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CALENDAR GIRLS

About The Production
The story for Touchstone Pictures' new film "Calendar Girls” was inspired by the reallife story of the Rylstone and District Women's Institute, an organization that strives to "seek happiness in achievement.” In April 1999, when the group published their 2000 calendar, they knew they might raise a few eyebrows, but they didn't expect much drama. The calendar was published in the hope of raising a few pounds for the local hospital, which had cared for Angela Baker's husband John who had recently died of leukemia. Angela, her friend Tricia Stewart and fellow members of the WI wanted to give something back to the place and the people who'd treated John at the end of his life. To boost sales, Tricia suggested that the calendar have a more original theme. It would feature the women engaged in traditional Women's Institute activities, such as cider-pressing, cake baking and flower arranging, but the novel element was that the models, all of a certain age, would be in the nude. 

The story hit the headlines immediately. The calendar was published and spread through Yorkshire, down to London and even across the Atlantic to Hollywood. The calendar was a huge story in all the British media, across Europe, and in the USA, where stories ran on the front page of the New York Times and on CBS' 60 Minutes, the Today Show, and 20/20, and in People Magazine among others. Everyone everywhere wanted to know more about the courageous - and outrageous - women of the Rylstone and District Women's Institute. The calendar was such a success that by early 2003 it had sold nearly 300,000 calendars, raising nearly £600,000 for leukemia charities. It also turned the women into national – and international – celebrities.

"We had no idea that we would get so much coverage when we launched the calendar,” says Angela Baker, whose husband John's death inspired the calendar. "We just thought it would only appeal to our friends and family.” 

The women could not have been more wrong about the impact of the calendar; and before long Hollywood came knocking at the door. Their story, combining heart-rending drama and gutsy determination, was a natural for the big screen. And yet it surprised the women when the offers started flooding in. Given the subject matter, the women of Rylstone were understandably cautious. 

"The idea of a film was quite nerveracking,” explains Baker. "I thought it would be very hard on me and my family to watch our story unfold on the big screen; it was so very personal and I wasn't sure I wanted anyone to share it. I was worried it might be too intrusive coming so soon after John's death.” 

When producers Suzanne Mackie and Nick Barton and screenwriter Juliette Towhidi visited the women of Rylstone WI, it soon became clear that they had the women's interests at heart. "Angela and Tricia really put us through our paces on the first meeting,” says Mackie. "We told them we were struck by it being a very funny story, but more importantly a very moving human drama and that the substance of story came from Angela's husband's death from leukemia. That's what gave it depth and meaning and took it from being a jokey, frivolous story to a poignant and universal story. 

"What also appealed to me was the fact that it was a woman's story,” Mackie continues. "My initial reaction was, good on you, girls for having the guts to shout from the rooftops: ‘Just because we're over 40 it doesn't mean we can't look beautiful!' There's a very strong sense of female camaraderie in the story, which I found enormously appealing. These women really support each other in every way.” 

Once Angela Baker and Tricia Stewart were on board ("When I met Suzanne and Nick, we just clicked,” recalls Baker) the producers then began negotiations with the members of the group to secure rights to the individual women's stories. Alert to how sensitive the issue was, they made se

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