Dame Julie Walters has been forced to step back from her role in Channel 4 drama Truelove due to health issues.
The Mamma Mia star, 73, from Edgbaston, who was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer in 2018, has had a seven-year hiatus from TV having last been on screen in Channel 4’s National Treasure in 2016.
Lindsay Duncan will replace Dame Julie Walters when filming for Truelove starts in Bristol later this year, after previously being delayed because Julie was experiencing severe back pain.
A spokesperson for Clerkenwell Films, which is producing the six-episode series, showed their support for Julie’s decision not to go ahead with her role as Phil in Truelove.
“Last year, filming on Truelove was paused while Julie Walters sought medical advice and attention for severe back pain,” Deadline reports.
“Subsequently, Julie has decided to step back from the project to focus on her recovery and recuperation, and so will not be returning to the role of Phil. We wholeheartedly support her decision, and the entire cast, crew and production team wish her the very best and a speedy recovery.
“We are delighted that Lindsay Duncan will be stepping into the role of Phil. We’re excited to see what she brings to this complex and captivating character when we restart filming later this year.”
Dame Julie, who has had starring roles in iconic films such as Harry Potter and Paddington, has given her blessing to Lindsay and all of the cast members have agreed to return to filming.
Truelove explores the ethical question of if it is ever right to help end a life, after former teenage sweethearts are reunited in their 70s at a friend’s funeral and make a drunken pact to ensure they each have a dignified death.
Dame Julie previously told journalist Victoria Derbyshire that her cancer diagnosis provided a “strange” relief that she wouldn’t have to work anymore. The actress explained that the diagnosis came as a shock but she felt that she needed something to stop her from working so hard.
She admitted that the “smart, funny and hard edged” character of Phil tempted her to get back to work.
Dame Julie said: “I had basically withdrawn from acting and wasn’t sure that anything could tempt me back but then I read Truelove.
"I was completely bowled over by the writing - the dark humour, the love story and the thriller element set against a backdrop of what happens to us all as we approach our later years."