In 2014, a World War II veteran by the name of Bernard Jordan made headlines after he left his retirement home in Britain and journeyed to France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day – all without anyone other than his wife knowing his plans. Nearly a decade after his “great escape,” a film is set to be released about his adventure. Titled The Great Escaper, it stars two veterans of acting, Sir Michael Caine and the late Glenda Jackson.
The Great Escaper centers around Royal Navy veteran Bernard Jordan, who was among those who landed in Normandy on D-Day. After learning he wasn’t among those included in the British Royal Legion’s trip to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the landings, he took it upon himself to find his own way to France.
On June 5, 2014, the then-89-year-old walked out of his care home in Hove, United Kingdom wearing just a raincoat, his jacket and his war medals. He’d told the workers that he was walking to the shop. When evening came and Jordan still hadn’t returned, the staff at The Pines grew worried and contacted the police.
Assuming the elderly war veteran hadn’t gone too far, the authorities checked with local bus and taxi companies, to no avail. As it turns out, he’d boarded a train to Brighton, after which he went aboard a ferry for a first-class trip across the English Channel to France.
That night, a fellow veteran called the care home on Jordan’s behalf, to let them know he was okay and had booked a room at a hotel in Caen. The next day, he attended the D-Day commemoration ceremony, after which he boarded the ferry back to the UK. While he’d expected to be reprimanded for his actions, he was greeted with a much-needed cup of tea.
His adventure earned Jordan the nickname, the “Great Escapee,” and he made headlines worldwide. Speaking about his actions after the fact, the veteran said, “In the months leading up to the anniversary I was trying to get an official trip to Normandy but I didn’t have the necessary passes. Then, the day before D-Day I saw the TV coverage and thought, ‘I have to go and be a part of it.’ I was naughty and secretive.”
He added in a separate interview, “My thoughts were with my mates who had been killed. I was going to pay my respects. I was a bit off course, but I got there.”
While he’d made plans to attend the 71st-anniversary commemoration event the following year, Jordan passed away peacefully at The Pines before he could make the trip. His wife died the week after.
Michael Caine was pulled enough by the story to come out of retirement, starring as Jordan alongside the late Glenda Jackson, who portrays the veteran’s wife, Irene. It was the second time the pair had starred on-screen together, with their first film being 1975’s The Romantic Englishwoman.
John Standing plays Arthur, the veteran Bernard met upon arriving in France. Through flashbacks, it’s shown that he was among those charged with attacking the Germans in Caen as part of the Bomber Command.
The Great Escaper was announced in 2021, with filming taking place the next year. It was written by William Ivory and directed by Oliver Parker, the latter of whom praised the former’s script to British Period Dramas. Speaking with the website, he called Ivory’s writing “so inspirational and so moving,” adding, “No one can resist a script that makes people both laugh and cry – I love Billy’s writing and the story itself.”
The Great Escaper will be released on October 6, 2023. It isn’t the only upcoming film about Bernard Jordan’s life, as The Last Rifleman, starring Pierce Brosnan, is also slated for release later this year.