Peaky Blinders has resonated with audiences all over the globe. We’ve enjoyed four seasons of Steven Knight’s crime saga, and during that time, it has expanded its audience worldwide from its initial UK viewers. According to Knight, Snoop Dogg once invited him around for a three-hour meeting to talk about how the portrayal of gangs in Peaky Blinders reminds him of what attracted him to gang culture in the first place.
It’s not slowing down any time soon – a few months ago, Knight confirmed that it will take seven seasons total to fully tell the story of the Shelby crime family, so the show’s going to be around for at least another three seasons. He plans for this “story of a family between two wars” to end in 1940 with the first air raid siren. So, Cillian Murphy will still be roaming the streets of turn-of-the-century Birmingham for quite some time before Tommy Shelby’s story comes to an end.
A show like Peaky Blinders doesn’t just happen. A writer like Steven Knight has to be inspired and have a clear vision, then a team of directors and production designers and editors have to bring that vision to life. Plus, the show needs to have the perfect cast to top it all off. Well, Peaky Blinders has all of those things in spades and it’s left a ton of behind-the-scenes trivia in its dust. So, sew a couple of razor blades into your cap and read on!
Here are 25 Wild Details Behind The Making Of Peaky Blinders.
25 Steven Knight avoids all other TV drama
While he currently writes and produces one of the best and most popular drama series currently on the air, Steven Knight decidedly avoids watching any other TV dramas in order to stop himself from copying anything they’re doing.
The Peaky Blinders creator worries that if he watched shows like The Wire or Boardwalk Empire, which his show is often compared to, he would be tempted to emulate what those shows did and veer from his own creative vision. If he watched any other shows, their plot points and storytelling styles might seep in and affect his own writing.
24 Cillian Murphy uses 3,000 cigs a season
While Tommy Shelby smoked like a chimney back in the 1920s when no one knew how bad it was for your health, Cillian Murphy himself doesn't partake in the activity. So, when his character is required to smoke, he used one that was rose-scented and herbal.
Murphy says that those herbal are his “five a day,” since they’re full of all the natural nutrients that your body needs, unlike actual smokes. The actor once asked the prop guys to count how many he used over the course of a season and the grand total was 3,000.
23 Most of the series is shot in Liverpool
Despite being set in Birmingham, Peaky Blinders is shot all over the UK. Parts of the show have been filmed in Leeds, Manchester, Bradford, Dudley, Bolton, and Keighley. Plus, some of the shooting actually does take place in Birmingham.
However, most of the shooting is actually done in Liverpool and in the surrounding Merseyside area. In fact, so much of the series is shot in Liverpool that there’s a tour bus there called Peaky Locations Tours that takes fans and tourists around all the locations the producers used in the city.
22 The show has a bunch of famous fans
When asked about notable fans of Peaky Blinders, series creator Steven Knight has named Michael Mann, the director of Heat (who sent Knight an email to let him know that he and his wife had binge-watched seasons 1 and 2 in a single weekend), and Dennis Lehane, the acclaimed author of Mystic River and Shutter Island.
Even Snoop Dogg is a Peaky Blinders fan. The rapper reportedly once invited Knight over for a three-hour meeting where they got high and Snoop told Knight about how the series reflects what attracted him to gang culture as a kid in Long Beach.
21 James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson helped Sam Neill perfect his Irish accent
Sam Neill was born in Northern Ireland, but he grew up in New Zealand. So, when he was cast as Campbell in Peaky Blinders and he was required to do an Irish accent, he enlisted the help of Irish actors James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson.
In the end, he managed to perfect the accent and do a flawless 1920s Irish inflection in his voice for the role of Campbell. However, it all turned out to be a moot point, as he was later required to tone down the accent so that the show could be marketed to American audiences.
20 The Weinstein Company’s logo was cut out of the credits
The producers of Peaky Blinders were among the first responders to the #MeToo movement as they pledged to remove The Weinstein Company’s logo from the credits almost immediately after the news of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein broke. The Weinstein Company had previously handled the American distribution of the show, which can be attributed to a lot of its success.
This was one of the first cases of the ripple effect of the #MeToo movement, a sign that the powerful Hollywood players who didn’t sexually assault people would not stand for the behavior of those who did.
19 Steven Knight strategically avoids glamorizing violence in the show
Along with shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Fargo, Peaky Blinders is one of the most violent TV shows on the air. But while it is often said that violent TV shows nurture violence in society, Steven Knight has gone out of his way to depict the violence in the show in a realistic and unglamorous way by showing the repercussions of violent acts.
Knight has said that the writing of Peaky Blinders abides by the rule that “any act of violence has [to have] a consequence in terms of the story” to avoid glamorizing violence.
18 John Shelby and Michael Gray are brothers in real life
The John Shelby and Michael Gray characters in Peaky Blinders are cousins, but the actors who play them – Joe and Finn Cole – are actually brothers in real life. It’s like if Liam Hemsworth was cast in the MCU to play Thor’s cousin or if Casey Affleck was cast in the DCEU to play Bruce Wayne’s cousin.
Both brothers’ careers are taking off: Joe Cole will next be seen in Ben Wheatley’s upcoming comedy Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, while Finn Cole is starring alongside Margot Robbie in the thriller Dreamland.
17 David Bowie was a huge fan of the show
Among the famous fans of Peaky Blinders was David Bowie before his tragic and untimely passing. He even once sent Cillian Murphy a picture of himself wearing a cap with razor blades sewn into it.
Sadly, he would never get to see the end of the series. Bowie immediately agreed to have a song from what would be his final album featured in the show. Right after his people made the negotiations to get the track on the show, he passed away and never got to hear his music played over one of his favorite shows.
16 The show’s soundtrack is much more modern than its setting
Despite the fact that Peaky Blinders is set in the aftermath of World War I in the 1920s, the show’s music supervisors aren’t afraid to use songs that were released almost a century later in the soundtrack. It’s reminiscent of the use of AC/DC and Thin Lizzy tracks in the medieval movie A Knight’s Tale.
The show’s soundtrack has included such modern indie rock artists as Nick Cave (who performed, among other songs from the show, its theme song “Red Right Hand”), the Black Keys, the White Stripes, the Arctic Monkeys, and Radiohead.
15 The series didn’t hire any linguistic consultants
The producers of Peaky Blinders decided not to hire any linguistic consultants to work on the show. This was a controversial move, because without any experts around to set the record straight, the gypsy characters have been speaking in broken Romanian for the whole series as opposed to the actual language they speak, Romany.
Still, Cillian Murphy was committed to getting it right – he spent some time with actual Romany gypsies in Birmingham when series creator Steven Knight took him down there, so that he could prepare for the role of Romany descendant Tommy Shelby.
14 Jason Statham was considered for a role
Steven Knight decided to create and write Peaky Blinders after directing Jason Statham in the movie Redemption (known in some territories as Hummingbird). When he started to round out his script and figure out who his characters were, he was eager to get Statham into the cast of Peaky Blinders.
However, since his schedule is so jam-packed, he was unable to commit to the series. It might be for the best – while Statham’s a great actor, he’s not the best at accents and Peaky Blinders would require him to do a convincing Brummie accent for it to work. Knight has never confirmed which role Statham was considered for, but it was probably Tommy.
13 Peaky Blinders was inspired by westerns
When he was asked about the kind of movies that influenced Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight said he was more inspired by westerns than gangster movies. The UK’s version of cowboy stories are legends about knights, according to the Peaky Blinders creator, but Britain doesn’t have a tradition of movies about knights like America has a tradition of cowboy movies.
He opened the very first episode with Tommy riding into town on a horse to reflect the western vibe, since that’s how pretty much every western ever made opens. Birmingham gangsters are romanticized and mythologized in Peaky Blinders in the same way that American cowboys are in western movies.
12 Alfie Solomons and May Carleton are married in real life
It turns out Jewish gang leader Alfie Solomons and rich, widowed racehorse owner May Carleton are married in real life. They’re played by Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley, respectively, who have been married since 2014. They met in 2009 on the set of BBC’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights.
They even appeared on Peaky Blinders for the same stint (between season 2 and season 4). Hardy was previously married to a producer named Sarah Ward, but they divorced in 2004. Together, the couple has a son and have adopted two dogs (although one of the dogs sadly passed in 2017).
11 The real Peaky Blinders couldn’t afford razor blades
The whole premise and title of the show is based on the idea that the Peaky Blinders gang kept razor blades in their caps to cut people with. They sewed razor blades into their caps in order to blind people when they head-butted them.
However, since the gang was made up of lower-class people and razor blades were considered a luxury item, they wouldn’t actually have been able to afford them. The misconception comes from a novel by John Douglas called A Walk Down Summer Lane.
10 The cast includes two Batman villains
Apparently, Steven Knight and Christopher Nolan have the same taste in actors, because Knight cast a couple of Nolan’s closest collaborators in Peaky Blinders. Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy have both played Batman villains in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and even appeared in the same movie at one point as Murphy returned to play one of Hardy’s minions.
Murphy played the Scarecrow in Batman Begins, while Hardy played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Murphy even reprised his role to appear alongside Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises and the two also both appeared in Nolan’s films Inception and Dunkirk.
9 The use of fire imagery is a deliberate reference to Hell
Fire is a recurring image in Peaky Blinders and there’s a very good thematic reason for that – the filmmakers want to make the connection between Tommy’s career as a criminal and his fate to end up in Hell.
In one scene, there’s a huge fireball outside The Garrison Pub. Plus, flames follow Tommy in a lot of his scenes – including one where he’s in a pit and flames burst up in the background. Season 2 director Colm McCarthy has confirmed, “Absolutely, there’s definitely a sense of Hell. That’s very deliberate.”
8 Steven Knight based the show on a story his dad told him
Series creator Steven Knight has said that his conception of the series came from a story his dad told him from his childhood: “He said that when he was eight or nine, his dad gave him a message on a piece of paper and said, ‘Go and deliver this to your uncles.’ His uncles were the Sheldons, who eventually became the Shelbys.”
So, that’s how the characters are so richly detailed and why their stories are so intimately told – the show’s being written by a guy whose parents were involved in this kind of activity.
7 Peaky Blinders’ goal is to be the anti-Downton Abbey
Peaky Blinders achieved its success at around the same time as another British drama series that depicted a family in a historical period: Downton Abbey. However, where Downton is all about aristocrats and their servants with a light, clean-cut tone, Peaky Blinders is far more intense in every way.
There’s a reason why Peaky Blinders is so far removed from Downton Abbey – that’s what they’re going for. Producer Laurie Borg has said that the aim with Peaky Blinders is to be “the complete opposite of Downton,” which he thinks is “probably the dullest television.”
6 The show is not gritty for a reason
Peaky Blinders is more romanticized than other crime dramas like The Wire, which tend to go for an urban and gritty tone, almost as a cautionary tale. This show has a more romantic view of the criminal lifestyle and gang culture.
That’s because Steven Knight heard the stories of Birmingham gangs from his parents based on their childhood experiences. The fact that the stories have all been passed down from a child’s perspective have mythologized 1920s gangs and made them sort of modern-day Greek gods. So, that’s the tone that the show is going for.
5 The theme song was also used in Dumb and Dumber
“Red Right Hand,” the Peaky Blinders theme song performed by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, has appeared in a bunch of other movies and TV shows, including The X Files, Hellboy, Scream, and even Dumb and Dumber.
The song itself was – unsurprisingly, given how many movies and TV shows it would end up in – a huge hit. It’s been covered by a bunch of artists, including Iggy Pop and Jarvis Cocker. The title is a reference to the vengeful hand of God and it’s taken from John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
4 The series finale will end with the outbreak of World War II
While series creator Steven Knight has said that Peaky Blinders will be on the air for at least another three seasons, he has also given away what he intends to end the whole series on. Since he sees Peaky Blinders as “the story of a family between two wars,” Knight plans to end the series on Birmingham’s first air raid siren of the Second World War.
That would place the date of the end of the story on June 25, 1940, so we’ve got a lot of ground to cover between season 4, which ended in May of 1926, and the show’s final season.
3 Helen McCrory based her Birmingham accent on Ozzy Osbourne
Helen McCrory gets second billing after Cillian Murphy in the show. She’s higher in the cast list than Sam Neill. She plays Polly, Tommy’s aunt who ran the gang and kept an eye on its operations while he and his brothers were off fighting in the First World War.
For such a significant role, she really needed to nail the Brummie accent, so she decided to base it on a Birmingham celebrity: Ozzy Osbourne. She says she watched “endless” clips of the Black Sabbath frontman speaking in interviews and between songs at concerts to figure out the Birmingham accent.
2 The Peaky Blinders were not actually the biggest gang in Birmingham in the 1920s
In Peaky Blinders, the titular gang is portrayed as the biggest gang on the streets of Birmingham in the 1920s. Tommy Shelby and his family own the city, with little competition from the other Brummie gangs.
However, in real life, the Peaky Blinders had their *ahem* peak in the 1890s. By the 1920s, a gang that was aptly named “The Birmingham Gang” had dominated the city. The Peaky Blinders gang was still around, but it didn’t have the power that the Shelbys are portrayed to have in the show.
1 Cillian Murphy hates the Tommy Shelby haircut
The Tommy Shelby haircut has become sort of a phenomenon in young men’s fashion over the past couple of years. Every young guy wants to have hair like Tommy Shelby. It’s arguable that no TV character has influenced the world of hair this much since Rachel Green.
However, while Tommy’s haircut has become iconic and fashionable, Cillian Murphy is “horrified” by it. The fans he meets on the street love it and he sees that a lot of the people who recognize him have copied the haircut, but he hates it.
Are there any more little details that you know about the making of Peaky Blinders? Let us know in the comments!