SALLY HAWKINS hopes that the plain spoken hero she plays in MADE IN DAGENHAM can make political issues more relatable.

The movie, which opens this Friday in limited release, depicts a group of real
life women who went on strike in 1968 at the Ford plant in Dagenham, England, demanding the same pay as their male counterparts.

“It’s an incredible story and you hope that people are inspired by it because…you can only relate to a political cause when it engages with you emotionally,” SALLY commented when the movie screened in September at THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.

“A lot of politicians use very alienating language, talk in a very dry way and don’t engage emotionally and that’s what’s so refreshing about these women.”

DAGENHAM begins in the summer of 1968.

RITA O’GRADY (SALLY HAWKINS) and her coworkers toil inside a cavernous factory sewing seat covers. When their union rep (BOB HOSKINS) brings word to the shop floor that their push to be reclassified as skilled labourers (and receive a raise) has been turned down, they decide to strike. The move ultimately grinds the factory to a halt — and causes repercussions around the world.

RITA O’GRADY becomes the leader in the women’s fight, which takes them all the way to a meeting in London with MP BARBARA CASTLE (MIRANDA RICHARDSON), one of the most powerful female politicians in the history of Britain’s Labour party.

DAGENHAM moves at a rollicking clip and does not at all come off as a boring history lesson. That said, MIRANDA RICHARDSON also hopes it shines a light on an important moment for women.

“That’s one of the things that I would like, that people bring their daughters and sons to see it because we should be grateful for the freedoms and the choices that we have,” Ms. Richardson remarked.

Added SALLY: “Actually a few people have said to me that they’re desperate for their daughters to see it because they’re having a difficult time at the moment engaging them politically and making sure they’re aware of what was done before them, for them to have the opportunity they have now.”

Directed by NIGEL COLE, DAGENHAM is another tour de force for SALLY, who first made moviegoers sit up and take notice while playing the effervescent Poppy in MIKE LEIGH’S 2008 comedy HAPPY GO LUCKY.
The actor, who has also appeared in VERA DRAKE, WOODY ALLEN’S CASSANDRA’S DREAM and AN EDUCATION, calls DAGENHAM a “gift of a part” and a “gift of a film.”

She was also completely thrilled to meet some of the real life players in the film. And where did she go to find them, some 40 years after the story transpired?

“They all still live in Dagenham…They’re all still friends, of course. Why wouldn’t they be? I spoke to three of them…I wanted to, it was something I just did for me. They were sweet and generous with their time to have a cup of tea with me…They’re not political animals in any way and they’re not interested in being. They just knew what was right and…they knew what they deserved and they weren’t going anywhere until they were heard.”

The meeting with BARBARA CASTLE comes at a key point in the film. The politician, who later spearheaded legislation that banned sexual discrimination, took a political gamble by meeting with the women.

MIRANDA RICHARDSON was intrigued by the meaty role.

“She’s focal to the story. It’s kind of all building to the meeting with her. She met (them) woman to woman which I thought was highly imaginative, compassionate and actually courageous under the circumstances because it could have all gone very wrong.”

“She had to get the country back on its feet…She had to push through and get something happening. And it was a cause that was dear to her heart.”

MIRANDA also enjoyed revisiting the period of the film, which is vividly portrayed on screen through the fashion and hairstyles of the day.

“It was not all glossy and I sometimes find that even though the clothes were becoming really free and exciting that it was hard and grimy as well. If you look at photographs from the time it doesn’t look that glossy, just, I don’t know, grimy.”

Asked if she think most women take the women of Dagenham’s fight for granted, MIRANDA said: “For the most part, yes.”

“Nobody wants to preach. I think there was a time when feminist was a dirty word and I think it can mean a lot of things now…I don’t necessarily think this should be called a feminist movie. It’s about fairness, as they say.”

For SALLY HAWKINS, the draw of DAGENHAM was simply the tale of what these real life women accomplished.

“It’s a great story and it’s about real women and their real fight and you couldn’t not want to do this film. Ultimately, first and foremost, it’s a great story about a great collection of women and what they did…and thank God they did what they did.

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