Northern Ireland

The Journey: Timothy Spall lined up for Ian Paisley film role

Timothy Spall Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The actor Timothy Spall is being tipped for one of the lead roles in The Journey

English actor Timothy Spall is in "advanced talks" to star as the late Northern Ireland first minister, Ian Paisley, in a new film.

The Journey will tell the story of the former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader's unlikely friendship with Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness.

The film is being written by the County Down-born novelist and screenwriter Colin Bateman.

Filming is expected to start in Northern Ireland in late September.

The plot of the film centres on a journey Mr Paisley and Mr McGuinness take together that leads them to forge a friendship.

'International appeal'

There had previously been speculation that Liam Neeson and Sir Kenneth Branagh were being lined up to play the former first minister and current deputy first minister of Northern Ireland.

Instead, Timothy Spall - whose films include Mr Turner, The King's Speech, Sweeney Todd, The Damned United and a number of the Harry Potter series - is being tipped for one of the lead roles.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, pictured in 2007, forged an unlikely friendship

According to sources close to the production, Spall is understood to be in "advanced talks" with the film-makers.

No-one has yet been cast as Martin McGuinness, but a decision on that is expected within the next few weeks.

Film critic Brian Henry Martin said that although the film is about two politicians from Northern Ireland, it would have international appeal.

'Positive'

"I think this can work as a drama if it goes behind the scenes, if it tells us something new," he said.

"Our cinemas are full of comic books and fantasy, so why not reality, and why not our story which is a positive one."

The producers and director of The Journey are Mark Huffam, Piers Tempest and Nick Hamm.

They were the team behind the 2011 film Killing Bono, which was also filmed in Northern Ireland.

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