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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 September, 2003, 20:27 GMT 21:27 UK
Calendar Girls grace red carpet
Julie Walters and Helen Mirren
Julie Walters and Helen Mirren are the stars of the movie
Dame Helen Mirren and Julie Walters trod the red carpet at the UK première of Calendar Girls, alongside the ladies who inspired the film.

Members of the Rylstone Women's Institute were among the guests at the screening in London's Leicester Square.

The film is based on the story of how they stripped off for a WI calendar to raise almost £600,000 for charity.

Calendar Girls has already been tipped for worldwide success, following early rave reviews.

Dame Helen and Walters were joined at the première by co-stars Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Geraldine James and John Alderton.

Tricia Stewart, who Dame Helen's character is based on, was overwhelmed with the excitement of being at the première of a film based on her life experiences.

"It's unbelievable to be walking down the red carpet, and I'm delighted by the way the film has turned out."

Musical

Although Ms Stewart has her feet firmly on the ground even after seeing her life on the big screen, she still envisions more for the Calendar Girls story.

"I can see Calendar Girls being turned into a musical, the way the Full Monty was," she said.

Angela Baker, Julie Walters, Helen Mirren and Tricia Stewart
The film is based on the lives of Angela Baker (l) and Tricia Stewart (r)
But she added: "There's no way I would be getting up on stage, I can't sing."

Calendar Girls tells the story of how Ms Stewart came up with the idea for the naked charity calendar when her friend Angela Baker's husband John died of leukaemia five years ago.

They had hoped to raise a few hundred pounds for their local hospital near Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales.

But the stunt caught the public's imagination and the middle-aged ladies became international celebrities, as well as raising nearly £600,000 for the Leukaemia Research Fund.

Despite a largely female cast, Dame Helen believes that the story has something to offer everyone.

"I don't think the men will be coming for the naked women," she joked to BBC News Online.

"But the men I have spoken to who have seen it loved it.

"It's funny, it's humorous and human and will appeal to both female and male audiences, it's just a matter of getting them into the theatres."

Home debut

Speaking at the première, director Nigel Cole said he would be taking all the ladies - the actresses and WI members - to the after-show party.

"They're all gorgeous women and they really know how to party."

Other guests at the première included John Hannah, June Whitfield, Stephen Tompkinson and government communications director Alastair Campbell, who ran the London Marathon in aid of the Leukaemia Research Fund.

The Rylstone WI hopes eventually to raise £1m for the charity.

Calendar Girls will have a gala premiere in Leeds on Wednesday night and, later, a special screening in Skipton.

It opens nationwide on 12 September and is due for release in the US later in the year.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rosie Millard
"The film has been carefully marketed"



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