Dame Julie Walters quits Channel 4 drama on medical advice, replaced by Lindsay Duncan

The 73-year-old actor has made the decision to bow out of Truelove due to back troubles and will be replaced by Lindsay Duncan.

Julie Walters attending the EE British Academy Film Awards held at the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, Kensington, London. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Julie Walters has quit Channel 4 drama Truelove due to health reasons. (Getty Images)

Dame Julie Walters has pulled out of her latest TV role on medical grounds after struggling to recover from severe back pain.

The 73-year-old actor had begun work on Channel 4 drama Truelove with Sue Johnston and Clarke Peters before filming was paused while she sought treatment.

Walters has now made the decision to bow out of the part and will be replaced by Lindsay Duncan.

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A spokesperson for Clerkenwell Films said: "Last year, filming on Truelove was paused while Julie Walters sought medical advice and attention for severe back pain.

"Subsequently, Julie has decided to step back from the project to focus on her recovery and recuperation, and so will not be returning to the role of Phil.

Lindsay Duncan attends the
Lindsay Duncan will take over the role of Phil. (Getty Images for BFI)

"We wholeheartedly support her decision, and the entire cast, crew and production team wish her the very best and a speedy recovery.

"We are delighted that Lindsay Duncan will be stepping into the role of Phil. We're excited to see what she brings to this complex and captivating character when we restart filming later this year."

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Truelove explores the theme of the right to die, following a group of friends who make a pact to achieve their ideal death.

Harry Potter star Walters previously said the script had tempted her out of retirement, having only done TV voiceover work since 2016 Channel 4 drama National Treasure and appearing as housekeeper Mrs Medlock in Jack Thorne's big screen rewrite of The Secret Garden released in 2020.

Actress Clarke Peters poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' showing as part of the closing gala of the BFI London Film Festival n London, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Clarke Peters is also starring in the drama about romance in later life. (AP)

She said: “I had basically withdrawn from acting and wasn’t sure that anything could tempt me back but then I read Truelove. I was completely bowled over by the writing - the dark humour, the love story and thriller element set against a backdrop of what happens to us all as we approach our later years.

"I adore the character of Phil - smart, funny and hard edged. How often does one have the chance at my tender age to play a leading lady in a TV drama?

"I can’t wait to start and to work with Channel 4 again, a broadcaster with a remit that is so vital to the industry and viewers.”

Sue Johnston departs the funeral of Kirsty Howard at All Angels Church on November 3, 2015 in Manchester, England. Kirsty Howard was born with a rare heart condition and on diagnosis, aged four, was given only weeks to live. She defied medical opinion and died on October 24 aged 20. She famously met David Beckham when she accompanied him on to the football pitch as mascot for the 2002 World Cup qualifying match between England and Greece. She went on to raise over 7.5 million GBP for Manchester's Francis House Children's Hospice.  (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
Sue Johnston is also starring in Truelove. (Getty Images)

Walters and Peters - star of The Wire and His Dark Materials - were due to former teenage sweethearts who rekindle their romance after meeting at a funeral. They then make a pact to bow out of life on their own terms.

Peters said: “If your friend reached a soul-destroying level of decrepitude, could you help them transition, if asked? Would it be right, would it be noble, could you do it? Which of that internal triumvirate do you listen to: your head, heart or soul? You know it is illegal in law and scripture to take a life, but could you do it?

"It’s funny, it’s dark and it’s full of twists and turns. And DAMN! To tell this story, with this cast, was something I would have dreaded missing out on…Roll on 'action'!”

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The romantic thriller, with dark comedic undertones, also stars Trying's Phil Davis, After Life's Peter Egan, Mum's Karl Johnson, The Split's Fiona Button and Black Mirror's Kiran Sonia Sawar.