2008 The Kenneth Branagh Compendium: 10 Days to War




BBC2 - 10-19 March 2008, 10:30 pm | Episode Guide and online episodes (UK only)


'10 Days to War' opens Cologne Conference, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 October 2008
BBC's 'War' Stars in Festival, Variety, 13 July 2008
Last Night's TV Col. Tim Collins Had Shades of Henry V. No Wonder Branagh Played Him So Well, The Guardian, 20 March 2008
Revealed: The Inspiration for Kenneth Branagh's Iconic Portrayal of an Iraq War Colonel in a Major New TV Drama, Daily Mail, 9 March 2008
"Henry V" Actor Kenneth Branagh to Play Iraq Hero Col Tim Collins in BBC Drama, Daily Mail, 20 January 2008


See the episode on Youtube
Watch "Behind the Scenes: 10 Days to War" on the Hollywood Reporter site

Press Releases

BBC plans Dramas on Run-up to Iraq War

The Guardian, 25 January 2008
By Owen Gibson

The BBC is planning a controversial dramatisation of the run-up to the war in Iraq, to be broadcast over 10 days in March, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the start of the conflict. Starring Kenneth Branagh as Colonel Tim Collins, as well as Art Malik and Harriet Walter, the high profile series will focus on the events that happened on the corresponding days five years earlier, the BBC said yesterday.

The series, overseen by Colin Barr, who made an acclaimed drama-documentary about Robert Maxwell, will tell the story of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, the debates in the UN, the plans for reconstruction and the countdown to the war, which began on the night of March 20 2003.

The 10-12 minute films will be broadcast between March 10 and 19 in the slot usually occupied by Newsnight on BBC2. The Jeremy Paxman-fronted news programme will then analyse the events portrayed in the drama. The writer Ronan Bennett said the films would not exploit hindsight, but "will tell the story as it was known then to the people it most affected".

Roly Keating, BBC2's controller, who has also been acting controller of BBC1 since last October, said that the project would be the first collaboration of its kind between BBC News and the corporation's multimedia production arm, BBC Vision.

Speaking to the Broadcasting Press Guild, Keating said the part of Tony Blair had not yet been cast, although filming had already begun in Jordan.

The season, designed to be a multimedia event across the BBC website, YouTube and BBC4, seems sure to revisit some of the issues involved in the damaging row over Iraq between the government and the corporation. A disagreement over a report on Radio 4's Today programme escalated into a bitter dispute that led to the Hutton report and the ousting of the BBC's chairman, Gavyn Davies, and its director general, Greg Dyke, in 2004.

Newsnight editor Peter Barron said the run-up to the war was the story viewers wanted to revisit more than any other.

Keating, who took on the BBC1 job when Peter Fincham was forced out amid a row over a misleading clip of the Queen, will hand over the reigns to Jay Hunt when she rejoins the BBC from Channel Five in the spring.

He also confirmed that Little Dorrit, adapted by the period drama specialist Andrew Davies, would be the next Charles Dickens novel to get the soap-style treatment pioneered by Bleak House.

The BBC meanwhile was yesterday embarrassed by two further examples of faked competitions. The director general, Mark Thompson, told the BBC Trust that Jo Whiley's Radio 1 show, already shown to have misled listeners on another occasion in 2006, had repeated the offence three weeks later by inventing the name of a contestant and pretending that the programme was live when it was recorded.

The BBC's 6 Music, whose director of programmes, Ric Blaxill, has already resigned over revelations of faked competitions, was also found to have invented a competition winner during the Russell Brand Show in April 2006. Thompson said measures put in place last year after a high-profile series of trust crises, including a training programme for all editorial staff, were bearing fruit. An independent study on their effectiveness by a former BBC executive, Ron Neil, will report in the spring.

BBC Makes Ten Dramas Out of the Iraq Crisis

The Times, 25 January 2008
By Adam Sherwin

Kenneth Branagh is to star in a series of Newsnight-produced dramas about the Iraq war that will question the justification for the invasion.

"10 Days to War", described as "part thriller, part political drama", will run in the BBC Two Newsnight slot during the build-up to the fifth anniversary of the invasion in March. The ten-part series is written by Ronan Bennett, a left-wing dramatist who grew up as a republican activist in Northern Ireland and a critic of the War on Terror.

The films will examine the justification for war and failure of the United Nations and "tell the story of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction".

Newsnight will follow each ten-minute episode with a discussion. Branagh plays Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Collins, of the Royal Irish Regiment, who made a rousing speech to troops hours before they went into battle. In another film two Labour MPs battle with loyalty and conscience, not to mention the whip, in the crucial House of Commons vote on the war.

Bennett said: "We won’t exploit retrospect or hindsight — each film will tell the story as it was known then to the people it most affected."

In 2000 David Trimble attempted to prevent the screening of "Rebel Heart", a Bennett-scripted BBC drama about the Easter Rising, claiming that it was "hopelessly one-sided".

Peter Barron, Newsnight editor, said: "The story our viewers have wanted us to revisit more than any other is the run-up to the war. This dramatisation gives us the opportunity to explore the issues and arguments in a way traditional documentary couldn’t. We then plan to question the real players about the events of 2003 on Newsnight."

Senior British diplomats and generals, as well as the Government, should be held to account for the mistakes made in Iraq after the invasion, Lord Owen, the former Foreign Secretary, told the House of Lords yesterday. He said: "We cannot just go on ignoring what has been done."

BBC to Mark Iraq War Anniversary : Docudramas Commissioned

Variety, 25 January 2008
By Steve Clark

The BBC is to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion with a series of mini-drama-documentaries charting the countdown to war.

Kenneth Branagh, Harriet Walter and Art Malik will star in "10 Days to War," a unique collaboration between BBC Vision, factual and flagship public affairs show "Newsnight," which aims to mirror events on the very day they happened five years ago.

The 10 to 12 minute films will air between March 10 and 19 on BBC2, whose controller Roly Keating described the initiative as "the most schedule-testing thing" he has ever been involved with. "I have no idea if this will work," he admitted to media scribes at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch.

Branagh will play Colonel Tim Collins, the British Army officer who famously said: "We go to liberate not to conquer... if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory," as his troops prepared for battle in March 2003.

Keating said he did not know who would be cast as Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister who in the face of widespread public unease took the Brits to war in Iraq in support of the U.S.

"10 Days to War," is scripted by Ronan Bennett and has started location work in Jordan.

Keating, who is acting controller of sister web BBC1, also announced another high-profile drama project being undertaken by the pubcaster — a soap-style adaptation of Dickens’ "Little Dorrit," which the corp. hopes will repeat the success of its similar recent treatment of "Bleak House." It is written by Andrew Davies, who scripted "Bleak House," and will air on BBC1 in the U.K.

BBC Shorts on Iraq to Star Branagh, Walter and Malik

The Stage, 24 January 2008
By Matthew Hemley

Kenneth Branagh, Harriet Walter and Art Malik are to appear in a series of short BBC dramas to make the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Called "10 Days to War", the dramas will tell the story of the lead up to military action and are part of a project that marks the first collaboration of its kind between BBC Vision and BBC News.

All of the films, which will last between ten and 12 minutes, will be screened in the Newsnight slot on BBC2 from March 10 until March 19 and then on a number of the Corporation’s digital outputs, including iPlayer and BBC4.

They are part of "Think Big", a project established by director of BBC Vision Jana Bennett to create multi-platform content.

Branagh will feature in the last of the films as Colonel Tim Collins, whose speech to British soldiers hours before they entered into battle in Iraq made headlines around the world. The drama follows him as he prepares to cross the border into Iraq.

Another film will see two Labour MPs battle with loyalty and personal conscience as they are faced with the House of Commons vote on the war.

BBC2 controller Roly Keating said: "This is a challenging and original way of exploring one of the most controversial moments in recent British history. By broadcasting daily we hope audiences will be able to recapture that exciting sense of huge events unfolding unpredictably in real time."

The dramas are being written by Ronan Bennett, who said the films would not "exploit retrospect or hindsight" but "tell the story as it was known then to the people it most affected".

Filming has started in Jordan and full casting will be announced soon.