A Passionate Woman debuted on screen nearly two decades after it began life at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1992 before becoming a worldwide smash hit play. Set in Leeds and written by local screenwriter Kay Mellor, A Passionate Woman stars Billie Piper as a young wife and mother who falls in love with her Polish neighbour in 1950’s Britain, only for her affair to implode 30 years later on her son’s wedding day. A Passionate Woman was filmed at locations across West Yorkshire in autumn 2009. Screen Yorkshire invested in the film through its Production Fund and provided locations and crewing support. A two part dramatisation of A Passionate Woman will screened on BBC One.
West Yorkshire locations used for the shoot included Roundhay Park (Leeds), Hyde Terrace (Hyde Park, Leeds), Hyde Park Cinema (Leeds), Blenheim Square (Leeds), Leeds City Centre Market, Kings Hall Ilkley, Studio 81 Leeds and St Lukes (Bradford).
Set in Leeds in the Fifties Cold War period, Billie Piper stars as Betty, a young wife and mother who reluctantly falls passionately and hopelessly in love with her charismatic Polish neighbour, Alex Crazenovski, played by Theo James. But little does Betty know that some 30 years later, in Eighties Thatcherite Britain, her affair will implode on her beloved son Mark’s wedding day. Mark as an adult is played by Andrew Lee Potts (Primeval). Sue Johnston (The Turn Of The Screw, Waking The Dead), stars as Betty in the Eighties opposite Alun Armstrong (New Tricks) who plays her devoted, if dull, husband, Donald. The younger Donald is played by Alun Armstrong’s real-life son Joe Armstrong (Robin Hood). Frances Barber (The Street) plays Betty’s sister, Margaret, who is always there for her sibling through thick and thin, and in her younger years aided and abetted Betty’s affair. Rachel Leskovac(Coronation Street, Holby City) plays Margaret in the Fifties.
Kay Mellor, one of Britain’s leading TV writers, has penned numerous hit dramas including The Chase, Fat Friends, Playing The Field and the seminal Band Of Gold alongside feature films Girls’ Night and Fanny and Elvis. She was awarded on OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2009.
Kay Mellor says:
“Mum and I were washing-up one day when she confided in me she’d had an affair before I was born, when she and my dad lived in the poorer area of Leeds. The affair ended when her lover was suddenly killed. I realised she’d kept this secret for 30 years and that she still loved this man. Years later, my younger brother was getting married and I saw that same pain on her face. I knew these two periods of mum’s life were intrinsically linked and I was compelled to write the play A Passionate Woman for the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It transferred to the West End and there was lots of interest in the film rights, but I feared it would become Cher on a roof-top in Detroit so I held onto them. Now, with the BBC and Screen Yorkshire’s support, it’s the project I want it to be. Three years ago mum died and I suppose the film is a way of bringing her back for me.”
A Passionate Woman is co-directed by Kay Mellor (Fanny And Elvis) and Antonia Bird (Cracker, Rehab, Safe), with Screen Yorkshire investing and Exec Producing and Carey Fitzgerald’s High Point Films, the theatrical sales arm of High Point Media Group, handling sales. The producer for Rollem Productions is Yvonne Francas (The Chase, Fat Friends, Strictly Confidential) and executive producers are Nicola Shindler (Sunshine, Hillsborough, Queer As Folk), Hugo Heppell at Screen Yorkshire and Polly Hill at the BBC. A Passionate Woman was commissioned for the BBC by Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, and Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC One.
Hugo Heppell, Executive Producer of A Passionate Woman and Head of Production at Screen Yorkshire, said:
“We are thrilled to have been able to help Kay Mellor bring her much cherished, worldwide smash hit play, A Passionate Woman, to the screen. Featuring stellar British talent including Billie Piper, Sue Johnston, Alun Armstrong and newcomer Theo James, A Passionate Woman will no doubt be one of the stand-out productions of 2010, just as Red Riding was of 2009. We believe the feature film version, co-directed by Antonia Bird and Kay Mellor, will have huge appeal for international audiences and festivals and brilliantly evokes the time ‘Room At The Top’ put Yorkshire on the world cinema map. “