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Tom Hardy to portray decorated WWII British SAS soldier in new TV series

Portrait of Lt Col Robert Blair 'Paddy' Mayne, SAS, in the desert near Kabrit, 1942. (Imperial War Museum/Released)
July 01, 2019

The founding member of the elite British Special Air Service (SAS) during World War II will be portrayed in a new television series starring actor Tom Hardy.

Hardy will portray Lt. Col. Blair “Paddy” Mayne, who was among the unit’s 100 founding members in 1941, and the series will feature the SAS’ operations against Axis troops from 1941 to 1943 in North Africa, the London Times reported.

The series is focused on the 2016 book “SAS: Rogue Heroes” written by British journalist Ben Macintyre, who used a 500-page archive of events recorded by SAS members.

Screenwriter Steven Knight, who also created popular British television series “Peaky Blinders” that also featured Hardy, will be writing the SAS series.

“This will be a secret history telling the story of exceptional soldiers who decided battles and won wars only to then disappear back into the shadows,” Knight told The Times.

“We will shine a light on remarkable true events informed by the people who shaped them,” he added.

Martin Haines, joint managing director for production company Kudos, told Variety, “The sheer scale of the adventures brilliantly told by Ben, and the extraordinary and varied characters involved, make this an incredibly exciting project. With Steven on board we have the opportunity to redefine the genre completely.”

Mayne, who went from budding rugby star to a “hard-drinking killer,” later become one of the most decorated soldiers of the British Army.

Among his many awards was the Distinguished Service Order, one of the United Kingdom’s highest military honors, which he received four times, according to the BBC.

McIntyre described Mayne as a “brilliant soldier but a troubled soul with a very short fuse,” also describing Mayne as “240 pounds of highly volatile human explosive.”

He added that Mayne was “truculent, troubled and dangerously unpredictable, particularly when drunk, which was often.”

Mayne allegedly gunned down dozens of unarmed German fighters during a party at an airfield in the Libyan desert, among others ruthless execution-style killings. Mayne orchestrated the sabotage operation, which also included bombing the planes on the airfield.

“It was necessary to be ruthless, but Paddy had overstepped the mark,” another SAS founder and Mayne’s superior, David Stirling, wrote in SAS archives. “I was obliged to rebuke him for over-callous execution in cold blood of the enemy.”

Mayne was denied the British Army’s highest award – the Victoria Cross – to much controversy, a decision suspected to have been made in light of Mayne’s wild behavior.

Despite the hard tone of the SAS, their operations effectively dismantled Axis communications, gathered key intelligence and trained resistance fighters, all of which contributed to the Allied powers’ victory.

Mayne was killed in a vehicle accident at age 40 in 1955. His life has been commemorated in a variety of ways, including statues, books and films.