Richard Curtis: Malaria film ‘Mary & Martha’ is ‘an autobiography’

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Last night at the BAFTA premiere of his new film for the BBC and HBO, writer Richard Curtis spoke about the personal connection he had with the subject matter of Mary & Martha; malaria.

Airing on BBC One to coincide with Red Nose Day next month, the 90-minute drama stars Hilary Swank as Mary and Brenda Blethyn as Martha, an American and an English woman who have little in common apart from the one terrible thing – they both lose sons to malaria. The pair find their new lives hard and complicated but finally, together, the two immensely different women join forces, and go on an epic journey to try and make a difference in the world.

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Speaking to presenter Lauren Laverne during a Q&A after the screening, the Blackadder creator was asked if the film was inspired by his own experiences. He replied: “It occurred to me today that the film is a sort of autobiography. When I first went to Ethopia in 1985, in the journey which led to Comic Relief and Red Nose Day, I remember coming home and being absolutely startled at the complete disinterest of everybody I knew in what I experienced. I had photographs of all these children [that would die] and I couldn’t hold my friend’s attention.

“The story is kind of based on incident when we were abroad and my son had an anaphylactic fit, or something, and we thought he was in real trouble and I remember carrying him, just like she [Mary in the film] carries ill Paul, into a hospital and there were no doctors there. A lot of the film is based on that experience, and that fear.”

When asked about Mary and Martha’s journey onto becoming campaigners, Curtis added: “That’s what I mean about the autobiography. First, I just wanted to raise money. Then I realised, the inevitable journey towards governments to make changes is the one. It’s something I know to be true and something that I care about.”

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Watch the trailer…