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Ex-bus driver pens a box office smash; NORTH EAST WRITER SCOOPS THREE AWARDS IN EUROPE.

Byline: By KATY SIMPSON

HE SPENDS his life putting words into the mouths of others, but a Newcastle scriptwriter was left speechless when his work won a prestigious award for Best European Film.

Martin Herron, 49, of Waterloo Road, Newcastle, turned his hand to writing less than 10 years ago after working in photography, filming and at one point, driving buses. He never imagined it would lead to a glittering array of international gongs.

But his newest work, Irina Palm, starring 60s icon Marianne Faithfull, has already scooped three major awards - two at the Berlin International Film Festival, and Best European Film at the David di Donatello awards.

The ceremony, which is the Italian equivalent of the Oscars, saw Irina Palm beat off competition from Elizabeth - The Golden Age, and the critically acclaimed The Diving Bell and the Butt erfly.

Irina Palm, which was co-produced by Newcastle-based Ipso Facto, will be released at cinemas in the UK on June 21.

It has already proved to be a box office hit in the USA, France and Belgium, the home nation of director Sam Garbarski.

The film tells the tale of 50-year-old widow Maggie, played by Marianne Faithfull, who is desperately looking for money to pay for a last-chance treatment for her dying grandson.

She ends up in Soho as a sex worker and takes on her pseudonym Irina Palm.

The audience is forced to question how far they would go to protect their own children, and although he has no children of his own, scriptwriter Martin Herron says it is a theme which strikes a chord with most parents.

"It's a powerful question," he said.

"Because of the delicate nature of the subject of the film, I thought it would be difficult telling my mother about it. But she said to me 'mothers will do a lot more than that for their children'. And I thought then - the film will work."

When Martin created Maggie, he loosely made her roots in the North East, which he believes shines through in her spirit.

"She has this indomitable quality like many women in the North East," said Martin, who used to be involved with the Consett Photo Archives.

Although Irina Palm is set far from Martin's home city, he says he still draws on his North East roots to create the script.

"There's a scene in the film based on a shop I used to know when I was a kid," said Martin, who grew up in Dipton, County Durham. "There was a shopkeeper and lots of gossipy old women in there, which was part of it."

Martin always dreamed of writing film scripts, and first enjoyed mixing with the stars when he was involved with School for Seduction in 2004.

The film saw Kelly Brook starring as an Italian temptress who sets up an Academy of Seductive Arts in Newcastle to teach Geordies the art of romance.

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AWARDS SUCCESS: Scriptwriter Martin Herron; POWERFUL STORY: Marianne faithfull in a scene from Martin's film Irina Palm
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 12, 2008
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