Dara Ó Briain says Judi Dench’s acting ‘inspired’ him to search for his birth mother

The comedian said that he always knew he was adopted but admitted it was something he “sort of forgot”.

Dara O Briain (BBC/Amanda Benson/PA)

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in Philomena

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

Dara Ó Briain has revealed that he was inspired to search for his birth mother after watching Judi Dench’s performance in Philomena.

The comedian was appearing on the latest episode of BBC’s Desert Island Discs when he said that he always knew he was adopted but admitted it was something he “sort of forgot”.

After watching the Oscar-nominated 2013 film, he realised that his biological mother may be wondering what happened to him and wanted to search for her.

“I genuinely walked out of the cinema going, ‘Oh you eejit, you're not the main protagonist in this story,’” he explained.

“Here's a woman who gave a baby up for adoption 45 years ago and you have made yourself invisible because you've not engaged with the search.”

The film is based on the true story by Martin Sixsmith of Philomena Lee, played by Judi Dench onscreen, and her 50-year search for the son she was forced to give up for adoption in Ireland.

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in Philomena

Dara said that he has thanked Steve Coogan for adapting the story into a film and while he hasn’t met Judi in person, he would still like her to know the role she played in his personal life.

He said: “Firstly, just because it inspired me to do this search. And secondly, her hair in that film is remarkable. It's not noted on but her hair was older Irish woman hair.

“It's kind of soft curly with a blow dry that my mammy has. She nailed that look,” he joked.

The 51-year-old revealed that he finally met his biological mother in 2020 but noted that the reunion “wasn’t filling a void” as he had a happy childhood and was now married with children of his own.

After the episode aired, he posted a tweet thanking both Judi Dench and Philomena Lynch, writing: “I would love if somebody passed my best wishes to Judi Dench; although the greater credit will always go to the redoubtable Philomena herself for being an inspiration, and whose story led to such a massive event in my own life.”

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