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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Release

Victoria Wood stars in Morecambe & Wise – a feature-length drama for BBC Two

From children's variety stars to national treasures, this single drama conceived by Victoria Wood and written by Bafta Award-winner Peter Bowker (Occupation, Desperate Romantics, Blackpool) for BBC Two is about the early years of one of the best comedy double acts of our time, Morecambe and Wise, and the formative influence of Eric's mother, Sadie.

Starring Victoria Wood as Sadie and Jim Moir (Vic Reeves) as Eric's father, George, the drama, currently filming in the North West of England, is a BBC Wales Drama Production in association with Blue Door Adventures for BBC Two.

Victoria says: "We may think of Morecambe and Wise as that brilliant and much-loved double act but I've always thought that a film about their days as child performers in variety and their struggles to establish themselves would make a fantastic story."

Victoria felt this was very much a story of men's friendship and would be better written by a male writer. Peter Bowker, a huge fan of Eric and Ernie, researched and created the script.

"The casting has been a marathon," says Victoria.

"Because our story spans 20 years we have had to find three actors for each part – to play the comedians as children, teenagers and men. We were looking for a specific Eric or Ernie quality at each age and, once we found it, the rest was up to the make-up department to match their hair and eye colour."

The story is at once a fascinating look at the showbusiness of the Forties and Fifties and also a celebration of family and friendship. "Sadie did originally encourage Eric to become a performer as she felt he would not be happy in an ordinary job, and she also spotted the potential in him teaming up with Ernie.

"But the drama also focuses on the strength of the bond between the two men, which enabled them to overcome the flop that was their first foray into television."

The story starts in the late-Thirties and runs up to 1954 – the year of Morecambe and Wise's first television series, Running Wild.

"We toyed with the idea of using puppets to play the young Eric and Ernie," said Victoria. "But, in the end, sanity prevailed and we have our three Erics and three Ernies of different ages. We could only run to one Sadie, however, so I am hoping to show the passage of time by smiling a lot when Sadie is young, then wearing a different coat."

The drama is being made with the support and involvement of both Morecambe and Wise's families.

Gary Morecambe, Eric's son, comments: "It's such a genuine thrill to see a film about the early days of Morecambe and Wise being helmed by someone of the calibre of Victoria Wood. It is the greatest possible tribute to the double act."

Janice Hadlow, Controller BBC Two, comments: "The casting of so many brilliantly and naturally funny people in these roles is a truly fitting way to celebrate the lives and careers of two of Britain's best-loved comedy superstars."

Piers Wenger, Head of Drama, BBC Wales, adds: "Pete Bowker's passion for Morecambe and Wise is clear from his beautifully written script. He and Victoria have worked meticulously for the last 18 months to uncover a story which celebrates the life and legend of Eric and Ernie and gives insight into a period of their lives which remains as yet unexplored."

The cast list also includes Bryan Dick (He Kills Coppers) as Ernie Wise; Daniel Rigby (The Street) as Eric Morecambe; Reece Shearsmith (Psychoville, The League Of Gentlemen) as Harry Wiseman, Ernie's dad; and Emer Kenny (EastEnders) as Joan, Eric's wife.

Written by Peter Bowker (Blackpool, Occupation), the producer is Timothy Bricknell (No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency) and the director is Jonny Campbell (Shameless, Ashes To Ashes). The executive producers are Piers Wenger, Beth Willis and Victoria Wood.

Morecambe & Wise was commissioned by Janice Hadlow, Controller, BBC Two, and Ben Stephenson, Controller, BBC Drama. Commissioning.

AF

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