Filmmaker Trevor Nunn surprised Red Joan film rights were available

Dame Judi Dench was thrilled to work with her old pal on the real-life drama.

Red Joan director Trevor Nunn was surprised to learn the film rights to author Jennie Rooney's book had not been snapped up when he decided to reach out to the writer.

The theatre impresario and filmmaker found her book, which was inspired by the true story of Melita Norwood - a British scientist and civil servant who gave secrets to Russia through her job at a facility researching the construction of an atom bomb, a riveting read, and wondered why it had never been released as a movie.

"These days, when you get to the end of a book, there’s not only a biographical note about the author but there’s an email address for your feedback, and I used it to say: 'I’m absolutely sure that the film rights have gone a long time ago but definitely this should be a movie'," Nun explains.

"Almost by return I got an email back from the writer, Jennie Rooney, saying: 'No, the film rights have not gone and I cannot think of anything more exciting'."

Nunn quickly claimed them and then took the project to old pal Dame Judi Dench, who he first worked with on the stage in 1969.

She jumped at the chance to play the older Joan, who is arrested and charged with breaching the official secrets act.

"Strangely enough I didn’t know the story (about Norwood), so I knew nothing about her," the actress tells WENN. "She’s just a very ordinary person, living in an unremarkable house who, in her 70s was uncovered as one of the Cambridge Spy ring. She was very very good at just keeping it to herself.

"She had great belief in what she was doing, knew why she was doing it, and kept it to herself. She says in the film that it was (the bombing of) Hiroshima (in 1945) that gave her the conviction of wanting to do such a thing. I remember that time, the shock of it, and I can understand the idea of somebody wanting to 'even things out', as she says.

"There will be a huge element of surprise maybe, to a young audience, that such a thing went on. We know of MI5 and MI6 and how vigilant they have to be. We know there must be people everywhere picking up information. But this was during a war."

Red Joan is released later this month (Apr19).

© Cover Media

Tell us what you think...