Guy Pearce and Damian Lewis are seen on the Thames filming a new Britbox drama about double agent Philby, his escape to KGB, and deception by a fellow MI6 officer

He is Britain’s most notorious Soviet double agent – a charismatic traitor who deceived not only his country, but also his closest friend and fellow MI6 officer Nicholas Elliott.

Now Kim Philby’s defection to the KGB and his betrayal of Elliott is to be chronicled in a new TV drama – and our exclusive pictures from a shingle-strewn Thames riverbank show them together, as portrayed by Guy Pearce and Damian Lewis.

Pearce is dressed in a matching fedora hat and a double-breasted, long overcoat.

Dressed in a double-breasted long overcoat and matching fedora hat, Australian actor Guy Pearce, 54, stars as Philby in the forthcoming Britbox drama A Spy Among Friends

Guy Pearce (54), an Australian actor, plays Philby in A Spy Among Friends. He wears a long, double-breasted, matching overcoat with matching fedora hat.

Homeland star Lewis, 50, plays Elliott, who famously told Philby once his treachery was revealed: ‘I once looked up to you. My God, how I despise you now.’

The series, adapted from journalist Ben Macintyre’s book of the same name, follows the defection through the lens of Philby’s relationship with Elliott.

They met at Trinity College in Cambridge where they were both recruited into the Secret Intelligence Service. ‘They were as close as two heterosexual, upper-class, mid-century Englishmen could be,’ Mr Macintyre wrote in his book.

Both loved cricket and alcohol but they had different loyalties when Philby, a KGB agent in 1934 was hired to replace him.

Although Philby was believed to have tipped the double agents Guy Burgesss and Donald Maclean off, Elliott stood beside his friend.

Kim Philby’s (pictured) defection to the KGB is to be chronicled in a new TV drama

The double agent also betrayed fellow MI6 officer Nicholas Elliott (pictured)

Kim Philby’s (left) defection to the KGB and his betrayal of fellow MI6 officer Nicholas Elliott (right) is to be chronicled in a new TV drama

Philby was exonerated by MI6 in 1951, but Elliott found Philby a job at Beirut’s The Observer. He then arranged for Philby to return to MI6 after he had been cleared.

Elliott flew from Beirut to obtain a written confession of Philby, who was eventually revealed to be a Soviet spy in 1963.

Although Philby admitted to his guilt verbally, KGB agents took Philby away to Moscow. He was then granted Soviet citizenship. As a Soviet Hero, he died in 1988.

His reputation was irreparably damaged when Elliott passed away in 1994. Lewis has said it was a friendship ‘blinded by love, class and membership to the right clubs and ended in betrayal and the deaths of thousands’.

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Guy Burgess and Kim Philby met at University of Cambridge. Donald Maclean was also there, while Blunt was an undergraduate.

Before the Second World War, the older man recruited students for the Soviet cause. They remained dedicated to the USSR until the end of the Cold War.

Donald Maclean

Kim Philby

Donald Maclean (left), and Kim Philby, (right) were both members of the notorious Cambridge Five spy network.

Philby headed counter-intelligence at MI6 while Maclean worked as a Foreign Office official, and Burgess was an employee of the BBC. 

Blunt was the Courtauld Institute director and the keeper of art belonging to the Royal Family, the most prominent of them all.

Burgesss, Maclean and Philby were both exposed in 1951 as double agents. However, they managed to escape to Moscow after Philby tipped them off.

Philby was suspected of being a spy, but he was not caught until 1963 when he defected to Russia.

Blunt managed to avoid exposure even more. Blunt confessed his crimes and was removed from his titles in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher identified him as a suspect at the House of Commons.

While the identity of the “fifth man” in spy ring was not confirmed, Oleg Gordievsky, a KGB defector, named John Cairncross as John Cairncross.

The story of the unlikely traitors has been dramatised several times, including in John le Carré’s classic book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and a 2003 BBC series titled Cambridge Spies.

Anthony Blunt

John Cairncross

In 1979, Anthony Blunt, the guardian of the art collection of the Royal Family was revealed as being the fourth member in the Cambridge spy network. Oleg Gordievsky, an ex-British intelligence agent and defector from Soviet Russia, named John Cairncross (right), the fifth member of the Cambridge spy network. However, this link was not officially identified.