Swank to star in Comic Relief film

Hilary Swank is to star with Brenda Blethyn in a new TV film for Comic Relief highlighting the plight of malaria victims.

Mary And Martha, written by Notting Hill's Richard Curtis, tells the story of an American woman and an English woman who find themselves brought together after they both lose their sons to malaria. The 90-minute film will be directed by Salt's Phillip Noyce and will air on BBC One and HBO.

Hilary, who plays American mother Mary said: "I've long admired Phillip's work and we've been wanting to work together for years. When he 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."

Pride And Prejudice star Brenda said: "This long overdue story of Mary And Martha is Richard Curtis at his best. "

In the film Mary takes her young son, George, played by Lux Hanley Jardine, to Africa, promising adventure and fun when he contracts the disease, while Martha's son, Ben, played by Snow White And The Hunstman's Sam Claflin, dies while working as a volunteer in Mozambique.

Mary returns to America and begins a one-woman campaign to raise awareness of the disease, while Martha volunteers at the orphanage where her son worked. The two end up joining forces to try and make a difference.

Richard said: "I've always wanted to write a film about the fact that when you have children, there's always the possibility of extreme joy and extreme sorrow. And over the years working with Comic Relief, I have come across the tragedy of the startling number of lives taken by malaria every year."