Belfast Telegraph

Frears teased Dench on Philomena

Stephen Frears joked about replacing Dame Judi Dench with Dame Helen Mirren on the set of his film Philomena, it has been revealed.

Judi stars in the movie as an Irish Catholic who tries to find the child she was forced to give up for adoption, and her co-star Steve Coogan said that when the actress queried things on set, their director Stephen would tease her about getting Helen to take her place, reported Variety.

Steve said: "(Judi) liked (Stephen) because he teased her a lot and didn't show this huge deference that I think probably lots of Americans would. She would say, 'Well, why don't we do it like this? It strikes me as rather odd that we're doing it like this.' And he'd say, 'Is she being difficult? Has anyone got Helen Mirren's number?'."

Actor and comedian Steve co-wrote the film, in which he plays journalist Martin Sixsmith, who helps Philomena to find her son.

Speaking at a Variety Screening Series showing of the movie, he said: "As I was writing it, I was putting more of myself into it and I thought, well no one's ever going to offer me this part so as a producer, I'll give it to myself as an early Christmas present."

He confessed he battled the nerves when it came to sharing the screen with Judi, but having penned his own part helped.

"I was a bit worried obviously about acting opposite her, having defeated stiff competition to get the part," he joked.

"But I thought I could do it because it was tailored for me and then when Judi came along, we wrote it for her. The scenes when it's just her face and no one else and you're alone with her thoughts - that was deliberate. Partly because we were all thinking, 'Well we've got Judi Dench ... We can just have the still moments'."

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