How we met: Alan Bleasdale & Julie Walters

Alan Bleasdale, 53, taught English and PE before writing his first novel in 1975. Since then he has mainly written for television, most notably `The Boys From The Blackstuff' and `GBH'. He has recently adapted `Oliver Twist' - in which Julie Walter stars - for ITV. He lives with his wife of 30 years in Liverpool. They have three grown-up children

Julie Walters is one of the country's best-loved comedy actresses. She has appeared in all but two of Alan Bleasdale's television dramas, as well as two of his stage plays. She is also known for her roles in the films `Educating Rita' and `Prick Up Your Ears'. Born in Birmingham, she lives in Sussex with her boyfriend, Grant Roffey, and their 10-year-old daughter, Maisie

ALAN BLEASDALE: I was unbelievably lucky that Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite were the first actors I ever talked to. It was the winter of 1974-75. They were working at the Everyman Theatre and sharing a flat in a derelict area of Liverpool. I was a teacher in my late twenties, married with two young children and a third on the way. My first novel had just been accepted for the princely sum of pounds 300, and they wanted to talk to me about adapting it for the stage and touring it in pubs and clubs.

I turned up at their flat expecting the smell of illegal substances, overflowing ashtrays and empty wine bottles after a heavy night's debate about life and art and the plays of Jean-Paul Sartre. But the place was immaculate. Pete was up and about, and Julie had gone swimming. Pete had the build of a lumberjack, Julie thankfully didn't. Pete had all the confidence and knowledge I lacked, and Julie made me laugh out loud. They decided for me that Pete would play the lead, and Julie would play, among others, a show-stopping, sexually explicit grandmother. She plays old and mad like no one else.

It was another seven years before Julie and I worked together again. It's nearly always work that brings me back to my friends in this profession. I find socialising for its own sake almost unbearable, having grown accustomed to the silence and shyness that often come with being an only child.

I was stunned when she agreed to appear in my play Having a Ball at the Lyric, Hammersmith. I was far from sure that the part she was to play was colourful enough for her. And I was right. What had been a raging success in the North came down to London and got hammered by the critics. It was a terribly unhappy time for me. I still have this desperate image of Julie, in rehearsal, trying to breathe life into a still-born character. I left London as soon as the reviews came out, armed with a note of loving regret from Julie about the play's reception, coupled with her pleasure that I had finally overcome my shyness and talked to her properly.

I remember getting on the train at Euston determined to write something for Julie that was worth her while. Before I got to Watford I was writing The Boys From The Blackstuff, with her in mind.

When asked what Julie is like, the only answer I can give is "What you see is truly what you get." Except that beneath that dizzy warmth and wit and generosity, there is a spine of tungsten steel. Julie always pushes herself to the limit. She has to go to the edge and look over, just to see what it's like.

After my wife and our immediate family, it was Julie I reached out to when my mother died and our eldest boy developed epilepsy. And I hope I was some comfort to Julie and Grant when their daughter became seriously ill. It is one of the great joys of my life that both Tim, my son, and Maisie, their daughter, are now fine and flourishing. You certainly find out who your friends are when times are grim, and who you want them to be.

Julie has always been there when I've been in bits, as well as in the good times, during the frenzy and fun of film-making at five in the morning in a muddy field in southern Ireland. We don't see as much of each other as we once did, but our phone and fax bills can get ridiculous at times, and of course, I will always write for her. Not because of friendship, but because I am not totally daft.

JULIE WALTERS: My first professional job was playing Granny in a stage adaptation of Alan's first novel, Scully, at the Liverpool Everyman in 1974. Because Alan has the one eyebrow instead of two like most people, he looked a bit cross and intimidating. I was a bit frightened by him. I remember thinking he didn't like me. But, looking back, I think it was because he was shy.

Our friendship really began when I did Having a Ball in 1981. It was the first time we'd talked properly and we got on like a house on fire. We're from similar backgrounds, and there's something very familiar about him ... perhaps he reminded me a bit of my brother.

We don't see each other much because he has travel phobia. We fax a lot. We have faxual intercourse. I send three lines saying "I haven't heard from you for ages" and he faxes back this great long novel which is always brilliant and funny. He has a great eye on the world. The best one I ever received, which made me sick laughing, was when he was making a film in the Virgin Islands. Major problem for Alan. It took everyone else 17 hours by plane. It took Alan 13 days by boat, train and boat. So he has to come back on the QE2, the safest boat in the world, and for the first time in living memory, it runs into a hurricane and 60ft waves. Alan is at a dinner dance when the grand piano comes unhitched from its mooring and ploughs into a man in a wheelchair. The maitre'd is carving a joint when he loses his balance, lurches forward and stabs someone in the chest. By the time he docks at Southampton, Alan is in a terrible state.

Then there's the hypochondria. I started out as a nurse and I used to describe diseases to him, but I've had to stop. He's dragged himself to hospital on more than one occasion, thinking he's had a heart attack.

We all missed him during the filming of Oliver Twist. We made it in Prague. Because Alan won't fly, he had to get there by train and there was a strike on the French side of Eurotunnel, so he never got to Prague. He sent me a fax after he'd seen the rushes. I'd been worried about my performance, as usual, so it was great to be reassured. It's like pleasing your Dad.

Obviously I'm flattered by the fact that he's written things for me. He makes me feel very special when I work with him, like I'm the most important person in the unit. There was one thing I didn't want to do once but we didn't fall out over it. We agreed to differ. It becomes more and more important to be surrounded by people who understand you, and who you understand.

`Oliver Twist' starts tonight at 9pm on ITV and continues for four weeks

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor