Cinema fans flocked to the opening weekend of the Purbeck Film Festival and were treated to a fascinating insight into how actors are cast for leading roles.

Anthony Fabian, who directed Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, told a packed audience at the Rex in Wareham on Saturday, that the casting process in the industry was “ludicrous.”

He revealed how he had to battle to have Lesley Manville in the lead role of a widowed working class cleaning lady, because he was told by some of the film’s backers that she “didn’t add value.”

“I was encouraged to try many other people. We were not getting anywhere – it’s a bit of a Cinderella slipper of a role. It does not fit many feet – perhaps only one person.

“The producer said there’s something wrong with your script, they are all turning it down.”

Lesley Manville was nominated for an Oscar for the historical drama Phantom Thread, so Fabian said he renewed his campaign, he was allowed to approach her, she accepted, and is now “unstoppable” he told the audience, which included some high profile actors who made a special journey to support the festival.

Screenwriter Olivia Hetreed told a question and answer session after the filmthat she wanted to portray the joy and fun people wanted in 1950s London after the end of the war, with Mrs Harris “striking a small blow for the working class” in her daring adventure to buy a Dior dress in Paris.

Scores more films will be shown until the end of October in the festival’s 27th year, with more directors due to talk about their work and take questions.

Award winning actor and theatre director Sir Mark Rylance is a patron of the festival this year, showing how highly regarded the event has become.

Ali Ray, who directed Frida Kahlo, which profiles the Mexican painter, will speak about the film on October 19 in the stunning setting of Durlston Castle, while director David Wilkinson will introduce Getting Away With Murder at Poole’s Lighthouse on the 22nd.

Margy Kinmonth will take questions about Eric Ravilious – Drawn To War, the film about the official war artist killed in a plane crash in 1942, showing at The Mowlem in Swanage on October 26.

A number of cinema historians, experts and enthusiasts will introduce other films.

Films range from classics such as Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, and West Side Story, to more recent releases including Belfast (about Branagh’s childhood), Jim Broadbent’s wonderful portrayal of a 60-year-old campaigner turned art thief in The Duke, and a biopic drama about Elvis Presley.

Andrea Etherington, who chairs the Festival, said: “The opening weekend has been a huge success, with people treated to fascinating insights from a top producer and screenwriter.  It was wonderful to see how much the audience enjoyed being able to ask questions of these 2 experts from this recent highly successful film.  We hope the rest of the festival will be just as successful.”

:: Tickets can be booked on purbeckfilm.com


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