'Peaky Blinders' season 5: BBC One show walks a fine line depicting Sam Claflin's Oswald Mosley
In 'Peaky Blinders', Sam Claflin as Oswald Mosley could be a major competition to Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) as he got freshly elected as an MP at the end of season four
'Peaky Blinders' makes a swashbuckling return to the small screen with season five and Sam Claflin has already created much of a stir as Oswald Mosley. The British politician rose to fame in the 1920s as a Member of Parliament and later became the leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in the 1930s.
The sixth baronet in his family, Mosley inherited the title 'Sir'. Not just that, he was also a part of the military service after which he became one of the youngest Members of Parliament, representing Harrow from 1918 to 1924, first as a Conservative, then an independent, before joining the Labour Party. In the show, he could be a major competition to Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) as he got freshly elected as an MP at the end of season four.
In reality, Mosley was a potential Labour Prime Minister but resigned due to discord with the Government's unemployment policies. He founded the New Party, which became the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1932.
Given that Mosley was a charismatic but divisive figure, the showrunners had to walk a fine line while depicting him.
Creator Steven Knight told The Guardian, "All the stories about Mosley mention his charisma, and in Sam [Claflin] we cast an actor who could portray that, but I also wanted to reflect the fact that for lots of people his policies appeared horribly attractive."
"I wanted audiences to remember that he wasn’t somebody spouting things that people didn’t want to hear but rather someone who people did listen to. That’s what was so terrifying about him.”
Drawing a parallel between Oswald's era and current times, Knight said at a preview screening in London: "Because the thirties it was the rise of nationalism, populism, fascism, racism – a huge sweep across the world. And you look at the world now – and what I hope people might take from this is: what was the consequence of when it happened last time? Nine years later there was a world war.”
Looking back at the 1930s, he explained: “Mosley was getting a hundred thousand people at his rallies and there were a hundred thousand people trying to get in," and continued, "And I think people will find it staggering, or they’ll think I’ve made it up – that the language, the phrases, the sentences that were used at the time, are not dissimilar. They’re the same language completely. Which is quite chilling.”
Meanwhile, Claflin called it the "most grown-up thing" he had ever done and added: “You can see from watching the footage that’s out there of him that he was both incredibly charismatic and incredibly manipulative. What was important was trying to get the essence of him without doing an impersonation, because I want the people who remember him to feel that there is real flavour of him there.”
Talking about the equation of Mosley with Shelby in the show, the actor revealed that he may be the head of the fascist party but Tommy has got more to fear from his own demons. Tommy is sort of "out of his comfort zone" this season, he continued.
"You know, he’s playing a big boys game now and he’s playing chess. Oswald Mosely is someone who grew up playing chess, so it’s the big fish in the small pond kind of going into the ocean all of a sudden," Claflin said, adding, "Oswald Mosley is still very young and inexperienced in some respects, but at the same time, a lot more experienced than Tommy."
Mosley secretly married his mistress Diana Guinness, née Mitford in a secret ceremony in Germany, where Adolf Hitler was the guest of honor. Moving forward, in the year 1940, Mosley's party BUF was banned and he was imprisoned. After spending life behind the bars for three years, he was finally released in 1943 and, politically disgraced by his association with fascism. However, it is not known yet if the show will explore this aspect of his life, or will limit it to his political persona.
Later, he moved abroad in 1951 and spent most of his life in Paris. It is yet to be seen how Claflin's character is defeated by the Shelby clan or will he be more powerful than Tommy and lead to the end of his gangster business?
As the series returns back to BBC One on August 25 at 9 pm, it will be interesting to witness how closely show creator Knight portrays Mosley!