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Eddie Marsan to play canoe conman John Darwin and Monica Dolan will play wife Anne in new ITV drama

Eddie Marsan to play canoe conman John Darwin and Monica Dolan will play wife Anne in new ITV drama

Eddie Marsan has been seen sporting a grey beard and thick glasses while filming his new role as canoe conman John Darwin.

In first look snaps from a shoot for ITV’s upcoming drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, the actor, 52, takes on the role of the fraudster who faked his own death.

The show will also feature Monica Dolan, 52, as his wife Anne Darwin, with the actress also seen out filming alongside her co-star in Hartlepool on Monday.     

Anne and John Darwin, who are now divorced, were both jailed for more than 6 years after they tried to convince family, friends, the police and insurance companies, that John had gone missing in 2002 while canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew. 

In character: Monica Dolan donned a blue jacket as she transformed into Anne Darwin for the shoot

FIRST LOOK: Eddie Marsan sported a beard (left) while Monica Dolan (right) donned a blue coat while filming new ITV show about canoe conman John Darwin in Hartlepool on Monday

Real life: John and Anne Darwin tried to convince the world that John had gone missing in 2002 whilst canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew. However their secret was exposed by the discovery of a photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006 (pictured)

Real life: John and Anne Darwin tried to convince the world that John had gone missing in 2002 whilst canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew. However their secret was exposed by the discovery of a photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006 (pictured)

Eddie was seen walking around the set in a long grey jacket styled with jeans and a khaki green beanie hat.

He stood out from the crew as he held onto a walking stick and sported thick glasses for the scene which seemed to involve him travelling on a bus.

Although sporting a bushy grey beard, Eddie’s character of John has not often been pictured with facial hair and appears clean shaven in his police mug shot. 

Elsewhere during filming, Monica was seen for the first time as Anne as she held onto a tabbed script and carried a black handbag over one shoulder.

At work: It is not know what scenes or time period Eddie, who was announced as having been cast in the upcoming show on Monday, was filming

At work: It is not know what scenes or time period Eddie, who was announced as having been cast in the upcoming show on Monday, was filming

What's going on here then? Although Eddie was seen sporting a grey beard, the real John has not often been pictured with facial hair

No beard: John Darwin was clean shaven in his 2008 police mug shot shared by Cleveland Police

What’s going on here then? Although sporting a bushy grey beard, the real John has not often been pictured with facial hair and appears clean shaven in his 2008 police mug shot (right)

She was seen with a grey bob cut, similar to the real life Anne’s short hair in photos from the time of the real life case, and wearing a blue rain jacket. 

The ITV drama will focus on how Anne became complicit in her husband’s deception to convince the world he’d gone missing in an attempt to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy.   

However, the deception was to take its toll on Anne who lied to their sons, Mark and Anthony, for five years whilst her husband, in the early days of the fraud, secretly lived in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne.    

Devastated by the loss of their father, neither son had an inkling their parents were capable of such treachery and being involved in a £679,000 insurance scam.

Inspiration: Actress Monica (pictured) was seen with a blonde bob cut, similar to the real life Anne's locks

Throwback: Anne sported short grey locks in December 2007

Inspiration: Actress Monica (left) was seen with a grey bob cut, similar to the real life Anne’s short hair in photos from the time of the real life case (right in December 2007)

Well prepared: Monica held onto a tabbed script and huge bottle of water as she arrived on set

Well prepared: Monica held onto a tabbed script and huge bottle of water as she arrived on set

On the move: Eddie stepped onto a bus while carrying a green bag at one point during filming

On the move: Eddie stepped onto a bus while carrying a green bag at one point during filming 

Off he goes: Eddie was seen walking around the set in a long grey jacket styled with jeans and a khaki green beanie hat

Assistance: He also used a walking stick while on the move during the day

Off he goes: Eddie was seen walking around the set with a brown walking stick and wearing a long grey jacket styled with jeans and a khaki green beanie hat

Real story: John Darwin was jailed for more than 6 years after he tried to fake that he'd gone missing in 2002 while canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew

Real story: John Darwin was jailed for more than 6 years after he tried to fake that he’d gone missing in 2002 while canoeing off the coast of Seaton Carew

Anne and John, now 70, eventually decided to leave Seaton Carew and move to Panama City to start a new life together before their secret was exposed by the discovery of a photo of them posing in a Panama real estate office in July 2006.

John had been travelling back and forth between Panama and the UK and turned up at a London police station in 2007 claiming he’d been suffering from amnesia.

At her trial Anne pleaded not guilty, arguing that she had been coerced into the plot by her husband, but the jury didn’t believe her.  

John was ordered to serve six years and three months in prison while his wife, who police described as a compulsive liar, got six years and six months. She was released from prison in 2011.

Wrapped up: Eddie sported several layers for the outside shoot in Hartlepool on Monday

Wrapped up: Eddie sported several layers for the outside shoot in Hartlepool on Monday

'It's fascinating': Eddie (pictured filming on Monday) previously said he's 'thrilled' to be playing the role of John and that 'if it weren't fact, you'd think it unbelievable'

‘It’s fascinating’: Eddie (pictured filming on Monday) previously said he’s ‘thrilled’ to be playing the role of John and that ‘if it weren’t fact, you’d think it unbelievable’

Don't think they were around in the 00s! Eddie handed a member of the crew his iPhone while taking a quick break between shoots

Don’t think they were around in the 00s! Eddie handed a member of the crew his iPhone while taking a quick break between shoots

Chatting away: Monica seemed to be in good spirits as she spoke with a crew member

For the shoot? They walked past a yellow and green bus

Chatting away: Monica seemed to be in good spirits as she spoke with a crew member while walking past a yellow and green bus

Staying safe: Monica donned a face shield while working on the hotly-anticipated ITV series

Staying safe: Monica donned a face shield while working on the hotly-anticipated ITV series

Spitting image: The actress looked eerily like the real Anne with a very similar hairstyle

Spitting image: The actress looked eerily like the real Anne with a very similar hairstyle

Since the astonishing case, the couple have divorced, with John remarrying, and Anne opting for a quiet life away from the headlines.

And in January 2021 it was reported that the former teacher has settled into a new life in the Philippines with new wife Mercy May, who at 47 is 23 years his junior. 

The couple married in 2015 after striking up a romance online.  

John receives a state pension of around £134 a week, while his wife, a mother-of-three, sub-lets a clothing stall and owns another shop.

Waiting around: Eddie was seen sitting on a bench as he appeared to wait for a bus

Waiting around: Eddie was seen sitting on a bench as he appeared to wait for a bus

Early shoot: He seemed comfortable using the walking stick prop during the shoot

Early shoot: He seemed comfortable using the walking stick prop during the shoot

Wrapped up: The actor donned several layers including a blue polo top, brown jumper, grey jacket and khaki hat

Wrapped up: The actor donned several layers including a blue polo top, brown jumper, grey jacket and khaki hat

Comes in handy: While chatting to some of the crew during the day, Eddie threw his walking stick up into the air as if to point in that direction

Relaxed: The actor wore smart black shoes with his jeans and jacket combination

Comes in handy: While chatting to some of the crew during the day, Eddie threw his walking stick up into the air as if to point in that direction

Exciting role: ITV confirmed the four-part drama was happening on Monday morning

Exciting role: ITV confirmed the four-part drama was happening on Monday morning

On screen:  Monica and Eddie (pictured filming) will be joined in the cast by Mark Stanley and Karl Pilkington, whose roles have not yet been revealed

On screen:  Monica and Eddie (pictured filming) will be joined in the cast by Mark Stanley and Karl Pilkington, whose roles have not yet been revealed

Bus ride? Eddie's character John travelled between Panama and the UK for several years

Bus ride? Eddie’s character John travelled between Panama and the UK for several years

She told The Mirror: ‘I have a new business. I’ve had it for three years now. Boom. Making money.’  

While in 2016 his ex-wife Anne wrote a book about the scandal, revealing she been disowned by their two sons.

Writing in Out of my Depth, the so-called ‘Canoe Wife,’ wrote: ‘Why did I do it? That is the question I still ask myself today. Why, when I got home, did I make that phone call to the police?

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‘I was never motivated by money. That wasn’t the reason. Incredible though it may sound, the only reason I had was my loyalty to John.’ 

She has since reconciled with her sons, and was last known to be working for the RSPCA in York after gaining qualifications in IT and business while in prison. 

Conman: John was sentence to more than six years in prison and is now thought to be living in the Philippines with his second wife (Eddie is pictured filming in Hartlepool on Monday)

Conman: John was sentence to more than six years in prison and is now thought to be living in the Philippines with his second wife (Eddie is pictured filming in Hartlepool on Monday)

Family: Devastated by the loss of their father, both of John's sons Mark and Anthony didn't had an inkling their parents were capable of lying about his death (pictured at the trial in 2008)

Family: Devastated by the loss of their father, both of John’s sons Mark and Anthony didn’t had an inkling their parents were capable of lying about his death (pictured at the trial in 2008)

Hidden: John used a secret passageway (pictured) in the bedsit in which he lived for five years after he faked his own death, which connected to Anne's house next door

Hidden: John used a secret passageway (pictured) in the bedsit in which he lived for five years after he faked his own death, which connected to Anne’s house next door

Shocking: Anne lied to their sons, Mark and Anthony, for five years whilst her husband, in the early days of the fraud, secretly lived in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne

Shocking: Anne lied to their sons, Mark and Anthony, for five years whilst her husband, in the early days of the fraud, secretly lived in a bedsit next door to the home he shared with Anne

ITV’s drama The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe is based upon the unpublished manuscript written by journalist David Leigh who was the first journalist to track down Anne as she was on the verge of setting up a new life in Panama.   

Stars Monica and Eddie will be joined in the cast by Mark Stanley (White House Farm) and Karl Pilkington (Sick of It, Derek), whose roles have not yet been revealed.

Speaking about his new role, Eddie said: ‘I’m so thrilled to be working with Chris Lang, one of our greatest writers and to get the chance to work with Monica Dolan.

‘The story of how and why John Darwin faked his own death to defraud insurance companies is fascinating, and if it weren’t fact, you’d think it unbelievable. 

‘I can’t pretend to understand what was going on in his head when he made those choices, but I’m going to do my absolute best to portray him, and I can’t wait to get started.’

And Monica added: ‘The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe tells the story of surely the most outrageous fraud of modern times – and my favourite kind of drama is when the outrageous comes from the prosaic. 

‘As breath-taking as their managing to pull this deception off in the first place, is how spectacularly the couple wrecked it for themselves as soon as they had got away with it.’

The real life story is written by acclaimed screenwriter Chris Lang, who said: ‘I am beyond delighted to be working with two of the finest actors of their generation. 

‘I have admired them both from afar for many years (not in a creepy way though) and cannot wait to see them bring Anne and John Darwin to life.’

Famous face: Eddie famously starred as Inspector Lestrade in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes alongside Robert Downey Jr

Famous face: Eddie famously starred as Inspector Lestrade in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes alongside Robert Downey Jr

The four-part drama is produced by Story Films, the company founded by three times BAFTA-winner David Nath and fellow award-winning director Peter Beard. 

Susie Liggat (Giri/Haji) also executive produces, with Alison Sterling (The Windermere Children) producing.

They will be joined by the celebrated screenwriter of Unforgotten and Innocent Chris Lang who also executive produces the four part series. BAFTA winning director, Richard Laxton, (Honour, Mrs Wilson, Mum) directs each of the four episodes. 

The drama has been commissioned for ITV by Head of Drama Polly Hill and will be produced in association with All3Media International. 

One to watch: Monica's most recent role saw her star alongside Ralph Fiennes in Netflix drama, The Dig - which reimagines the events of the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo

One to watch: Monica’s most recent role saw her star alongside Ralph Fiennes in Netflix drama, The Dig – which reimagines the events of the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo


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