Who hasn’t been hooked by the exploits of the Peaky Blinders?
Steven Knight’s gritty gangster drama has proved a huge hit with millions of fans around the world, impatiently counting down the days to season five. This is especially the case after the way season four ended – apparently all of Tommy’s enemy’s were finally defeated… I guess we’ll soon see!
The success of the show is undoubtedly down to the incredible writing and amazing performances of the cast. Cillian Murphy is perfect as the broody leader of the gang, Tommy Shelby, and supporting cast members such as Tom Hardy definitely add that extra spark to the show, that keeps us all coming back for more.
Set in the aftermath of the first world war, Peaky Blinders provided the perfect show for those of us with a yearning for a realistic, historical series.
We’ve seen the rise of a family in Birmingham going from a small-time business to running huge areas of the country.
This is largely thanks to the genius of Tommy, the steadying hand of Polly and the loyalty of the rest of the Shelbys.
After a strong start with season one, Peaky Blinders has only got more and more popular worldwide with each season, with the release of the series on Netflix.
Season two attracted an average of 2.2 million viewers an episode, whilst season four pulled an average of 4.1 million viewers in the UK alone. That’s almost double!
Season four ended with Tommy winning an election.
To satisfy your hunger for more Peaky Blinders, we’ve gathered some facts about the show that you probably didn’t know…
1. Steven Knight was inspired by stories.
The whole premise of the show was based on stories told to Steven Knight as a kid.
The creator Steven Knight.
Steven’s dad told him many stories as a kid, that stuck with him for years.
“One of the stories that really made me want to write Peaky Blinders is one my dad told me.”
Brought up in Birmingham himself.
“He said that when he was eight or nine his dad gave him a message on a piece of paper and said ‘go and deliver this to your uncles.'”
“His uncles were called the Sheldon’s who eventually became the Shelby’s.”
I wonder what business the Sheldons were into?
“Even though the history books say the Peaky Blinders were only around until the 1890s, they weren’t—people in Small Heath knew these people as Peaky Blinders.”
2. Where did the term Peaky Blinders come from?
There are many theories on where the name of the Birmingham gang Peaky Blinders originally came from.
The Peaky Blinders.
It’s heavily rumoured that the term came from the fact that the gang would sew razors into their caps.
They’d then use the caps to slash the foreheads of opponents, to cause blood to run into their eyes.
The famous cap.
It’s not known though if this is actually true or not, mainly because of the time period.
It would’ve been almost impossible at the time, soon after world war one, for lower classes to get hold of razor blades at all.
Razor blades were for the wealthy.
Many historians believe that the name just came from the fact that they used anything metal, such as belt buckles and knives, when committing acts of violence.
3. Billy Kimber and Darby Sabini were real.
Although Tommy Shelby himself is a fictional character, some in the show aren’t actually fictional.
The show’s Billy Kimber.
Birmingham-based criminal, Billy Kimber, is known to have been one of the most powerful gangsters in the UK at that time.
He ran racecourses as a bookie from Yorkshire to London and is actually the main source of inspiration for writing Tommy Shelby.
The real-life Billy Kimber.
The London based Charles ‘Darby’ Sabini was one of Billy’s main rivals in the country.
These two have been a source of inspiration in many works including Graham Greene’s novel, Brighton Rock.
The show’s Darby Sabini.
I’m glad we can look back on these violent gangsters from the distant future now!
4. The following members of the cast are real-life brothers.
John Shelby and Michael Gray are close relatives on the show and the actors who play them are real-life brothers too.
John Shelby and Michael Gray.
I’d never have guessed it…but looking at this closely, you can actually see the resemblance.
When Finn Cole landed the role of John, his younger brother Joe was still finishing his A-levels.
The two brothers Finn and Joe Cole.
Joe was desperate to land the role but couldn’t actually afford a train ticket to attend auditions.
Finn helped his brother film a video audition at home and handed it to the director.
He was soon a star of the show.
He was perfect and after a few phone calls, Joe was soon on set with his brother.
5. Sam Neill got help from Liam Neeson.
Sam Neill, who played the Belfast detective Chester Campbell, had trouble with the Northern Irish accent.
This is despite the fact that he was born there, since he moved to New Zealand at seven years old.
“They (the producers) said not to have too strong an accent because we need to be understood…”
The stubborn detective, Chester Campbell.
“…but the Northern Ireland accent is very challenging. I probably had one, but it was…”
“…well beaten out of me in the playground in New Zealand, there’s not a trace of it now.”
Sam Neill and Liam Neeson.
“In order to relearn the accent, I enlisted the help of my friends James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson.”
6. Helen McCrory also needed help.
Helen McCrory is incredible in the role of the matriarch of the Shelby family: Elizabeth “Polly” Gray.
The matriarch Polly Gray.
Helen was brought up in London so found it quite tough to learn the Birmingham accent.
A consummate professional and hard worker, she soon found a solution to the tricky problem.
Famous Brummie, Ozzy Osbourne.
She learned the accent by watching countless clips of none other than the eccentric Ozzy Osbourne.
You can’t fault her process, as the lead singer of Black Sabbath is probably one of the most famous Brummies.
The real Garrison pub.
Cilliam Murphy took a more hands-on approach. He learned the accent on “quite a drunken Saturday” with Steven Knight at the real Garrison pub.
7. Steven Knight doesn’t watch much TV.
Steven, who has wrote every single episode of the series, makes a point not to watch TV…
Steven Knight and Tom Hardy.
That means he’s never seen many of the great classics of the gangster genre on TV!
He’s particularly scared that by watching other shows, they may influence his work when he wants it to all be his own creation.
All his own creation.
“I’ve never seen The Wire, I’ve never seen Boardwalk Empire. I don’t really want to be looking at other people’s work.”
“It does affect what you do inevitably … And film as well. I try not to watch [movies]. I know, it’s very weird.”
I don’t know how he hasn’t seen this classic show!
“Previously, I’ve always pretended, especially in Hollywood when you go in and they say ‘It’s a film a bit like so and so’ and you go ‘Oh yeah, yeah, yeah’ and I’m thinking, ‘I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.'”
8. Cillian Murphy has had to smoke a lot.
As well as his clean cut suit and brooding look, Tommy Shelby is rarely seen without a cigarette in his mouth.
Tommy enjoying a cigarette.
For Cillian Murphy though, this must be torture since he’s actually a non-smoker himself.
Cillian said on this:
“I don’t smoke but people did smoke all day and night then.”
Committed to the job.
“I use herbal rose things, they’re like my five a day! I asked the prop…”
He continued: “…guys to count how many we use during a series and it’s at 3000.”
It’s so much a part of the character that he couldn’t possibly stop without us noticing either.
9. The actors are always getting confused by the timeline.
It is rare that a TV show actually shoots in chronological order. Sometimes it’s just easier and more convenient to shoot based on other factors like location.
Filming on the streets.
The cast would constantly need reminding of where their characters are in the story, at each point in the shoot.
To Cillian Murphy, it felt that Tommy would get stuck in time without making any progress.
Ready to go…
“We could be doing episode four in the morning and the finale in the afternoon.”
“I got our director Tim Mielants to draw up four A4 sheets which I put up in my trailer about where Tommy was going and…”
Getting some explanations.
“where he was at with the Russians at any point. I needed it to figure out what the hell was going on.”
10. The many visual references.
There are many fiery visual references to hell which are intentionally dotted throughout the series…
I can certainly see why.
The director of the second season, Colm McCarthy said:
“The use of flames in the first episode is very deliberate.”
“The first time that we see The Garrison, we have this huge fireball.”
Setting up the shot.
“The next time we go there, Tommy is there and he’s got a flame whooshing behind him.”
“We open that shot on fire, and then we end the episode with Tommy in that deep angle with that flame going in the background and… “
A hellish explosion.
“Absolutely, there’s definitely a sense of hell. That’s very deliberate.”
I can definitely see why they’d want to reference it to hell.
11. Jason Statham was almost a star of the show.
Steven Knight directed the 2013 film Redemption, in which Jason Statham starred brilliantly as a damaged ex-special forces soldier..
Jason Statham in Redemption.
The writer-director of the show was obviously impressed as he was anxious to have Jason star on Peaky Blinders.
Knight won’t tell us who he had in mind for Jason, but he has let it be known that he approached him for the show.
He would’ve been great.
He wanted Statham to become a series regular, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.
“It was difficult because obviously he is so committed elsewhere. He’s such a great, great guy.”
The current cast has done a great job.
“He’s such a good bloke and such a nice bloke, as well as all the stuff that goes with it, he’s a really nice bloke.”
12. Celebrity fans.
Included in the massive fanbase around the show are many well known celebrity fans from around the world.
Not really surprising though is it?
David Bowie, the great musical artist, was known to be a major fan of the show.
He sent a photo of himself with razor blades in his cap to Cillian Murphy, one year before his passing.
The superstar himself.
He also sent someone from his music label to Steven Knight to play his album, Blackstar, a week before it was even announced.
They decided to feature Davids music on the show after his passing back in 2016.
The picture David sent to Cillian Murphy.
He would’ve fit right in with the gang. I’m sure he would’ve been amazing on the show.
12. Celebrity fans.
Another dedicated long time viewer is none other than the legendary Snoop Dogg himself.
He actually went to many lengths to arrange for a three-hour meeting with Knight.
They met at a hotel while Snoop Dogg and Steven were both in London a few years ago.
He surprisingly suits the style too!
Steven Knight said:
“We spent like three hours in St Martin’s Lane Hotel just building joints and…”
“he was just talking about how the show reminds him of how he got into gang culture.”
And I bet there are many more.
“It’s incredible, I mean I don’t know where the connection is but it’s really taking off. It was surreal. We’ve kept in touch.”
13. When will the series end?
Steven Knight already has it in mind when the show will end and all is revealed!
The ending of the show.
The story will finally conclude will the sounding of the World War II air raid sirens…
“My ambition is to make it a story of a family between two wars.”
World War weaponry.
“So I’ve always wanted to end it with the first air raid siren in Birmingham in 1939.”
He went on to say it would probably take seven seasons in total to reach that point.
I wonder where they will go before then.
Even though he expects it to end there, he is open to a TV movie or two in the future.
14. The real Peaky Blinders would’ve served in the war.
Since the show is set just after the first world war, it’s safe to assume that they would’ve fought in the war.
World War One.
We’ve seen a few flashbacks of Tommy as a tunneler in along with Danny “Whizz-Bang” on the show.
Danny actually earned the name “Whizz-Bang” after the whizzing noise of German artillery shells shook him up.
It looks like a nightmare, doesn’t it? Another reason the show references hell often! Pretty scary, eh?!
The real members of the Peaky Blinders would’ve served in the war and we even know who some of them are.
The real Peaky Blinders.
Particularly, we know that Henry Fowler, the youngest member of the gang, was buried alive in the trenches and couldn’t speak or see for sometime following the war.
15. The show isn’t shot in Birmingham.
There’s so much talk of Small Heath in Birmingham on the show that you’d probably expect it to be shot there.
Surprisingly, the majority of the show is instead shot in a run down area in Toxeth, Liverpool.
Birmingham has apparently changed so much over the years that it doesn’t resemble the type…
A shot of Toxeth, Liverpool.
…of place the Peaky Blinders would’ve lived in and operated out of in real life.
Certain parts of the show are still shot in Birmingham such as the Black Country Museum.
The Black Country Museum.
The Black Country Museum is an open air museum of rebuilt historic buildings from around the Midlands in the Victorian times.
16. Enemies of Batman.
Two of the shows leads have played enemies of Batman in the Dark Knight Trilogy.
The Dark Knight Trilogy.
It’s fitting that these stars of this show would perfectly play gritty superhero movie villains.
Cillian Murphy played the role of the crazy psychiatrist – Dr. Jonathan Crane – who became Scarecrow.
Cillian as the Scarecrow.
The scarecrow is constantly trying to scare Gotham into submission and is present in some way in every Dark Knight movie.
Tom Hardy played the role of the huge, beastly Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
Tom as Bane.
Bane was Batman’s greatest enemy in the final Dark Knight movie and Tom’s performance as Bane is brilliant.
17. British history.
Peaky Blinders brings attention to a tough period of British history rarely explored on TV.
The post-war era.
The show is celebrated for doing this as well as making it very entertaining and realistic.
Historians have been divided over whether bringing characters and events from other decades into a 1920s story…
A family in Birmingham.
… undermines claims to historical accuracy, or whether working-class life in the period is nevertheless depicted in a truthful and resonant way.
It clearly depicts life in the 1920’s very accurately, whilst providing a riveting, action packed story.
The show’s packed with shot’s like this.
The show is also celebrated for its stylish cinematography, use of historical building/areas and charismatic performances.
18. Great reviews.
The critical reception for the series has been fantastic throughout the show’s run, from the very beginning.
The Guardian: “A riveting, fast-paced tale”
David Renshaw, of The Guardian, summarised the series to be a “riveting, fast-paced tale of post-first world war Birmingham gangsters.”
Sarah Compton of The Telegraph gave the series a 4/5 rating, praising the show for its originality and “taking all of our expectations and confounding them.”
The Telegraph: “taking all of our expectations and confounding them.”
Den of Geek called the series “the most intelligent, stylish and engrossing BBC drama in ages.”
Cult TV Times critic Hugh David said that the show “warrants the billing” by “managing to tick several ratings boxes…
Den of Geek: “the most intelligent, stylish and engrossing BBC drama in ages.”
“…Period drama, gangster epic, film star leads – yet go against the grain of those in the most interesting of ways.”
19. Birmingham the city.
Birmingham is one of the most famous cities in the UK, with it being a huge centre of industry in the centre of England.
It’s known as the city of a thousand and one trades. Everyone has had a hand in everything.
So many businesses were founded in Birmingham and things invented, many of which are now considered everyday essentials.
The University of Birmingham.
Things invented in Birmingham: The pen, the cooker, bandages, roller skates, the smoke detector, the x-ray scanner, the whistle and so much more.
Birmingham was actually the home of the factory which made the whistles used on the battlefields of the First World War.
A metal factory.
It was a center of industry for the country as seen on the show and many of them factories are still standing today.