ACADEMY AWARD(R) AND RECENT GOLDEN GLOBE(R) AWARD WINNER ANNA PAQUIN STARS IN "THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER," A NEW "HALLMARK HALL OF FAME" PRESENTATION TO BE BROADCAST SUNDAY, APRIL 19 ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK
Based on the Courageous True Story of 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Irena Sendler,
Who Is Credited with Saving the Lives of 2,500 Jewish Children during World War II
Academy Award� Winner and Nominee Marcia Gay Harden
("Pollock," "Mystic River"), Nathaniel Parker ("The Inspector Lynley Mysteries") and Goran Visnjic ("ER") Also Star
Academy Award� and Golden Globe� Award winner Anna Paquin ("The Piano," "True Blood") stars in THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER, a new "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation to be broadcast Sunday, April 19 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. The drama is based on the courageous true story of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Irena Sendler (Paquin), who is credited with saving the lives of 2,500 Jewish children during World War II. Academy Award� winner and nominee Marcia Gay Harden ("Pollock," "Mystic River"), Nathaniel Parker ("The Inspector Lynley Mysteries") and Goran Visnjic ("ER") also star. Harden plays Sendler's mother, Janina, and Parker portrays Dr. Majkowski, the head of Warsaw's Department of Health who helped Sendler obtain important resources for her mission. Visnjic plays Stefan, a former university friend of Sendler who was Jewish and with whom she fell in love when she started her clandestine work in the Warsaw ghetto.
As a Polish Catholic social worker in the early 1940s, Irena Sendler created and led a conspiracy of women who moved in and out of Warsaw's Jewish Ghetto disguised as nurses employed by Warsaw's Health Department. Though they worked under the guise of merely attempting to prevent and contain the spread of Typhus and Spotted Fever, Sendler and her brave cohorts emerged each time with the children of consenting Jewish parents. The children were sometimes sedated and hidden inside boxes, suitcases and coffins as a means of rescuing them from their imminent deportation to death camps. They were given new identities and placed with Polish families and in convents. Sendler kept a hidden record of their birth names and where they were placed with the hope that they would some day be reunited with their own families.
In 1943, the Nazis discovered Sendler's daring and dangerous ruse and arrested her. She was tortured by Gestapo agents and suffered broken feet. On the day of her scheduled execution she was rescued by "Zegota," the underground network with which she worked to save the Jewish children.
As a result of Sendler's efforts, approximately 2,500 children were smuggled to safety. Not a single child she rescued was ever betrayed or discovered by the Nazis.
The movie is based on the authorized biography of the heroine, Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Irena Sendler Story, by Anna Mieszkowska, published in 2005.
In 2007 Sendler was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. That same year, Hallmark Hall of Fame acquired exclusive movie rights to the book and negotiated life-rights with Sendler and her family members. Sendler died on May 12, 2008 at the age of 98.
Anna Paquin won an Academy Award� for Best Supporting Actress at age 11 for her role in "The Piano." Her additional film credits include her recurring role as Rogue in "X-Men" and its two sequels, as well as roles in "The Squid and the Whale," "25th Hour," "Buffalo Soldiers," "Finding Forester," "Almost Famous," "Hurlyburly," "She's All That," "A Walk on the Moon," "Amistad," "All the Rage," "Fly Away Home," Franco Zeffirelli's "Jane Eyre" and "Blue State." Paquin's television credits include a lead role in the series "True Blood," for which she recently won a Golden Globe� Award, and an Emmy� nominated role in the movie "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." Among her theater credits are her stage debut in "The Glory of Living" at New York's MCC Theater, for which she received a Drama Desk nomination as Best Lead Actress. She was also in the first West End production of "This Is Our Youth."
Marcia Gay Harden won an Academy Award� as Best Supporting Actress for her role in "Pollock." Among her additional film credits are "Mystic River," for which she earned an Academy Award� nomination, "Miller's Crossing," "The First Wives Club," "Meet Joe Black," "Mona Lisa Smile," "The Hoax," "Into the Wild," "American Gun" and "Used People." Harden's television credits include her current lead role in the series "Damages," a lead role in the Network series "The Education of Max Bickford," an Emmy� nominated guest-starring role on "Law & Order: SVU," a role as Ava Gardner in the CBS mini-series "Sinatra" and a role in the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation "In From the Night," also on the Network. Her theater credits include "Angels in America," for which she earned a Tony Award� nomination and won the Drama Desk Award.
Nathaniel Parker's television credits include the title role in the BBC series "The Inspector Lynley Mysteries," which has had a 23 episode run between 2002 and 2007, the title role in the mini-series "David" and a starring role in the BBC mini-series "Bleak House." Among his film credits are "Hamlet," "The Bodyguard," "Stardust," "Beverly Hills Ninja," "The Haunted Mansion," "Flawless" and "War Requiem." Parker joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1986 and appeared in several of their productions, including "Richard II" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Subsequent West End stage credits include David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow" as well as a recent U.K. touring production of Simon Gray's "Quartermaine's Terms."
Goran Visnjic is well-known for his role as Dr. Luka Kovac on the series "ER." He also starred in the mini-series "Spartacus." His film credits include "Elektra," "The Deep End," "Committed," "Practical Magic," "Welcome to Sarajevo" and "Rounders." His upcoming films include "Helen," which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and the anthology film "New York, I Love You."
THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER is a Hallmark Hall of Fame production. Brent Shields ("Hallmark Hall of Fame" productions "Front of the Class" and "The Russell Girl") and Jeff Most ("The Specialist") are executive producers. John Kent Harrison ("Hallmark Hall of Fame" productions "The Water Is Wide" and "What the Deaf Man Heard") is the writer/director.