How I Write: Steven Knight

The screenwriter is best known for his cult series Peaky Blinders, based on the notorious gang that ran Birmingham when his parents were growing up. As Peaky fans prepare themselves for season five, he tells CR why real-life stories are his biggest source of inspiration

While Steven Knight always believed that his calling was in words, it took a good few years before his screenwriting career would finally fall into place. After studying English at uni, he worked as a copywriter in advertising and radio, co-created the now world famous game show franchise Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and wrote three novels before making his first foray into the world of film, in the form of the Stephen Frears directed Dirty Pretty Things.

As well as writing Hollywood films such as Locke and the upcoming World War Z sequel, Knight has made a name for himself creating ‘alternative history’ stories that firmly eschew the typical period drama fodder. These include the Victoria crime caper Taboo, starring Tom Hardy, and – of course – BAFTA-winning BBC drama Peaky Blinders.

Set in the heart of Brummie gangland during the interwar period, the show has gained fans around the world since it started in 2013. Its global success has prompted countless opinion pieces about its use of music by the likes of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey, and the popularity of the show’s costumes has even spawned an official Peaky fashion line. But it is ultimately Knight’s chilling depiction of the Shelby family’s exploits that makes the series so compelling.

Ahead of its hotly anticipated fifth season, which opens in 1929 with the fall out from the Wall Street Crash and early murmurings of the rise of fascism, Knight shares his thoughts on the parallels between the Peaky-era and today’s political turmoil, his creative process, and being a screenwriter in the golden age of TV.