Philomena, starring international treasure Judi Dench and the multi-talented Steve Coogan, is quickly gathering awards acclaim. On Nov. 21 in West Hollywood, Coogan, Sophia Kennedy Clark (who plays the young Philomena), producer Gaby Tana, and composer Alexandre Desplat held a Q & A for Academy voters and tastemakers. The film was directed by the noted Stephen Frears, and written by Coogan and Jeff Pope (Coogan is also one of the co-producers). Philomena has been winning awards at festivals worldwide, and is most certainly a contender in all areas.

The film is funny, heart wrenching, thoughtful and controversial, as it brings up yet one more controversy for the Catholic Church.

Based on the 2009 investigative book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, the film focuses on the efforts of Philomena Lee (Dench), mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock–something her Irish-Catholic community didn’t have the highest opinion of–and given away for adoption in the U.S. In following church doctrine, she was forced to sign a contract that wouldn’t allow for any sort of inquiry into the son’s whereabouts. After starting a family years later in England becoming a nurse and, for the most part, moving on with her life, albeit still hiding this hurtful secret, Lee meets Sixsmith (Coogan), a BBC reporter with whom she decides to seek out her long-lost son. What follows is a road trip of sorts, bonding, forgiveness and tears. Bring tissues, folks.

Coogan explained the genesis of his involvement with the film with some added thoughts. He explained, “I read an article in The Guardian, titled, ‘The Catholic Church Stole My Child,’ and I wept. The story stayed with me. I bought the rights to the book before I even read it. The real life Martin is not as cynical as me; I put myself in that character. The real life Philomena has seen it five times now and has loved it. The fact that audiences are feeling such affection for it is affirming to her. Once she knew she was being honored, she enjoyed the whole process. I didn’t want to cast aspersions on any side really. I tried to make it as balanced as I could. I am a lapsed Catholic, but I do have respect for the practicing that lead their lives with serenity and grace.”

Coogan couldn’t help but add a Hollywood touch, “I got the part because I gave it to myself. I highly recommend it!”

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