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Cover Story: 'GRAVE EXPECTATIONS I was too angry to worry about Tim finding someone else. Luckily, he didn't...; JEMMA REDGRAVE DODGED THE CURSE THAT DOGS HER FAMOUS DYNASTY AND TRIUMPHED OVER HER TROUBLES.

Byline: ALUN PALMER

Most families have a few skeletons rattling around in the closet, but the Redgraves have enough to fill the whole of Ikea. There has been bisexuality, a death from Aids, connections with the Workers' Revolutionary Party and, more recently, Lynn Redgrave's husband fathered a child by their future daughter-in-law. It's enough to make Christmas a somewhat interesting affair.

Fortunately for Jemma Redgrave, her personal traumas - a temporary marriage split and the tragic death of her mother - are now far in the past.

Six years ago, all appeared blissful for the 37-year-old, who co-stars with Charlotte Church in the film I'll Be There. Her marriage to barrister Tim Owen seemed rock solid and, together with their three-year-old son Gabriel, they presented the perfect picture of family life. So it came as a complete shock to everyone when they decided to separate.

Her husband's long hours in court and Jemma's frequent absences while filming were at the root of the split. Tim moved into a flat around the corner from their North London home so that he could see Gabriel regularly, and for 18 months they lived apart. Then they decided to get back together again.

"There were a lot of pressures put on us because of the hours I worked and the hours Tim worked, and it got out of hand," explains Jemma. "We didn't cope with it at all well. In some ways, you cope better before you have children. Suddenly another pressure is brought to bear. It was hard on both of us, but we managed to work through it and I'm so glad we did. It's really been worth all the difficulty. Tim is a wonderful dad. It has made us stronger and I feel very lucky.

"Separating when you still love each other is precarious and could go horribly wrong, but sometimes people settle for an unhappy truce, which is death really. We weren't prepared to do that. Gabriel stayed with Tim at weekends, but he was too little for explanations.

"If your relationship is in a bad way you don't spend a lot of time together. Gabriel was only three and he'd got used to his dad not being around so much.

"I don't know if Tim worried about me falling in love. In the beginning, I was too angry to worry about him finding somebody else and, luckily, he didn't. But later it was a concern. He is a catch - I never had any doubts about that. We'd both say we're not jealous, but I think we are.

"In the beginning we didn't interfere with each other's lives, but we were in contact and we talked a lot. Without Tim, I felt as if I had lost a limb, but it's fine now. It's working."

Soon after they were reunited, Jemma fell pregnant again and the couple had another son, Alfie, now three. What had made the marriage breakdown even harder for Jemma to cope with was the loss of her mother, Deirdre, at the same time

In 1992, former model Deirdre, who was divorced from Jemma's dad Corin in the '70s, was diagnosed with cancer. Her family believed she had finally beaten the disease after a long battle, but following a dinner date in 1997, she died suddenly of pneumonia at the age of 58.

"Mum was coming up to the five-year clear period when she got the secondary tumours," recalls Jemma. "It was terrible. It takes a year after losing a parent to even begin to be normal again. You don't bounce back, it changes your life completely.

"You recover and go on, but life is different afterwards. It's huge and awful and I still miss her terribly. She had cancer for five years and over that time we became incredibly close.

"You are so aware that a clock is ticking. Mum was very strong throughout her illness, which helped us all. The one big thing I have learned from her death is to grab life with both hands and not to let a moment pass. That was the way she lived her life and it was a big thing for me to learn because I'm quite a shy, retiring person."

Following her parents' split, Jemma stayed with her mum and enjoyed a loving, but chaotic childhood.

"It wasn't a conventional upbringing and sometimes it wasn't as grounded as I'm trying to make life for my children," she says with a smile. "It was a mad environment, but I always knew that I was so loved. We were always broke. Mum never knew how she was going to pay the bills and that did get her down and frighten her, but she was so resourceful. She'd flirt with the bank manager in the days when they could still lend you money. I had this fantasy when I was growing up that I'd win the Pools and put everything right.

"I'm full of admiration for my mum's bravery and her absolute refusal to live life with a safety net. She wasn't cautious and I adore that because I'm much more careful. I love the fact that she remained true to herself to the end."

From her troubles, Jemma has learned to put her family first. But even though Tim and her sons take priority, she is still as busy as ever. She found fame in the mid-'90s as a pioneering Victorian doctor in the long-running ITV series Bramwell, and went on to star in The Buddha Of Suburbia, Mosley, Howard's End, The Acid House and Fish. She has also appeared on stage and her latest work is the British comedy film, I'll Be There.

In it, Jemma plays Rebecca, whose rebellious daughter Olivia (Charlotte Church) is the result of a one-night-stand. When Olivia tracks down her dad Paul (Craig Ferguson), now a fading rock star, all their lives are thrown into turmoil.

The light-hearted family film has already earned good reviews and propelled Charlotte, the angelic-voiced singer with the new "wild child" tag, into the limelight. Meanwhile, Jemma, who knows a thing or two about growing up in showbusiness, is happy to have finally struck the right balance between her career and her home life.

"Perhaps my attitude has changed," she reflects. "I shall never be on a schedule as gruelling again. I don't let my agent find me work in August and I rush back from work to be with the children. That is where I am happiest."

I'll Be There opens today.

CAPTION(S):

THAT'S MY BOY: Taking elder son Gabriel to the premiere of I'll Be There; Picture: REX; BIG DAY: Jemma and Tim cut their wedding cake in 1992; FAMILY RUCTIONS: With Charlotte Church in I'll Be There
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 20, 2003
Words:1121
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