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HBO films 'Mary and Martha' starring Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn

Hilary Swank speaks during the 3rd annual amfAR Inspiration Gala New York at The New York Public Library - Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on June 7, 2012 in New York City.
Hilary Swank speaks during the 3rd annual amfAR Inspiration Gala New York at The New York Public Library - Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on June 7, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

HBO has announced that production has begun on "Mary and Martha," a HBO Films presentation starring Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn, in a July 16, 2012, press release. The film also stars James Woods, Frank Grillo, Ian Redford and Stephanie Faracy. Production has begun in South Africa and North Carolina.

Hilary Swank (Oscar® winner for “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby”) and Brenda Blethyn (Oscar® nominee for “Secrets & Lies” and “Little Voice”), star as two mothers who bond over the mutual loss of their sons to malaria. The film is directed by Phillip Noyce (“Salt,” “The Quiet American”) from a screenplay written by Richard Curtis (Oscar® nominee for “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” Emmy® winner for HBO’s “The Girl in the Café”).

“We were especially attracted to Richard Curtis’ approach to the story – bringing a human touch to this serious and often overlooked issue about a disease that is preventable and can be eradicated,” said Len Amato, president, HBO Films, in making the announcement. “In the hands of Philip Noyce, directing these two gifted actresses, the difficult subject matter becomes upliftingly accessible, yet profoundly powerful.”

Hilary Swank stars as an American named Mary and Brenda Blethyn stars as an Englishwoman named Martha. The two women have little in common apart from the one thing they wish they hadn’t – both have lost sons to malaria.

Mary took her young son, George, to South Africa, promising adventure and fun. He subsequently contracted the disease. Martha’s son, Ben, died while working as a volunteer at an orphanage in Mozambique.

The two women are immensely different, but when they meet in Africa, they bond over their shared personal loss. Forging a deep friendship, they vow to dedicate themselves to the cause of malaria prevention, realizing that, as mothers, they have a responsibility to all the world’s children.

Writer Richard Curtis stated in the press release, “I’ve always wanted to write a film about the fact that when you have children, there’s always the possibility of extreme joy and extreme sorrow. And over the years, working with Comic Relief, I have come across the tragedy of the startling number of lives taken by malaria every year. This film gives me achance to write about that too, as well as working with a team of people I hugely admire – Brenda Blethyn, Hilary Swank and the great Australian director, Phillip Noyce.”

"Mary and Martha is an HBO Films Presentation of a WTTV Working Title Television Production, in association with BBC and NBC Universal; executive produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Liza Chasin and Juliette Howell; produced by Genevieve Hofmeyr and Hilary Bevan Jones; director, Phillip Noyce; screenplay written by Richard Curtis.

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