Sunday Mirror

Jenny: My specialSUN­DAY bond with Sheridan

Actress Agutter praises co-star

- ALISON JAMES

ACTRESS Jenny Agutter will for ever be known as one of the original Railway Children.

But in the new big screen version of the much-loved classic, she helped keep co-star Sheridan Smith on track.

Jenny, 69, who reprises the role of Roberta “Bobbie” Waterbury in The Railway Children Return, plays Sheridan’s on-screen mum.

And the actress told how she hit it off straight away with the “vulnerable” star.

“Sheridan and I bonded immediatel­y,’ said Jenny. “In fact, Sheridan said it felt like I was her mum, which was lovely to hear.

“We had this mother-daughter thing happening and it was wonderful and felt very real.”

Sheridan, 41, who shot to fame after appearing in TV sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps suffered a very public meltdown two years after the death of her dad in 2016.

She later admitted she “lost it” when she heard her father Colin had terminal cancer.

Jenny said of the actress, who plays schoolteac­her Annie in the film: “Sheridan is extraordin­ary.

“I felt very protective towards her and wanted to look after her. It’s really not difficult to feel maternal towards Sheridan… she has this vulnerable quality to her.

VULNERABLE

“I have huge respect for her as an actor – I think she’s absolutely terrific.

“As mother and daughter, Bobbie and Annie are very different kin ds of people. Bobbie is still the optimistic product of her Edwardian childhood while Annie is more of a realist.

“Sheridan and I quickly found the kind of familial relationsh­ip that allows a mother and child to be very close while also recognisin­g how unalike they ar e.

“This often happens in families… you may have given birth to your children but that doesn’t mean they are anything like you.”

The original 1970 Railway Children film was set in 1905 but the new version moves the story on to the Second World War.

As well as being Annie’s mum, Jenny’s character Bobbie is also a devoted grandmothe­r.

And it is 11-year-old Thomas, played by Austin Haynes, who becomes one of the new Railway Children after he befriends three youngsters evacuated to the Yorkshire Dales from their home in Manchester.

Much of the filming for the movie took place in the same locations as the original – and Jenny says that returning to the

We had a motherdaug­hter thing going on… it felt very real JENNY AGUTTER ON CONNECTION WITH SMITH

area brought lots of memories flooding back.

“Oakworth station looked just the same with steam trains chuffing in and out,” she said.

“One of the drivers had driven the trains for the first film as well as this one, which was amazing.

“I just loved all of the connection­s between the original film and the new one.

“On the set were so many references to Bobbie’s childhood, like an Edwardian puppet theatre made of card and a child’s model steam train.

“They were lovely reminders of the original film.” The

Railway Children was a runaway success and has remained a fixture of TV schedules since its release.

But Jenny, who is currently filming the 12th series of Call the Midwife, told how she almost turned down the role fearing that, at the age of 17, she was too old.

“I was very iffy about it and didn’t think it was for me,” she revealed. “I’d been in Australia filming Walkabout – a movie about the loss of innocence – and, at 17, felt I was too old to play the 14-year-old Roberta Waterbury.

“I’d played her a few years earlier, you see, in a BBC TV serialisat­ion of the original E. Nesbit book.

“But then I met the director Lionel Jeffries and actress Dinah Sheridan, who would play the mother, and we gelled immediatel­y.

“I was also a very young 17 so I could pass for a youngish teen.”

scoops@sundaymirr­or.co.uk ■■The Return of the Railway Children will be released in cinemas on July 15.

 ?? ?? CLASSIC Jenny, centre, in original 1970 movie
CLASSIC Jenny, centre, in original 1970 movie
 ?? ?? CLOSE Jenny and Sheridan on set of new film
CLOSE Jenny and Sheridan on set of new film

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