Who is Christopher Foyle... and other Foyle's War fundamentals
Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle
It's 1941 and as World War Two rages over Europe, Christopher Foyle fights his own battles against murder, mystery and betrayal on the south coast of England. Although the beautiful countryside seems far away from the glory of the front, Foyle's battle is an ordinary struggle against everyday evil -- in extraordinarily dangerous times.
Foyle is a steadfast, serious man -- a grammar school boy who has risen through the ranks of the police force to become a respected detective chief superintendent. Although he had doubts at first about the value of his work solving domestic crime, he has come to realize that it is an important part of the war effort.
A widower who lost his wife to typhoid, Foyle's quietly enigmatic and introspective nature can sometimes verge on melancholy. But the often taciturn demeanor does not displace a profoundly ethical disposition, and the ability he has for intense focus and dedication is key to his brilliance when cracking complex mysteries. Since the death of his wife, Foyle has become somewhat solitary; his son, Andrew, is the most important thing in his life.
As an added personality quirk, Foyle doesn't drive and so is assigned a spirited young sidekick, Samantha Stewart. Bright, cheerful and intelligent, Sam is deeply loyal to her new boss though never completely in awe of him. She longs to play a bigger part in the investigations and is not afraid to offer her opinions on cases. Very much a part of the team, she has become romantically involved with Foyle's son Andrew -- but keeps this a secret from her boss.
Andrew Foyle left Oxford to enlist with the RAF. Handsome and courageous (and never short of female admirers), he is the archetypal World War Two hero. But as he takes to the air in ever more dangerous missions -- which many of his friends do not return from -- Andrew becomes aware of his own mortality. He is afraid of dying and knows all too well what his loss would mean to his father.
Sergeant Paul Milner abandoned a career in the police force in order to be one of the first men to enlist. He was also one of the first to be injured, losing a leg in the disastrous campaign at Trondheim. Now he is back on the force and gradually coming to terms with his injuries. Foyle believes he is a gifted officer and his trust has paid off, with Milner becoming a vital member of the team. But Milner is less happy at home -- his wife Jane has left him, finding it hard to accept his disability.
Foyle's War's Actors
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle
Michael Kitchen is delighted with the success of Foyle's War; he worked closely with writer Anthony Horowitz to create the character of Christopher Foyle, the quiet yet driven detective given the task of fighting crime on the 'home front.'
"Foyle is the product of Anthony's original scripts and whatever I bring to them by adding, rearranging or taking out -- both of us have concluded that less is more. Some writers are very tight about what they've written and it can be restricting. Anthony was very easy, very loose and we worked to get a draft which was going to get the best out of me and which also flowed."
Kitchen carries out research when necessary into particularly episodes, but Foyle's loves outside the job -- malt whiskey and fly fishing -- did not require too much research.
"Malt whiskeys have always appealed to me -- Laphroaig is my favorite. I'll also do Jack Daniels given half a chance. I fish more since my sons showed up; I always loved the idea of fly-fishing, just never got round to it, but I saw the opportunity to introduce it into Foyle.
"Foyle's also a bad golfer. I think it's a wonderful game but it's very time consuming. My eldest and I play once a year and we've never had enough balls to get round!"
Kitchen's career spans film, television and theatre where he has worked extensively for the RSC and Royal National Theatre. His many television credits include Lorna Doone, Sunnyside Farm, The Hanging Gale, Dirty Old Town, The Justice Game, Alibi and, for Masterpiece Theatre, The Railway Children, Oliver Twist, The Buccaneers, Reckless and Reckless: The Sequel, and Dandelion Dead. Proof of Life, The World is Not Enough, Goldeneye, Enchanted April, Russia House and Out of Africa are among his film roles.
Kitchen lives in Dorset with his wife and two sons and his hobbies include playing tennis, sailing and DIY. He recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Village Education Project, a charity in Tanzania.
Honeysuckle Weeks plays Samantha Stewart
Honeysuckle Weeks was delighted to get her hands dirty in Foyle's War, Series 3.
"Sam joins in working with two land girls on a farm where Foyle is investigating a murder.
In the story, the girls have turned a huge area of scrubland, including wild brambles, fallen down trees, shrubs and roots, into ploughed fields. It was made to look like we knew what we were doing although sadly it was the art department slaving away for days to make it look correct. We all had to have tractor lessons as well, which was pretty amusing."
To research the role, Weeks turned to her two great aunts who were both members of the Women's Land Army during the war.
"They were both land girls in Hampshire and drove around in tractors and milked cows. They weren't townies like the other land girls in our episode, just country girls doing their bit -- everything that Sam does really. All my grandparents and great aunts and uncle love Foyle's War. They all lived through the war and love to see it reconstructed so authentically.
"My uncle worked in emergency wards dealing with people who came in with terrible injuries. He talked about the sketch shows they would put on to lighten the atmosphere. You often find this sense of grim humor in hospitals. The injuries people are suffering are ghastly. You have to laugh at something or you'd otherwise cry.
Weeks dislocated her shoulder towards the end of filming but has since recovered well and her fitness was recently put to the test in the jungles of Africa.
"After we finished filming I went on a horseback safari through Botswana for three weeks. I have ridden a lot but I was slightly concerned because of my shoulder. It was serious riding -- at one point we had to gallop away from a river as we were being chased by lions! I've always wanted to see Africa and get close to animals. It was a fantastic experience but there was no turning back once you started."
Weeks began acting at the age of nine. She combined acting with studying for a degree at Oxford University. Her other credits include Lorna Doone with Michael Kitchen, Close Relations, Midsomer Murders, The Rag Nymphs, The Wild House and the film My Brother Tom.
Anthony Howell plays Sergeant Paul Milner
"I like playing Milner," says Anthony Howell, "and I particularly like it when he's dynamic, whether interviewing people or pursuing them, grabbing them to make them understand and get his point across. Milner would have been a very physical person if he hadn't lost a leg in the war, so the joy is finding areas to chase, punch or grab, despite the injury. In Series 3, Milner tackles a suspect and he also gets shot. I love doing stuff like that. The stunt coordinator gets involved and we always rehearse it so that my body movements look natural, taking the leg into account.
"In War of Nerves, Milner goes undercover. It was great fun to get out of the suit. Undercover he's a bit less genial and more direct, a no nonsense character. In The French Drop he is left in Hastings to keep an eye on a landlady, Mrs. Thorndyke. This was special for me because she was played by the lovely Deborah Findlay -- whom I made friends with on Wives and Daughters.
Milner has accepted his disability but his wife has struggled to come to terms with it. In the new series their marriage hits rock bottom.
"There's not a lot Milner can do. He has not returned from the war as the same person physically, and arguably even emotionally he cannot be the same. If Milner's wife is not strong enough to deal with this it makes the marriage almost impossible. I think Milner is glad in a way because for him to move forward there has to be an understanding of who he is. Foyle and Sam accept that unquestionably. But Milner is not entirely without hope of romance or for his future.
"Enemy Fire is about badly injured airmen and it's really interesting. In the war, a lot of people were coming to terms with lost limbs and the surgeons had to develop medical know-how very quickly. Our surgeon, played by Bill Paterson, is central to their rehabilitation. Talking is just as valuable as physical treatment. For the burned airmen, as well as for Milner, a soldier's outlook does change after serious injury. But Milner realizes he has a tough job ahead with Foyle, and his injury is a strong reason for being involved and wanting to do his best.
"Milner was written as a quiet, introspective character, very thoughtful and analytical. In some ways he's quite similar to me. I do tend to think about things a lot and I'm not brash or confrontational by nature. But unlike him I am able to be very active. I enjoy horse riding, tennis, yoga and running -- it all helps to clear my head."
Howell's other TV credits include Masterpiece Theatre's Wives and Daughters, Hawking, The Other Boleyn Girl and Helen West.
Julian Ovenden plays Andrew Foyle
There are trying times ahead for Andrew Foyle, according to actor Julian Ovenden.
"Andrew is a pilot flying Spitfires and he has seen his friends killed. He becomes a bit desensitized and ends up going AWOL. (The story is inspired partly by First Light: The True Story of the Boy Who Became a Man in the War-Torn Skies above Britain by Geoffrey Wellum who became a pilot at the age of 17.)
"Andrew is suffering from depression, or what was known as combat fatigue. Often in those days, due to a lack of psychological acumen, it was thought of as a 'lack of moral fiber.' Andrew does buckle under considerable stress and cannot take it. It was a great opportunity for me as an actor to take a character to the breaking point and I hope it brings another dimension of realism to the story."
The stresses on Andrew lead to him getting a new posting away from flying, coinciding with Ovenden taking a break from Foyle's War.
"I'll miss Andrew and the cast because we have all formed strong friendships. When we filmed the scene where Andrew says goodbye to Sam it was poignant in more ways than one. We were standing freezing on the runway and it was very emotional. But I have promised as Andrew to write to Sam, so we won't be losing touch!
"I've enjoyed being a part of Foyle's War. I think the series has done so well because it celebrates British characteristics like courage, stubbornness against overwhelming odds and that sense of community spirit with everyone soldiering on and pulling together. It focuses on the domestic situation, not just the war, and (creator) Anthony Horowitz is extremely deft at finding episodes that are warm and strong in the domestic area alongside a good war story. I think the scenes between Andrew and Foyle are particularly poignant."
Julian's path to success began with an acclaimed role in Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar Warehouse. His roles since have included Masterpiece Theatre's The Forsyte Saga. His West End credits include Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance and on film he has appeared in Thick, Twisted and Harry and the romantic comedy Come Together.
Creator and Writer Anthony Horowitz
Anthony Horowitz believes the strength of Foyle's War is that the stories it tells are grounded in truth.
"I'm so pleased it is a success and I like to think it strikes a chord with people because it is honest television. You're not in 'Fantasyland,' you're in a very real world. Foyle's War revisits a period that is part of all of us and there's a sense of pride in our achievement as a nation and in what we did in the war. We tell true stories about what went on during the war and we are still finding new things to say. The work of the Special Operations Executive and plastic surgeon McIndoe -- these are things that people might not know about. I think historical truth married to detective stories gives the series huge appeal.
"Murder mysteries are themselves hard to write but then you must add in history, sociology and a moral dilemma to the plot. There is a strange knack to doing the scripts. I have about 60 books in my studio and I visit the British Library all the time and it's such a rich area that I am constantly finding new ideas."
Set against the dark times of the war is the central character of Christopher Foyle who, with his team, provides the moral backbone of the series.
"Perversely, we are always showing Britain at its worst in story after story. There are thieves, murderers, black marketers, swindlers and racketeers, but Foyle, Milner, Sam and Andrew are all good people. Foyle is not a stereotype; he is a recognizable figure who comes from a huge tradition of middle-aged authority figures. He is a rock -- solid, reliable and successful -- and yet there is sadness in his life. Love seems to have passed him by since the death of his wife and he fears for the moment his son might die as a pilot, yet he never complains. His loneliness is one of the most attractive parts of his character. Foyle is still drawn towards military service and he can't help feel that he is left behind. He doesn't let things eat away at him but he always wants to do more and he never loses the faint absurdity of solving crimes during a war, which still haunts him a bit. But, because he always does a wonderful job, he is a victim of his own success.
"Michael Kitchen for me is one of the most superb actors on television and he has the most wonderful, expressive eyes. He makes Foyle easy to be with and always very warm. Foyle is attractive and there is a very wry wit to him and as the series has progressed he seems to have more humor, particularly in his relationship with Sam. It's breathtaking to watch Michael play him."
Anthony is married to Foyle's War executive producer Jill Green. Previous television credits include, Midsomer Murders, Murder in Mind and Mystery!'s Poirot as well as the feature film The Gathering. He is also a prolific children's author whose books sell in more than 30 countries around the world.
Foyle's War: Facts and Fictions
The stories in Foyle's War are all inspired by historical truth. Big events, often shown from a unique and startling angle, are presented side by side with little-known and more surprising facts of life on the home front. Series Three begins in February of 1941.
The French Drop: Notes from writer Anthony Horowitz
Churchill created the SOE -- or Special Operations Executive -- on 16 July 1940. It was a top-secret organization whose aim was to undermine Hitler's Europe by means of sabotage and subversion. Or, as Churchill famously told Hugh Dalton (Minister for Economic Warfare) that day: 'And now set Europe ablaze!'
The early days of SOE, covered by this script, were not immediately successful. Based in country houses around Britain (one at Arisaig in Scotland, another at Beaulieu Manor in the New Forest), they were given little cooperation. The SOE were considered upstarts and amateurs with no experience and no discipline. The tension between Whitehall and the SOE is the inspiration for this story.
In researching the SOE, I was struck by the colorful nature of its operatives and its extraordinary inventiveness. It's no coincidence that Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series, was a strong supporter. It's a pity there was no space in the script for the submersible canoe, the exploding camel dung or the Spigot Gun -- all devised by the scientists at Station 1X.
Of all the Foyle's War scripts, this one may appear the most fanciful but it's worth stating that every character, every weapon and almost every incident are based on historical fact. Novelists and brothel keepers were sucked into the SOE. Experimental fuses were made out of sugar. A bar was kept deliberately well-stocked to test new agents. Carborundum powder was used to disable cars. And so on...
For those who are interested, David Stafford's The Secret Agent gives a good overview. SOE: the Scientific Secrets by Fredric Boyce has all the gadgets. M.R.D. Foot wrote the classic history of the SOE (Special Operations Executive). And I have quoted directly from the SOE Syllabus, published for the first time in 2001.
Enemy Fire: An Inspirational Surgeon
The work of Foyle's War surgeon Patrick Jamieson is inspired by the amazing story of the real-life pioneering surgeon, Archibald McIndoe. McIndoe achieved international fame during the war for his groundbreaking work with plastic surgery on horrifically burned Battle of Britain fighter pilots.
In all his time at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, McIndoe did not wear a military uniform and was never himself subject to military discipline despite working for the RAF and with RAF pilots.
Although McIndoe quickly earned the support and respect of the RAF military doctors there were a few moments when his rather unique methods came into conflict with strict army discipline. McIndoe insisted that his men should be allowed to wear their own clothes rather than the RAF uniforms which made the men feel like prisoners. McIndoe filled the hospital with music and laughter.
Because of his pioneering methods the young men treated came to refer to themselves jokingly as 'The Guinea Pigs' and formed a club under this name. The Club was really intended to be a drinking club, which would disband after the war. Instead it grew in strength. There were 649 Guinea Pigs at the end of the war and the majority were British. It is still in existence today.
They Fought In The Fields: Land Girls
When war broke out farming, which had been a rather depressed industry, suddenly became vital. Farmers actually benefited from the war. County War Agricultural Executive committees were set up throughout the country. Local farmers on the committee were given the power to issue 'ploughing up' orders to neighboring farmers. This could lead to bitter arguments and the flaring up of ancient grudges.
Of all the volunteers who came to help the British farmer during the war the most numerous and the most useful were the members of the Women's Land Army. This came into existence in June 1939 when a register began to be compiled of women willing to give up their day jobs for farm work if war came.
The aim was not to recruit country girls, but to attract girls from factories, offices and shops who had longed for an open-air life. "Many military reservists were far from eager to go when the call came. Not so the land girls. One, asked by telephone on 1 September how soon she could be ready, replied, quite seriously, 'Can you give me twenty minutes?'" (From How We Lived Then: A History of Everyday Life during the Second World War by Norman Longmate).
By 1943 there were nearly 90,000 land girls, aged from 18 to 40. The girls worked hard for very little pay, often in appalling conditions. In many respects a land girl was even worse off than a servicewoman, with less leave, fewer free travel warrants, extremely low pay (only 28 shillings a week in 1941) and always at the end of the queue for uniforms.
When gumboots became scarce it was the Land Army (who needed them most) who went without. One land girl told how gumboots were patched with cycle puncture kits, but they still always leaked. Work in all seasons was grueling and, in winter, girls would turn purple with cold.
For those who cherished their independence, the Timber Corps was a good option. Members toured the country selecting growing trees for telegraph poles and roadblocks, loaded down with paint-pot, calipers, billhooks and other tools of the trade.
A War of Nerves: Background
A War of Nerves is set in June 1941, a month that began with the fall of Crete and ended with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. As with every episode of Foyle's War, all the details are true.
The crime at the heart of this episode, for example, is based on a scandal that unraveled in Liverpool in January of 1942 when a certain Frederick Porter shot himself. His company, F.H. Porter Ltd, ship's scalers, had embezzled £308,000 from the government. That would be the equivalent of £12,000,000 today. The money was found, in cash, in the vault of a local bank.
This fraud (described in An Underworld At War by Donald Thomas) began with stolen timber being used to build an air raid shelter for a local naval commander. This was the inspiration for Milner's undercover work.
The first People's Convention was held on 12 January 1941 and was, as described in the script, a coalition of the British left. The story of Ernest Jones' close escape actually happened to a sapper called Jack Curtis. Norman Longmate sets out the difficulties of wartime weddings in How We Lived Then and descriptions of women welders come from contemporary letters.
Foyle's War's biggest production expense is cars, trains and planes and they are also the hardest to find. There are only 5 flyable Spitfires available and the production has also featured a Dakota -- one of just four left in the country.
The Spitfire is charged by the hour, even if the engine is running and it's not flying. To keep costs down, the art department uses eight 30ft long, two-dimensional cardboard cutout Spitfires. When they are shot in the distance, standing on the runway, they look just like the real thing.
Around 20 period vehicles are used in each episode including Foyle's Wolseley car, military vehicles, Humbers, bomb disposal cars, troop carriers and fuel bowsers. A vintage car worth £750,000 was borrowed from Bentley Motors for The French Drop.
The 1930s and '40s cars and armored vehicles are transported to the film location on a low loader. The vehicles need lots of care and someone able to drive them who know what to do if there is a problem.
All 21st century vehicles, road signs and markings, road coverings and street furniture have to be hidden, along with aerials, satellite dishes and burglar alarms. Even hanging baskets are removed, in favor of flower boxes.
Victorian style hollow lamppost covers, like drainpipes, fit over modern lampposts and period bollard covers are used. Street lines are covered with gravel. Period cars, such as butcher's vans or removal vans, are used to hide things in the street that can't be moved, like police cars, and newspaper stands cover up other modern day atrocities.
The worst problem is windows. Production designer Martyn John sometimes has boarded up houses, as if their owners had gone to the country, in order to cover up modern glazed windows.
Fake greenery hides chicken wire, patio doors or illuminated street signs.
To create period stationery, a graphic designer prints a document on a modern day computer using an old-fashioned typeface, and then it is aged with teabags, printed on old paper, or yellowed paper that has been stored for a while. A sign writer is also employed for specific hand-written signs.
Many meters of net curtains are made sooty and yellow to cover up modern interiors and hide contemporary furniture. Rolls of tapes crisscross windows to give them the look of wartime protected windows.
The production design team stock a supply of telephones, typewriters, lights and general 1940s household goods, often purchased from yard sales. Everything has to look old-fashioned yet new, as it would have then. For example, the graphics from an old baked bean can are put on a new can.
It's not all authentic period props -- a lot are bought from Ikea, as it sells '40s inspired designs! Modern paint is also used but the colors are all muted pigments, yellows and greens rather than brilliant white.
In the '30s and '40s people didn't have a lot of money, and houses had working coal fires. The wallpaper and the houses themselves were not particularly clean, so some of the locations have to be distressed.
Tea stain and eyeliner were used to give the appearance of stockings on actresses -- just as in wartime.
A fake house was made of scaffolding, wood, plasterboard and tiles to extend an existing Victorian terrace, and was then blown up. Although it is obviously a façade from behind, on screen it looks authentic.
Filmed in London and the southern counties of England, Foyle's War, Series 3 was written by Anthony Horowitz, with one episode by Rob Heyland. The producers thank the Ministry of Defense and the British Red Cross for authorization to use the protective red cross emblem under the UK Geneva Conventions Act 1957.