James Nesbitt, Stephen Graham and Warren Brown lead the cast in BBC One drama Occupation
Casting is announced for award-winning writer Peter Bowker's powerful new three-part drama serial, Occupation, made by Kudos Film and Television for BBC One.
The cast is headed up by James Nesbitt (Murphy's Law) who plays Sgt Mike Swift, one of the three British soldiers whose lives we trace from the invasion of Basra in March 2003 to the present.
He is joined by Stephen Graham (This Is England) as Cpl Danny Peterson and Warren Brown (Hollyoaks) as L/Cpl Lee Hibbs.
Alongside them is a strong international cast including Igal Naor (House Of Saddam) and Lubna Azabal (Paradise Now).
Peter Bowker says: "I'm thrilled that we have cast two of the country's finest actors in James Nesbitt and Stephen Graham as the two more senior soldiers, it means that we are in very safe hands.
"Both have the skill, the bravery and the emotional honesty to possess these characters and make them true."
A fictional story based on extensive research, the drama reveals how the lives of these three British men are shaped and transformed by their experiences in Iraq.
Peter Bowker adds: "It isn't a message piece in the sense that it can be boiled down to a simple take on the invasion of Iraq and its consequences.
"It's a story about three men who are united in battle, but are torn apart by the aftermath."
Set in Basra, the drama explores the personal journeys of three friends from the same regiment, and how they are inspired to return to Basra for different reasons – one for financial gain, one for love, and the third because of his belief in the mission to rebuild the country.
Bowker's drama explores how their different dreams come to define not just their lives but the war and the occupation itself.
The drama is set against the backdrop of growing sectarian conflict in Iraq, awash with billions of dollars from the USA, creating a boom time for private military companies.
Derek Wax, executive producer for Kudos, adds: "Pete has an extraordinary ability to get inside the heads of these characters, and to explore the chaos and madness of this post-war period in Basra.
"Actors of this calibre bring an essential honesty and humour to the piece.
"This is a fiercely compelling story spanning the aftermath of the most significant war in recent history, a war that leaves so many huge questions unanswered."
Peter Bowker's credits include the Golden Globe nominated and multi-award-winning Blackpool, Canterbury Tales, Undercover Heart and the BAFTA nominated and RTS award-winning Flesh And Blood.
Patrick Spence, Head of Drama, BBC Northern Ireland, says: "We've been working on Occupation for four years, so I am incredibly proud to be watching them all head off into production, a brilliant script in their hands, absolutely determined to bring this story, and all that it means, to the widest possible audience."
This is Peter Bowker's and Derek Wax's third collaboration, after The King And Us (BBC Three) and Flesh And Blood (BBC Two).
It is currently filming in Northern Ireland and Morocco for broadcast on BBC One in 2009.
Occupation is a Kudos Film and Television production for BBC Northern Ireland with financial support from Northern Ireland Screen.
It was commissioned by Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction.
The producer is Laurie Borg (How To Lose Friends And Alienate People), the director is Nick Murphy (Napoleon, Chernobyl, Primeval).
The executive producers are Derek Wax (Flesh And Blood, Sex Traffic, Tsunami, The Aftermath) and, for BBC Northern Ireland, Patrick Spence.