The first shots from fictional comedic drama “The Journey” show big-screen actor Timothy Spall taking on the dubious task of portraying the larger than life former Northern Ireland First Minister and Democratic Unionist leader, Ian Paisley.
Starring opposite veteran Irish actor Colm Meaney (best known for roles in “Star Trek,” “The Snapper,” “Into the West” and “Con Air”) who plays ex-IRA commander and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Spall (of “Harry Potter,” “The King’s Speech” and “Sweeney Todd” fame) will portray the fledgling stages of Paisley’s friendship with his former enemy, McGuinness.
“The Journey” is a fictitious account of a trip taken by Paisley and McGuinness in which the pair begin to see eye-to-eye for the first time, taking the first steps towards collaboration and power-sharing.
Paisley, the feverishly loyalist politician and Protestant religious leader who vowed never to meet with a member of Sinn Féin and who was occasionally dubbed Dr. No for his famous saying “never, never, never,” not only came to work with McGuinness, former commander of the IRA in his hometown of Derry, but came to think of him as a friend.
Although not entirely historically accurate, “The Journey” will explore how two sworn enemies came to share power in 2007.
The pair's unlikely friendship led to the Northern Irish media nicknaming them “The Chuckle Brothers” after the English comedic double-act.
The former First Minister of Northern Ireland and his deputy McGuinness remained friends after Paisley left office and right up to his death in September 2014, in a bond that is believed to have been formed over their shared strong religious beliefs. McGuinness is reported to have held back tears as he spoke about losing his former enemy, turned friend.
Very sad to learn that Ian Paisley has died.My deepest sympathy to his wife Eileen & family.Once political opponents - I have lost a friend.— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) September 12, 2014
“Over a number of decades we were political opponents and held very different views on many, many issues, but the one thing we were absolutely united on was the principle that our people were better able to govern themselves than any British government,” he said in a tribute to Dr. Paisley.
“In the brief period that we worked together in the office of the First and Deputy First Minister I developed a close working relationship with him which developed into a friendship, which, despite our many differences, lasted beyond his term in office.”
Filming on “The Journey” began on September 28 on set in Belfast and in Scotland.
Other big names joining Meaney and Spall in the lineup are Freddie Highmore (Charlie in the recent adaptation of “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory”) as a young government employee tasked with driving McGuinness and Paisley on their trip, Toby Stephens (former Bond villain in “Die Another Day”) as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Sir John Hurt as a political fixer tasked with overseeing the St. Andrew’s Agreement that lead to the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2007.
Financed by IM Global with Lipsync and Northern Ireland Screen, “The Journey” will see Belfast-born director Nick Hamm (“Killing Bono”) work on the dramatic comedy written by Co. Down novelist and screenwriter Colin Bateman.