Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn cast in new Richard Curtis film

Mary & Martha will be screened on BBC1 in the run-up to Comic Relief 2013

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Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn cast in new Richard Curtis film
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Ellie Walker-Arnott

Oscar-winner Hilary Swank and British actress Brenda Blethyn will star in Mary & Martha, a new 90-minute film written by Richard Curtis to raise awareness of lives lost to malaria in Africa. 

The powerful film, directed by Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games, Rabbit-Proof Fence), will be shown on BBC1 in the build-up to Red Nose Day 2013. 

Curtis, who has penned hits such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, said: "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 a chance to write about that, as well as working with a team of people I hugely admire: Brenda Blethyn, Hilary Swank and the great Australian director, Phillip Noyce." 

Swank and Blethyn will play an American and an English woman who are driven together when they both lose sons to malaria.  

The tragic story sees Mary's young son, George, contracting the disease after she takes him to Africa, promising adventure, and Martha's son dying while working as a volunteer in Mozambique. In the aftermath, Mary (Swank) returns to America to raise awareness of the disease as Martha (Blethyn) follows in her son's footsteps and volunteers at the orphanage where he had worked. The two women soon join forces. 

Swank said: "When [Philip Noyce] shared with me this extraordinary story and I read Richard's beautiful script, I was inspired by the creative possibilities of working with them to tell this remarkable journey of two women from completely different worlds who collided then forged an unbreakable friendship full of humour and grace."

Blethyn added: "I'm thrilled to be working with the wonderfully inspiring director Phillip Noyce, and to be sharing the screen with the classy and totally brilliant Hilary Swank."

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