And Pride, the story of a group of gay and lesbian activists who rallied together to raise money for struggling families affected by the UK miners strike in 1984, is the latest film to join that list. Opening Friday in limited release in the United States, the film couldn’t get “green lit until it had some recognizable actors,” director Matthew Warchus told the Los Angeles Times.
Enter stars Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton and fast-forward the clock a couple of years to the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where Pride premiered to a standing ovation and took home the Queer Palm award. That was the first of the near-unanimous praise that has been lavished on the film — it currently boasts a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a feat that is almost unheard of in today’s movie climate.
Screenwriter Stephen Beresford (this is his first film as a writer; he’s appeared as an actor in a number of projects) told The Guardian he first learned about the unlikely alliance between the striking miners and the gay and lesbian activists that took up their cause in a bar.
“I was having an argument with somebody about whether or not gay people were political anymore,” Beresford said. “It’s an argument I’m sure is still raging at gay bars across the country.”
Beresford said it was at the time that British Conservative party politicians John Major and Michael Heseltine were advocating for a second round of pit closures and the privatizing the mining industry.
“I came up with the line, ‘Why should I support the miners, they don’t support me.’ And the person I was arguing with said, ‘Well, let me tell you a story.’”
The story, Beresford said, blew him away.
“I didn’t believe it… A., because it ruined by argument, and B., because it seemed so unbelievable that this alliance could ever have existed,” Beresford said.
And, as the film depicts, the alliance got off to a rocky start.
The miners were being treated as badly as the gay and lesbian community, Nighy, who plays a closeted former miner in the film, told the Times. "They were being beaten up by the police and being invented as enemies of the state."
It’s only been within his lifetime, Nighy (who is 64) notes, that being gay or lesbian “stopped being an imprisonable offense.
“They could get seven years for any public display of affection. One of the things I don't understand is why [the government] should feel they should get involved in anybody else's sex life."
Nighy, who found fame stateside in the romantic comedy Love Actually, says he was drawn to Pride because “it was one of the best scripts I’ve ever read.” But he was also deeply moved by the bond formed by these two unlikely groups of people.
“It’s amazing to me that no one knew this story… because it’s such an extraordinary tale.”
Watch a preview for Pride below, which will play in select theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco this weekend.