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Trailer released for Hampstead film inspired by squatter with £2m Heath plot

PUBLISHED: 15:07 03 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:06 06 March 2017

In the film, an American widow played by Diane Keaton stumbles upon a hermit, played by Brendan Gleeson, who has lived quietly in a shack on the Heath for seventeen years. Photo: Nick Wall

In the film, an American widow played by Diane Keaton stumbles upon a hermit, played by Brendan Gleeson, who has lived quietly in a shack on the Heath for seventeen years. Photo: Nick Wall

Nick Wall Photography

Filmmakers have sent out the first trailer for ‘Hampstead’, which stars Diane Keaton, Brendan Gleeson and James Norton.

Peaceful Harry Hallowes, who lived in a shack on the Heath since 1986, appears to have inspired the film.Peaceful Harry Hallowes, who lived in a shack on the Heath since 1986, appears to have inspired the film.

The romantic comedy is “inspired by a true story” and relates how an American widow (Diane Keaton) develops a romantic friendship with a recluse, played by Brendan Gleeson, who has lived in a shack on the Heath for seventeen years.

His home is under threat by property developers who want to build luxury apartments on the land.

The story appears to strongly draw upon the experiences of the late Harry Hallowes, or “Harry the hermit”, an Irish squatter who became the legal owner of a plot of land on Hampstead Heath, worth around £2m in 2007.

Harry, who passed away last year, had enjoyed a relatively peaceful and secluded life in his 12 by eight-foot shack in the grounds of Athlone House on Hampstead Heath from 1986.

He was threatened with eviction in 2005 by the previous owner of Athlone House, Dwyer Investments, but they later backed down following a court hearing.

At the time, Harry told the Ham&High: “If they threaten me with court again I do know a judge in Highgate.

“He might be able to give me advice.”

In 2007, Harry was given the Land Registry title deeds to his home, and he told the Ham&High: “I have got my deeds locked up safe and sound.

“I won’t be having a bird sanctuary or anything like that. Maybe I’ll be building myself a house to live in – everybody else around here is building houses.”

The film Hampstead appears to suggest that the community supported the developers in trying to evict Harry from his home.

Michael Hammerson, who led a historic campaign against the development of Athlone House, previously described this implication by the filmmakers as “almost libellous”, although the directors never confirmed their story was based on Harry.

Hampstead is directed by Joel Hopkins and stars a British cast including James Norton, Simon Callow, Jason Watkins, Lesley Manville, Will Smith, Phil Davis and Hugh Skinner.

– Hampstead will be released in UK Cinemas on June 23, 2017.

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