Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn to star in new Richard Curtis film for BBC One

A world class mix of talent has been assembled for Richard Curtis’ new film for BBC One, a story that is heartbreaking and uplifting all at once..."Danny Cohen, Controller, BBC One
Date: 17.07.2012     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.12
Category: BBC One; Drama
Hilary Swank (Academy Award winner) and Brenda Blethyn (BAFTA/Golden Globe winner) have been cast to star in Mary & Martha, a powerful new 90-minute single film written by Richard Curtis (The Girl In The Café, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, Love Actually) and directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt, The Bone Collector, Catch A Fire, Rabbit-Proof Fence).

The film will be made by Working Title Television for BBC One and HBO Films, and shown in the UK during the run up to Red Nose Day.

Mary & Martha stars Hilary Swank as Mary and Brenda Blethyn as Martha, an American and an English woman who have little in common apart from the one terrible thing - they both lose sons to malaria. Mary takes her young son, George (Lux Hanley Jardine), to Africa, promising adventure and fun when he contracts the disease, while Martha’s son, Ben (Sam Claflin), dies while working as a volunteer in Mozambique. Mary returns to America and begins a one woman campaign to raise awareness of the disease – while Martha herself volunteers at the orphanage where Ben worked.

Both of them find their new lives hard and complicated but finally, together, the two immensely different women join forces, and go on an epic journey to try and make a difference in the world.

Richard Curtis and Phillip Noyce mix comedy and humanity in with the tragedy and seriousness of the subject matter, with two great actresses who are top of their game.

Writer Richard Curtis says: “I’ve always wanted to write a film about the fact that when you have children, there’s always the possibility of extreme joy and extreme sorrow. And over the years working with Comic Relief, I have come across the tragedy of the startling number of lives taken by malaria every year. This film gives me a chance to write about that too – as well as working with a team of people I hugely admire – Brenda Blethyn, Hilary Swank and the great Australian director, Phillip Noyce.”

Hilary Swank, playing Mary, says: “I've long admired Phillip's work and we've been wanting to work together for years. When he shared with me this extraordinary story and I read Richard's beautiful script, I was inspired by the creative possibilities of working with them and Working Title to tell this remarkable journey of two women from completely different worlds who collided then forged an unbreakable friendship full of humour and grace. I look forward to working with them and the fantastic Brenda Blethyn on this special film.”

Brenda Blethyn, playing Martha, says: “This long overdue story of Mary & Martha is Richard Curtis at his best. A remarkable story of the courage, dignity and humour of two very different women in their effort to make the world a better place. I’m thrilled to be working with the wonderfully inspiring director Phillip Noyce, and to be sharing the screen with the classy and totally brilliant Hilary Swank. What more do you need to know?”

Danny Cohen, Controller of BBC One, says: “A world class mix of talent has been assembled for Richard Curtis’ new film for BBC One, a story that is heartbreaking and uplifting all at once - and one that I’m humbled to be in a position to commission as part of the channel’s Comic Relief schedule for 2013.”

Filming began this week and is taking place in America and South Africa.

Mary & Martha has been commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning and Danny Cohen, Controller BBC One.

The executive producers are Juliette Howell, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, and Liza Chasin for Working Title Television and Lucy Richer for the BBC. The producers are Genevieve Hofmeyr and Hilary Bevan Jones.