Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent to team up for crime drama

  • Bang Showbiz
  • 4 October 2019
Jim Broadbent

Jim Broadbent

Dame Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent are in talks to star in a true crime movie about a stolen painting from director Roger Michell

Dame Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent are in talks to star in a true crime movie about a stolen painting.

The Oscar-winning stars are in final negotiations to appear in 'Notting Hill' director Roger Michell's upcoming tale of the 1961 theft of Francisco de Goya's 1812 portrait of the Duke of Wellington.

According to the Daily Mail newspaper's columnist Baz Bamigboye, the filmmaker wants the movie – which is about to be green-lit by Pathe UK – to have "the raw, working-class grittiness and humour of British New Wave movies" from the 1960s.

The painting was stolen just 19 days after it went on display at the National Gallery, prompting alerts to be posted at airports and seaports around the world and a $5,000 reward to be offered.

Police asked Interpol and FBI to check with art world sources in case it was being auctioned on the black market but eventually an anonymous letter was sent to a newspaper, demanding a charity donation of £140,000 – the artwork's then-worth – to pay for TV licenses for poor people.

Further letters were sent to the Daily Mirror newspaper, with one stating: "The Duke is safe, his temperature cared for, his future uncertain."

In June 1965, a letter was sent to the publication with a left luggage ticket for Birmingham New Street train station, and the painting was eventually found there, rolled up inside a locked box, though it remained unclear how it had got there.

Eventually, 61-year-old retired bus driver Kempton Bunton claimed he had stolen it to protest against pensioners having to pay for a TV license and hit it in the back of a wardrobe in his home in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He didn't tell his wife May about it because "otherwise the world would have known" but eventually confessed to her.

However, a National Archive file released in 2012 revealed Kempton's son, John, confessed to the theft in 1969.