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Tim Brannigan signs movie deal with Oscar-winning producer

Tim Brannigan says the star of a planned movie of his life story will be his late mother Peggy. Picture by Mal McCann

The extraordinary life story of a west Belfast man is to be turned into a film by an Oscar-winning Hollywood producer.

Tim Brannigan, author of Where Are You Really From?, has signed a movie deal with Birdman and Black Mass producer John Lesher.

The US film-maker won an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2014 for Birdman, starring Michael Keaton.

Last year, he produced Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp and telling the story of notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger.

Like the book, the film will tell the story of Tim's late mother Peggy's fleeting extramarital affair with a Ghanaian doctor and the pregnancy she hid from her husband and family.

After giving birth to Tim in May 1966 she immediately placed him into the care of nuns at the Nazerath Lodge orphanage.

She kept in touch with her son, however, including taking him to her home for weekend visits with the rest of the Brannigan family.

After almost a year, Peggy brought Tim home permanently and pretended she had adopted him, though she kept the true nature of their relationship secret from her family – and from Tim, who only found she was his real mother when he was 19.

The film will span more than four decades and tell the story of how Tim travelled to Africa as an adult to seek out his father, who had a wife and family of his own in Ghana.

It will also cover the author's time in jail as a republican prisoner. In 1990 he was sentenced to seven years in prison when caught in possession of IRA weapons.

After his release in 1995, Tim pursued a career as a journalist, working for Reuters, GMTV and The Irish News.

He published his book in 2010.

He said he was thrilled that his life story was being turned into a movie by a "modern Hollywood great".

"Since the book came out there's been a great deal of interest from filmmakers but getting John Lesher on board has surpassed all my expectations," he said.

Tim said the star of the story is his mother Peggy, whose "resilience and love" help rescue him from a potential life of misery.

"While it's based on my book and is my story, the key character is my mum, whose actions and bravery, especially on the day I was born, were remarkable," he said.

"I hope it'll add to the recent string of film and TV successes produced here in the north."

Asked who might play him in the forthcoming film, Tim paused: "No idea – I just hope they do a decent Belfast accent."

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