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Stonehouse writer reveals real-life Barbara and Sheila's reaction to ITV series

Matthew MacFadyen stars in the drama

keeley barbara
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
5 January 2023
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Stonehouse writer John Preston has revealed the real-life Barbara Stonehouse and Sheila Buckley's reactions to the making of the series. 

MORE: Stonehouse star Matthew Macfadyen reveals concerns ahead of working with wife Keeley Hawes

The three-part drama, which stars Matthew Macfadyen in the titular role, tells the story of disgraced Labour minister John Stonehouse, who attempted to fake his own death in 1974. 

WATCH: Keeley Hawes reveals what it was like to work with husband Matthew Macfadyen on Stonehouse

Speaking about the show at a press event for the series, John revealed that the two women didn't want "any involvement" in the drama. 

When asked if the real-life figures had seen the series or had a say in the making of it, John revealed that he had spoken to John's daughter Julia: "I had one brief meeting with Julia Stonehouse quite a long time ago. I didn't talk to Barbara, who is still alive, as is Sheila. I didn't talk to them.  

"My understanding was that they didn't want to have any involvement in it. Plainly, I respected that." 

MORE: Stonehouse viewers saying same thing about Matthew Macfadyen drama

MORE: Everything you need to know about Keeley Hawes and Matthew Macfadyen's relationship

On telling a story about the lives of real people, he said: "I never wanted to judge Stonehouse or hold him up to ridicule or anything like that. I really just wanted to understand how someone could get themselves into this terrible mess. I wanted to be as sympathetic as possible to everyone involved and so I hope that no one is treated particularly harshly in it, actually.  

Barbara Stonehouse© Photo: ITV

The real Barbara Stonehouse

"For all his many flaws as a character, there is an air of innocence about [Stonehouse]. He was a bit of a romantic and saw himself as this kind of Don Quixote figure and there's a lot of sadness there as well. I just really wanted to give equal weight to all those things." 

For those who have yet to catch up on the drama, it follows government minister John Stonehouse, who one day in 1974, left his clothes neatly folded up on a Miami beach and walked into the sea, intending to fake his own death. 

Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes and Emer Heatley in Stonehouse© Photo: ITV

Matthew Macfadyen, Keeley Hawes and Emer Heatley 

The Labour MP for Walsall North had been a high-flyer in Harold Wilson's government of 1964 but just years later found himself in financial ruin, in the midst of an extramarital affair and had been questioned by MI5 about spying for the Czech secret service.

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