10 Things You Didn't Know About... Peaky Blinders
Set in the early 20th century, Steven Knight's gritty gangster drama Peaky Blinders has proved a hit with audiences and even though the shows third series has only just ended, the BBC have already commissioned a fifth, so there's plenty more to come from the Shelby family and their gang of Brummie villains.
With the fourth series arriving on DVD shelves today (January 22nd), we thought we'd dig up some of the lesser-known facts about the show and the real-life gangsters the Shelby family are based on. Enjoy...
Tommy Shelby is a fictional character, but his rivals Billy Kimber and Darby Sabini were very real
Although the Shelbys are thought to be based on a family of gangsters called the Sheldons, they are entirely fictional, but Tommy's rivals in the show are not. Birmingham-based criminal Billy Kimber was thought to be one of the most powerful gangsters in the UK at the time, running racecourses as a bookie from Yorkshire to London, and is the main inspiration for Cillian Murphy's character. Charles 'Darby' Sabini meanwhile was one of Kimber's rivals, based in London and later in Brighton. Sabini is also the inspiration for the character Colleoni in Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock.
The real Peaky Blinders probably didn't sew razor blades into their caps
It is rumoured that the gang got their name from sewing razors into the peaks of their caps, using them to slash the foreheads of opponents, causing blood to run into their eyes and blind them. However, although the series is set after the first world war, the real-life gang that the Peaky Blinders are based on were operating in the late 19th century at a time when razor blades were only just becoming available in the UK and were expensive luxury items, unattainable for the lower ranks of street gangs. The idea of the razor blades in the caps is thought to have stemmed from a novel by John Douglas called A Walk Down Summer Lane.
The actors portraying John Shelby and Michael Gray are real-life brothers
Finn Cole had already landed a part in the show while his younger brother Joe was still finishing his A-levels, but even though Joe couldn't afford the train ticket to the auditions at the time, his brother helped him by filming a video audition at home and handing it to the director. A couple of phone calls and meetings later, Joe had joined his brother on set.
David Bowie was a big fan of the show
The show has earned itself some celebrity fans including rapper Snoop Dogg and the late David Bowie, who reportedly sent Steven Knight and the cast pictures of himself dressed in Peaky Blinder-style clothing. Knight says that Bowie also sent him a copy of his final album, Blackstar, a full week before its existence was even announced to the public.
Most of the show is actually filmed in Liverpool, not Birmingham
Birmingham has changed a lot in the last century and there aren't too many places in the city that look the way they would have done when the Blinders were around, so most of the show is actually shot in Toxteth, Liverpool, while some other scenes are filmed in London. The scenes that were shot in the Birmingham area were mostly filmed at the Black Country Museum, which recreates life in the Midlands during Victorian times.
Two of the show's stars have played enemies of Batman
Both Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy have played villains in Christopher Nolan's Batman films opposite Christian Bale, Murphy as the psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Crane – otherwise known as Scarecrow – with Hardy appearing as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
Around 3,000 cigarettes get smoked during each series
Cillian Murphy is a non-smoker, but his character Tommy – along with most of the show's characters – smokes like a chimney. Murphy uses herbal rose cigarettes instead and was told by the prop makers on the show that they get through as many as 3000 during the course of each series.
Helen McCrory learned the Birmingham accent by watching Ozzy Osbourne
The actress who plays Aunt Polly says that in order to pick up the local accent she watched “endless” videos of the Black Sabbath frontman, who hails from the Aston area of the city. Polly's language is a little less colourful though, and as far as we're aware she's never bitten the head off a bat...
Tom Hardy once won a competition to become a model on The Big Breakfast
You may know that Hardy, who plays Alfie Solomons in the series, spent some time working as a model before his acting career took off, but that was the result of him winning a competition launched on Channel 4's breakfast show in partnership with modelling agency Models One.
Sam Neill got some help with his accent on the show from Liam Neeson
Neill plays the Belfast-born inspector Chester Campbell and has faced some stick from audiences over the authenticity of his Northern Irish accent, but the New Zealander blames this on Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt, whose advice he sought in trying to perfect the Ulster dialect: “Liam Neeson and Jimmy Nesbitt are both friends from there and they did a little work with me and I’m very grateful for that. They helped enormously so if you don’t like the accent blame them!”