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Interview: Steve Coogan Talks Nonfiction Drama ‘Philomena’ and Altering Fact for Greater Truth

Philomena

What does it mean for a movie to be “based on a true story”? In the case of Philomena, it means borrowing real events and people and reworking them to fit a thematic narrative. Often that infusion of fiction and dramatization brings about a greater truth, and in this new release that greater truth being communicated is that there is still room for sincerity and love in this cynical, post-modern world.

Adapted from Martin Sixsmith‘s nonfiction book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee — or really just adapted from the epilogue — Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope’s award-winning script takes great artistic license with its source material, and that’s okay. The movie, directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen), is an intelligent, funny, well-acted and honest, if not always factually accurate, account of a journalist (Coogan, as Sixsmith) and an older woman (Dame Judi Dench) investigating what became of the son that was taken from her 50 years earlier by Catholic nuns.

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