Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellan begin filming BBC2’s The Dresser

Screen stars appear on tv together for the first time

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Filming has commenced on the new BBC Two adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen.

Adapted by Richard Eyre, The Dresser is the revered British play that tells the story of one fateful night in a small regional theatre during World War Two as a troupe of touring actors stage a production of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Bombs are falling, the sirens are wailing, the curtain is up in an hour but the actor/manager Sir who is playing Lear is nowhere to be seen. His dresser Norman must scramble to keep the production alive but will Sir turn up in time and if he does will he be able to perform that night?

The stellar cast also includes Emily Watson (The Theory of Everything) as ‘Her Ladyship’; Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley) as stage manager ‘Madge’; Vanessa Kirby as ‘Irene’, Edward Fox as ‘Thornton’, Tom Brooke as ‘Oxenby/Edmond’, John Ashton as ‘Gloucester’, Ian Conningham as ‘Kent’, Annalisa Rossi as ‘Goneril’, Helen Bradbury as ‘Regan’, Carl Sanderson as ‘Cornwall’, Matthew Cottle as ‘Albany’ and Martin Chamberlain as ‘Gentleman’.

Colin Callender, Executive Producer for Playground Entertainment, says: “There is a long, rich tradition of British television honouring the text of the great British play and presenting audiences with virtuoso renditions of them on the screen as the playwright originally wrote them. The single drama is an endangered species in both film and television and this production is a harking back to the great days of Play for Today and testament to the commitment of the BBC and Starz to bring quality drama to the screen. It is also testament to the enduring power of Ronald Harwood’s glorious writing that we have been able to bring together such a wonderful creative team from the worlds of film, television and the theatre.”

Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, adds: “To bring such incredible and world-class talent together for The Dresser is testament to Ronald’s wonderful play, which is as current and witty today as it was in 1980. With Anthony and Ian at the helm of the drama and such an array of supporting stars – the audience is in for a once-in-a-lifetime treat.”

The drama is produced by Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment and Sonia Friedman Productions for BBC Two and Starz

The Dresser will shoot in and around London and will transmit later this year on BBC Two.