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Filming to begin on Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness 'Chuckle Brothers' comedy drama 'The Journey'

Published 29/09/2015

Chuckle Brothers: Ian Paisley with Martin McGuinness during their time as First Minister and Deputy First Minister
Chuckle Brothers: Ian Paisley with Martin McGuinness during their time as First Minister and Deputy First Minister
Timothy Spall will play Ian Paisley
Actor Colm Meaney is to play Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness.

Filming is to begin tomorrow of the comedy drama The Journey, which tells the story of the unlikely friendship between the late Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

The film will tell the story of how the one-time enemies came together to herald the beginning of a new power-sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.

How actor Timothy Spall could look in his role as Ian Paisley
How actor Timothy Spall could look in his role as Ian Paisley

Timothy Spall has been cast as the the late Rev Ian Paisley with Colm Meaney playing ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness.

Sir John Hurt has been lined up to play the role of a veteran political fixer with the task of over-seeing the St Andrews Agreement while Toby Stephens - a former James Bond villain - will play Tony Blair.

Freddy Highmore who came to prominence in the title role in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory has been cast as a young civil servant tasked with bringing Paisley and McGuinness together.

The film is directed by Belfast-born Nick Hamm and written by acclaimed Co Down author Colin Bateman. Production will take place in parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland.

On Tuesday, Bateman took to Facebook to tell his many followers that filming was to begin tomorrow.

He spoke of the journey from being hot property in Hollywood in the 1990s "albeit in a small British way" to going cold overnight and having no contact with the movie business for 15 years.

Ironically his last contact was with director Nick Hamm who informed him his novel Empire State would never make the silver screen because it was "so politically incorrect", scotching his hopes Bruce Willis would star.

"Then just over a year ago a call from my agent," said Bateman.

"A director was looking for a writer for a proposed movie about the relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, was I interested?

"She added that every other writer approached had turned it down because although it's a great story, it seemed unlikely that anyone would invest the millions required to bring the script to screen.

"The prospect of spending months on research and writing a screenplay for something that wasn't going to get made wasn't exactly enticing.

"But I said yes, because I like to eat.

"The director? The same Nick Hamm who ruined my Bruce Willis dreams."

He added: "Tomorrow, after an incredibly short and somewhat surreal development process, which has taken me from the New York penthouse of a Hollywood superstar to the Bogside headquarters of Martin McGuinness, the cameras turn on 'The Journey', starring Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, John Hurt and Freddie Highmore, and hopefully coming to a cinema near you some time next year."

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

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.

The warmth between the men took many by surprise given Mr McGuinness' background as a senior IRA man and Mr Paisley's long opposition to Sinn Fein and protracted refusal to talk to any of its members.

It is believed part of their bond was down to each's strong religious beliefs.

The senior Sinn Fein man and the founder of the DUP stayed in contact, and Mr McGuinness visited Lord Bannside when he fell ill shortly before his death last year.


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