Benedict Cumberbatch signs on to biopic based on gay ‘gypsy fighter’
Benedict Cumberbatch will star in a biopic based on the life of LGBT activist and former fighter Mikey Walsh.
Walsh was brought up to be a bare-knuckle fighter in the Romany Gypsy community, but was forced out of his family and culture when he came out as gay.
A new film, Gypsy Boy, is in development based on the activist’s memoirs.
This week it was announced that Benedict Cumberbatch has signed on to appear in the film as the gay fighter’s stern father Frank Walsh.
The Sherlock star said: “I was immediately drawn to Mikey’s courageous and heart-breaking story. And his father Frank is unlike any character I’ve played before.
“He’s a complex man torn between tradition and his love for a son struggling to come to terms with an identity that’s completely at odds with Frank and his culture.
“It’s a tension that threatens to tear everyone in their family and that community apart.”
“I’ve known Mikey since we were teenagers, and I was instantly fascinated by his life story, added Dee Koppang O’Leary. “As my first feature film, I’m delighted to and very proud to help bring Gypsy Boy to life on the big screen.”
A younger actor is yet to be cast to play Mikey Walsh himself.
The film is backed by BBC Films.
Beautiful Young Minds director Morgan Matthews and screenwriter James Graham are behind the project.
Matthews said: “I fell in love with this story as soon as I heard Mikey speaking about his childhood on the radio a few years ago,” he said.
“Mikey’s extraordinary life touches upon the universal subjects of identity, love, conflict, courage and sacrifice – set within a brutal and extreme yet paradoxically beautiful and intoxicating hidden world.
“I’m so excited to have Benedict on board – it’s a dream to be able to work with him.”
Joe Oppenheimer of BBC Films said: “This is the perfect team to bring a long-cherished project to the screen.
“We’re thrilled to be back in business with James Graham and Morgan Matthews following their collaboration on ‘X+Y’, and can’t wait to see Benedict Cumberbatch bring Frank Walsh to life.”
Producer Dee Koppang O’Leary said: “I’ve known Mikey since we were teenagers, and I was instantly fascinated by his life story.
“As my first feature film, I’m delighted to and very proud to help bring Gypsy Boy to life on the big screen.”
Protagonist Pictures CEO Dave Bishop added: “We are thrilled to be working with Dee and Kevin on this extraordinary project.
“As huge fans of Morgan Matthews’ work, we couldn’t think of a more perfect filmmaker to bring Mikey Walsh’s powerful and compelling story to the big screen.
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“With Benedict Cumberbatch attached to play Frank Walsh, this is an incredible array of talent and we are more than excited to introduce the project to buyers here in Toronto.”
Cumberbatch previously played gay codebreaker Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.
Turing, often hailed as the grandfather of modern computing, was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 after having sex with a man, and was chemically castrated, barred from working for the UK security services, and eventually driven to suicide.
The mathematical genius worked to crack the German Enigma codes – which is widely believed to have meant an earlier end to World War II.
Cumberbatch also made a much-criticised cameo in the film Zoolander 2 as a ‘genderless’ character.