The films

Len Deighton's contribution to movies and television

In many ways, it has been the films as much as his books that have impressed Len Deighton upon the national and international consciousness. In particular, the three iconic films from the 'sixties - The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain - with Michael Caine playing Harry Palmer are stories which shook up the spy film genre and created indelibe cinematic images which are now inseparable from the books that inspired them.

Despite these successes, Deighton's relationship with the big screen has been mixed. While the Harry Palmer films were cinematic successes, other films were relative failures at the box office, films such as Only When I Larf or Spy Story. Indeed, Deighton's own poor results when he turned his hand to film-making directly - first as scriptwriter on the failed Bond movie Warhead and then as producer of Oh! What a Lovely War! - rather put him off the film business for much of his career.

Deighton clearly sets high standards for his adaptations. On TV, when the ITV adaptation of Game, Set & Match - with Ian Holm as Bernard Samson - failed to match Deighton's expectations, he prevented further broadcasts.

Game, Set & Match

Despite Deighton's decision to withdraw TV rights - much to readers' chagrin - the TV adaptation of the Game, Set & Match trilogy is actually pretty faithful to the novel.

Find out more here.

How bad?

The 'unofficial' 'nineties Harry Palmer movies Bullet to Beijing and Midnight in St Petersburg - with no input from Deighton, apart from consent to film - are generally regarded as pretty poor. Find out why in this section.


An original cinema poster for Only When I Larf

The producer's life

Len Deighton only made two films as a producer: Oh! What a Lovely War and Only When I Larf. Neither was a financial or personal success, and Deighton clearly decided being a writer for more fun and safer.