Jonny Lee Miller: playing John Major in The Crown changed my perspective on ‘magnetic’ ex-PM

Jonny Lee Miller as former British prime  minister Sir John Major in The Crown
Jonny Lee Miller said 'the more I read about Sir John, the more I liked him' - Netflix/PA
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Jonny Lee Miller may not have been the most obvious choice to play former prime minister Sir John Major in The Crown.

The Trainspotting star, who was once married to Angelina Jolie, was raised by socialist parents and has described himself as “pretty leftie.”

But he has revealed that being cast as the former Tory leader in the popular Netflix drama had “100 per cent” changed his perspective on the politician.

“I was raised in a very, very socialist household, but the more I read about Sir John, the more I liked him,” he said.

“He’s one of the most misunderstood politicians ever: he was very magnetic and had a great sense of humour. “

Miller told The Observer: “That’s actually how Peter Morgan [the creator of The Crown] described him to me. He said: ‘He’s George f------ Clooney!’ Oh right, what am I doing here then?”

The actor won plaudits for his portrayal of Sir John as he skilfully navigated the fallout from the breakdown of the marriage between Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, acting as something of an intermediary.

He has previously described how he discovered, while researching the role, that he and Sir John had many similarities.

They were both raised in south-west London – Kingston and Worcester Park respectively – and went to state grammar schools. Both also had theatrical parents.

“I had all these things in common, and then the more you learn about the work that he did – my respect for him grew massively,” he has said.

In the fifth and penultimate series, broadcast in late 2022, Prince Charles, played by Dominic West, is shown agitating for modernisation and trying to recruit Sir John to his cause, insisting that the monarchy is in need of a revamp.

He summons the Prime Minister to a secret meeting at Highgrove in 1991, hinting that he could replace his mother just as the Conservative party had ousted Margaret Thatcher the previous year.

“What makes the Conservative party successful? Its instinct for renewal and its willingness to make way for someone younger,” he says.

Sir John described the plotlines as “malicious nonsense.”

He said that “utterly untrue” storylines presented as fact so soon after the death of Elizabeth II would be devastating for the Royal family.

He wrote in a letter to The Telegraph that such scenes “will be profoundly hurtful to a family who are still grieving for the very person on whose life the entire drama was founded.”

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.