re writing something real, the characters do things that are completely out of character, but then I think you get a really interesting shape of the adaptation.”
And overall, fans can see for themselves, with the series having two episodes left and the finale airing Dec. 18.
“It’s a true story of young men in their early twenties, some of them are 19… you know how young that is now,” Knight finishes. “And they were in a war that they were losing—massive loss of life—and they still sort of found each other somehow.”
Stream ‘Rogue Heroes‘ on EPIX NOW.