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The Journey: Picture of Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney as first ministers gets mixed reaction

By Rebecca Black

The first images to emerge of two top actors tackling the toughest roles of their lives as former First and Deputy First Ministers have sparked a mixed reaction.

Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney are captured deep in character as the late Lord Paisley and current Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The journey which led to the former firebrand preacher who vehemently opposed Sinn Fein in government but developed a warm friendship with the former IRA commander has fascinated onlookers.

The closeness of the former enemies, who earned the nickname the Chuckle Brothers, has inspired a new film - The Journey - which is currently being filmed around Northern Ireland.

Spall cuts a familiar figure with the broad shoulders and firm jawline of the staunch unionist leader turned power-sharing peacemaker. Meaney is perhaps less instantly recognisable in his role but nevertheless appears to have captured the posture of the Sinn Fein man.

DUP Assemblyman Edwin Poots, who was a close friend of Lord Paisley, said he could see the likeness.

"Ian Paisley was a larger than life character in so many ways - there is a likeness, they have made a reasonable effort but that is as far as it goes," he said. "It'll be hard to capture his personality."

Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff said Meaney was "the right man for the job" as Mr McGuinness.

"He's got the hair," he quipped.

Written by novelist Colin Bateman, the film centres on a fictional journey by one-time sworn enemies Lord Bannside and Mr McGuinness during a pivotal era in the peace process.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson - who served as a junior minister under Mr Paisley as First Minister - said he was confident Spall could portray his former leader well.

"Timothy Spall looks good as Ian Paisley and such an accomplished actor will have studied carefully the characteristics and mannerisms of the 'big man'," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Whilst Colm Meaney will struggle a bit to create a resemblance to Martin McGuinness, he certainly is a great actor and no doubt will rise to the challenge."

Mr Donaldson said he is looking forward to watching the film, but has reservations over whether it is historically accurate.

"I am really looking forward to the film and I hope that it is faithful to the true story and doesn't try to rewrite the history of the period."

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