Hilary Swank to star in Richard Curtis film for BBC

Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn Swank (left) and Blethyn play mothers who have little in common but who have both lost sons

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Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank is to star alongside Brenda Blethyn in a BBC film written by Richard Curtis.

Mary & Martha is about two mothers who lose their children to malaria and are compelled to raise awareness of the disease.

The film will be shown in the run-up to next year's Red Nose Day, which will raise money for disadvantaged people in the UK and Africa.

"This long overdue story is Richard Curtis at his best," said Blethyn.

Curtis is best known for such films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually.

Mary & Martha will be directed by Phillip Noyce, whose credits include Salt, Patriot Games and The Quiet American.

'Totally brilliant'

"I've long admired Phillip's work," said Swank, who won best actress Oscars for Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby.

"When he shared with me this extraordinary story and I read Richard's beautiful script, I was inspired."

Blethyn, whose films include Little Voice and Secrets and Lies, said she was "thrilled" to be working with Noyce and to be sharing the screen with the "classy and totally brilliant" Swank.

Shooting on the film, produced by Curtis's company Working Title for BBC One and HBO Films, is taking place in the US and South Africa.

Curtis is a co-founder of the Comic Relief charity, which organises Red Nose Day every other year.

The writer and director previously wrote the 2005 BBC film The Girl in the Cafe, conceived to tie in with the Make Poverty History campaign.

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