Sir Tom Courtenay has given readings at Bradford Cathedral for a film-themed service for the BBC’s Songs of Praise.
The actor, who starred in 1963 film Billy Liar, filmed in Bradford, has done readings for two Songs of Praise programmes filmed at the Cathedral, the first of which will be broadcast soon.
David Wilson, director of Bradford City of Film, said the two shows have a film theme, celebrating the city’s cinema heritage and City of Film status. Sir Tom has done readings for both programmes and talks about film.
Mr Wilson said: “It was a real pleasure to work with such an established show and the team were really thorough in their approach. Not only do they want to portray the spiritual side of the city but also its heritage, which in Bradford’s case involves film of course.
“This is the first time that Songs of Praise has come from Bradford so it’s long overdue. I think the crew were really pleased with the warm reception they had and our rich film heritage.”
Sir Tom returned to Bradford for last year’s Bradford International Film Festival, to accept a Lifetime Achievement award. The Bafta-winning actor was honoured more than five decades after he got his big-screen break from Shipley-born director Tony Richardson, in Billy Liar.
Sir Tom, 76, said that when came to make Billy Liar in 1962, after months of starring in the play, he felt “Billy was in every molecule of my body”.
He revealed that when he saw Julie Christie audition for the role of Liz, who encourages dreamer Billy to leave the North for London, he thought that, despite being “extraordinary to look at”, he “wasn’t convinced she was right for the role”.
“That shows how much I know, “ he said. The 75-year-old actor was later nominated for an Oscar for his role in David Lean’s 1965 epic Doctor Zhivago and for his role in The Dresser, also filmed in Bradford.
Accepting the award, he said: “Bradford is a city that has played a significant part in my film career. I shot Billy Liar here 50 years ago, and then 20 years later returned to make The Dresser at the Alhambra Theatre.”
Songs of Praise will be shown on BBC1 on Sunday, March 2, and Sunday, April 13.