How Much of Three Day Millionaire Is Based On A True Story?

The heist plot might be fiction, but there are some surprising nods to real events in the Grimsby-based black comedy that’s just landed on Netflix

Colm Meaney in Three Day Millionaire
Photo: Signature

WARNING: this article contains mild spoilers for Three Day Millionaire

British heist comedy Three Day Millionaire just arrived on Netflix, and it’s certainly an entertaining watch. Part poignant Full Monty-style working class identity crisis, part Guy-Ritchie-esque geezer flick, it tells the story of a group of young trawlermen who lose everything when the Grimsby fishing industry finally folds, so they decide to pull off a daring robbery to secure the money they need to shore up their futures.

The convincing premise to this 2022 Britcom – starring Corrie’s James Burrows, Sam Glen (World’s End) and impressive newcomer Michael Kinsey – naturally makes us wonder how much of it is based on a true story.

The answer? Well, not the heist itself, at least. 

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But you might be surprised at some of the real details used in the film:

The Grimsby Fishing Industry Really Did Fold Overnight

‘You know, it really did die overnight,’ said Three Day Millionaire director Jack Spring when discussing the moment the characters in his film discover Grimsby’s final fishing trawler – and their place of work – is closing down. 

The Grimsby Telegraph describes how the final fleet of trawlers was sold in 2017, meaning there was suddenly no longer any Grimsby-based vessels docking at the town’s fish market, a far cry from the town’s heyday, when – as the film accurately describes – ‘a fisherman could walk across the length of the tied-up trawlers to cross the town’s docks.’

‘Three-Day Millionaire’ Is A Real Term

The film’s main characters describe themselves as ‘three day millionaires’ as they leave their trawler for the weekend to spend the contents of their pay packet on lavish nights out before they head back out to sea, and this is a genuine Grimsby phrase for the trawlermen that’s been used since the mid-20th century.

As this BBC article explains, another nod to true events in the film is the way the boys get suited up before heading out to party, as three-day millionaires back in the 1950s would typically “wear pale grey or blue suits with lots of pleats in the back of the jackets and baggy trousers… The men would stand out in what almost amounted to a uniform.”

Grimsby Really Did Become The World’s Biggest Wind Farm

Perhaps the most surprising ‘true story’ element to Three Day Millionaire comes at the film’s conclusion, when dastardly business owner Mr Barr (Colm Meaney, Gangs of London) finally decides to invest his fortune into Grimsby via ‘hundreds of thousands of square feet of seafood packaging premises’ and ‘the largest wind turbine manufacturing plant on the planet’.

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And indeed, the town has managed to retain its fond links to the fishing industry by becoming the UK’s premier seafood-processing centre, employing 6,000 people in over 50 factories, with just one of its firms – Young’s – providing around 40% of the fish eaten in the United Kingdom.

Not only that, in September last year it was declared that Grimsby now operates the world’s largest offshore wind farm, a £6 billion industry featuring 165 wind turbines and creating 400 jobs.

So while the days of Three Day Millionaires are over, the hopeful tone for the future of Grimsby at the end of the film is thankfully rooted in reality.

Three Day Millionaire is available to stream on Netflix