Neeson and Nesbitt to star in one-off Troubles drama

Michael Quinn

Two of Northern Ireland’s biggest names are to appear on screen together for the first time in a new drama about a notorious murder during the Troubles.

Oscar-nominated Liam Neeson and television favourite James Nesbitt will begin filming Five Minutes in Heaven in Belfast later this month for BBC 2 in a co-production between BBC Northern Ireland, Big Fish Films and Ruby Films.

Written by Guy Hibbert, whose Omagh for Channel 4 in 2004 dramatised the worst atrocity of the four-decade-long Troubles, the work will focus on the murder of Jim Griffin, a 19-year-old Catholic, in 1975 by Alistair Little, a 17-year-old member of the UVF Protestant paramilitary group, and the devastating effect it had on the victim’s family.

Neeson is expected to play Little as a grown man with Nesbitt playing the now grown-up brother of Griffin, who witnessed the murder as an 11-year-old at the time.

The one-off drama will be directed by the German director Oliver Hirschbiegel, whose film of the last days of Hitler, Downfall, was critically acclaimed on its release in 2005.

BBC Northern Ireland’s head of drama, Patrick Spence, said, “Northern Ireland is a society emerging from conflict. We wanted to produce a film, which, in a responsible way, marks that development. We have done this by recording powerful personal testimonies of the two individuals whose lives have been determined by the Troubles”.

Commissioned by the BBC’s controller of fiction, Jane Tranter, and BBC 2 controller Roly Keating, Five Minutes to heaven is expected to air later this year.

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