OSCAR-nominated actress Imelda Staunton was forced to unleash a hidden talent while shooting VERA DRAKE - songwriting.

In the critically acclaimed film, the veteran screen star plays a middle-aged woman who performs illegal abortions in 1940s Britain - a role which required her to "hum" the popular tunes of the era.

However, when Staunton alerted director Mike Leigh to the fact they'd have to pay to reproduce other artists' songs, he instructed her to compose her own tunes.

She says, "My character hums a lot as she goes about her work, so Mike told me to pick a song from the 1940s; with Mike everything has to be authentic.

"I had to remind him that we would get charged so Mike told me to make something up, so I did."

01/02/2005 09:19