Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are to film Stephen Frears’ next feature in Northern Ireland later this month.
Frears will direct the duo in ‘Philomena’, a film based on the book by former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith in which he recounts the true story of a woman searching for the son she gave up for adoption years previously.
Dench will play Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who was forced to give up her baby when she resided in a Catholic institute for unmarried mothers in the 50s. She later married and started a family in England, where she met journalist Sixsmith in 2004. The two embarked on a journey to find her long lost son, who had been adopted in America.
The true story shows that her son travelled to Ireland in search of his biological mother at the same time, when he found out he had a terminal illness.
Coogan, who will play the role of Sixsmith, said: “The film is a comic tragedy or a tragic comedy. It's about two very different people, at different stages of their lives, who help each other and show that there is laughter even in the darkest places.”
Coogan also co-wrote the screenplay with screenwriter Jeff Pope (Northern Lights, Pierrepoint).
Tracy Seaward, Gaby Taan and Coogan will all produce, with ‘Moone Boy’ executive producer Henry Normal on board for Baby Cow; Christine Langan for BBC Films; and Francois Ivernel and Cameron McCracken for France-based Pathe.
Frears previously worked in Ireland on ‘The Van’ and ‘The Snapper’. Dench recently completed upcoming James Bond film ‘Skyfall’, and Coogan’s production company Baby Cow is currently working on the second series of Chris O’ Dowd and Nick Vincent Murphy’s ‘Moone Boy’ in Roscommon.
Filming on ‘Philomena’ is expected to begin at the end of this month. Speaking to IFTN last month, Coogan said the production would be based in Ireland and the US: “Fingers crossed it’ll be this year, we’re hoping to do it this year.” As of then, the feature didn’t have a title. It is expected production will move to London and Washington after Northern Ireland.