Jack O’Connell recalls ‘nervy’ stunts in SAS: Rogue Heroes

The six-part drama is an adaptation of Ben Macintyre’s best-selling book offering an account of how the SAS was formed.
The six-part drama is an adaptation of Ben Macintyre’s best-selling book offering an account of how the SAS was formed. The six-part drama is an adaptation of Ben Macintyre’s best-selling book offering an account of how the SAS was formed.

Jack O’Connell has spoken about the “nervy” stuns he and his fellow cast members performed during filming for forthcoming BBC war drama SAS: Rogue Heroes.

The British actor, who rose to fame playing James Cook in hit coming-of-age series Skins, plays Paddy Mayne in the six-part programme, which offers an account of how the SAS was formed.

Speaking about the experience of filming the challenging series, O’Connell, 32, said: They were going to put a shipping container about 50 feet up off a crane… and going round and getting the names of who was up for it and you just couldn’t say no.

“And for two weeks – which made it worse, because it was a fortnight of just waiting around for this thing to happen – we were told that the stunt team wanted to take us up 50 feet high in a shipping container and drop us down on a bungee-type thing.

“We were all chatting to each other going ‘Are you going to do it? Are you going to do it?’ and no-one could say ‘No’, but no-one wanted to say ‘Yeah’.

“But we didn’t get around to it in the end, so anyone that did say ‘No’ would have been double f***** over.

“So what we did instead was, they hoisted us up on this crane anyway, and the harness that they gave us was just like an industrial wedgie and just dropped us off the thing.

“We had to settle with that; it was a lot less high-octane but still nervy enough!”

Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby
Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby SAS: Rogue Heroes creator Steven Knight (Suzan Moore/PA)

The series was written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, who is also responsible for TV programme Taboo and for being one of the co-creators of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Knight, 63, spoke about giving current and former members of the SAS a screening in order to assess its accuracy.

“We showed it to members of the SAS and sort of former members of the SAS and the hierarchy of the SAS,” he said.

“So we did this screening, and we sit there and look at their reactions as the thing goes on, and they loved it. They absolutely loved it.

“And the result is that they’re very much on board, but the first thing they said was the humour was authentic.

“In other words, in those situations, when people are… When your friend has just been blown to pieces and there is this bleakness and there is this horror, which perhaps will come and hit you a year later, but in the moment, there is this funniness, this humour, this madness.

SAS: Rogue Heroes
SAS: Rogue Heroes Sex Education star Connor Swindells plays eccentric young officer David Stirling in the forthcoming war drama (BBC/PA)

“And I think that my task was to try and balance that so that you are seeing the horror, but you’re also seeing how human beings react to that horror, and they cope and they survive through stuff like this.”

Connor Swindells, Alfie Allen and Dominic West star alongside O’Connell, with Kingsman actress Sofia Boutella, Industry’s Amir El Masry and Carnival Row actor Theo Barklem-Biggs also featuring.

Knight also reflected on the approach he and the cast took when creating realistic portrayals of the characters in the series.

He said: “People have always been people. So people have always felt love, hate, passion, and all of those things.

“And I think that sometimes when people do period (drama), people start to behave as if it’s a period piece, whereas, in reality, people behave the way they behave.

“But the idea that these people, especially in their early 20s, some of them 19 years old – my kids are that age – and they went there, to the blood and guts of the war and did what they did, I just hope we’ve done justice to who they were and what they did.”

– SAS: Rogue Heroes arrives on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on October 30.