We previously reported that Stephen Frears (The Queen) is attached to direct Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Film, and from our interview with on the film’s stars, Benjamin Walker, it looks like that will be Frears’ follow-up to the disappointing Lay the Favorite. The director is also the frontrunner to helm a Freddie Mercury biopic, and now Variety reports that he’s set to direct Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in Philomena. Based on a true story, the film centers on Philomena Lee (Dench), an Irish woman seeking the illegitimate son she was forced to put up for adoption. Coogan will play former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith, who helped Lee locate her son.
Hit the jump for more.
According to Variety‘s synopsis, Lee gave birth to a son at Sean Ross Abbey, a Catholic home for unmarried mothers in Tipperary. Three years later, the nuns forced her to give up the boy and sign a document promising she would never look for him. After moving to England and having a family, she met Sixsmith in 2004 and the two resolved to track down Lee’s son.
Her son’s story is also fascinating. Per Variety:
They learned that the boy, whose birth name was Anthony, had been renamed Michael Hess, and grew up to become a lawyer and Republican politician in the 1980s. But he was also a closeted homosexual with AIDS. Lee discovered that, with his time running out, her son had travelled to Ireland to plead with the convent to reveal the identity of his mother so he could meet her before he died, but the nuns refused.
It sounds like a tearjerker, and I’m curious to see how Frears keeps the emotional power of the story without being sappy. There’s no word if Philomena will be his follow-up to Muhammad Ali or if he’ll go with his Freddie Mercury biopic assuming he gets the gig.