War And Peace: Everything You Need To Know About The BBC’s Latest Series

War & Peace: Are You In-The-Know?


by Grazia |

So you saw the first episode of BBC's War & Peace and you've proclaimed yourself officially hooked. It might be the dramatic storyline, written in 1869 by famed Russian author Leo Tolstoy, or that Mr Turner's* James Norton plays Prince Andrei, or _Little Miss Sunshine's *Paul Dano plays Count Pierre Bezukhov, or that E4 _Glue's Callum Turner plays Anatole Kuragin... Or it might just be that the BBC have spent a whopping amount of money making it the most visually spectacular series we've seen, well, ever...

Whatever your reason for loving it (and counting down the seconds until the next instalment at the weekend) there are things you probably don't know about it - its cast, the book, the production... So we thought we'd tell you about them, to entertain you (till Sunday's next episode, at least).

The Cast

The show has a number of Hollywood favourites...

...including Gillian Anderson, Jim Broadbent and Brian Cox.

'Lily James' isn't Lily James' real name

Lily James Plays Countess Natasha Rostova In The BBC Production [BBC]
Lily James Plays Countess Natasha Rostova In The BBC Production [BBC]

The 26-year-old actress, who plays Countess Natasha Rosova, was born 'Lily Chloe Ninette Thomson'. She rose to fame playing Lady Rose Aldridge in Downton Abbey, and last year, took the title role in Disney's Cinderella.

Lily owes her career (in part) to her gran

Lily James’ grandmother Helen Horton got her into acting. Helen is an actress too, and has had roles in Alien and Superman 3.

A word of warning for James Norton

While Norton, 30, was on location in St Petersburg, a Russian said to him: 'No man under 40 has ever taken this role on. Good luck.'

Like son, like father

James Norton Stars as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky [BBC]

On every job he signs up to, James Norton ensures his dad, Hugh, gets a role as an extra. This War And Peace production was no different. ‘He flew out to Lithuania where we were filming the battle scenes,’ James has said.

Gillian Anderson is an award-winning theatre actress

You may know her from her X-Files days, but in 2014, Gillian won the Evening Standard Natasha Richardson Best Actress Award for playing Blanche DuBois in the Young Vic's production of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.

Callum Turner is an avid football supporter

Callum Turner Loves His Football... [BBC]

Chelsea FC is his chosen club.

Jim Broadbent has won an Oscar...

For Best Supporting Actor in the 2001 film Iris. He starred alongside Judi Dench, who was Oscar-nominated for the film too, and winner of the BAFTA Best Actress award for her portrayal of novelist, Iris Murdoch.

The Book and its Author

Why it's so long...

The earliest drafts of the book date back to 1856. Which basically means Tolstoy was writing it for 13 years. Hence its lenght. He made amendments and revisions and is said to have rewritten the ending.

How long is it exactly?

Only 587,287 words. A breeze... gulps and hides

Why we owe the final masterpiece to Tolstoy's wife...

If it wasn't for Sofia (allegedly the only person able to read her husband's handwriting, making her the only person able to copy out over seven drafts of it) the book wouldn't be what it is today.

Lead character Pierre Bezukhov translates as...

‘Peter the Earless’.

Tolstoy wrote some of the books' paragraphs in French

Because many Russian aristocrats prefered to speak in French... and it also mocked Russians who wanted to be French (a joke of the day).

A spooky coincidence...

Tolstoy died of pneumonia in a train station where his famous character, Anna Karenina, also met with death.

The 2016 Production

Co-producer is Hollywood heavyweight, Harvey Weinstein

*War and Peace *is apparently his favourite novel.

And... ACTION! [BBC]

It required a rather large number of extras for one battle sequence...

More than 500 to be precise.

The soldier extras had proper training

Former paratrooper Paul Biddiss – who has worked with Matt Damon and Brad Pitt – tutored the battling extras.

Past Productions of War And Peace

In the 1956 film version...

Natasha Rostov was played by Audrey Hepburn.

Audrey Hepburn And Henry Fonda In The 1956 Film Version [Rex]

# War & Peace was last screened on telly in 1972

That version starred Anthony Hopkins and was 20 episodes long (unlike this far shorter 6-part series).

By Edwina Langley and Emma Calder

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