Film world acclaims writer's final act

Success comes two years after death for Kate Winslet's ex-boyfriend, writes Cole Moreton
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The Independent Online
THIS COULD have been the best weekend of Stephen Tredre's life. Last night, the young writer should have been soaking up the applause as an audience at the prestigious Venice International Film Festival watched the premiere of Between Dreams, a short film based on his memoirs.

When that glory faded, he could have looked forward to the end of this week, when the BBC is due to begin filming a six-part drama series, starring Paul McGann as the eponymous Fish, a defence lawyer he created. But Tredre, hailed as one of the brightest of Britain's new talents, will not be around to see it. After fighting cancer for two years, during which time he continued to send out scripts from his sick-bed, he died in December 1997 aged 34. The past two years of Tredre's life saw an extraordinary burst of creativity, which is just now coming to fruition.

"When you are diagnosed as being extremely ill, as Stephen was, you either take things easy and go on a holiday or you work harder than ever," said his brother Roger. "He took the latter option. He always believed he would beat the cancer and he persuaded everyone around him, including the family, to believe the same."

Stephen Tredre was born in London, the son of a doctor. He was educated at Epsom College, appearing as the lead in a school production of Hamlet. Tredre also wrote articles for the school magazine, which was edited by his brother.

After studying drama and English at Exeter University he went on to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). He appeared on stage in Manchester and London and in various television programmes including The Bill, but became most famous for his five-year relationship with the actress Kate Winslet, star of Titanic.

"He was the other half of my soul," Winslet said after they split up in 1995. "I had an absolutely extraordinary relationship with him. My dear former boyfriend will always be an incredible love of my life. It wasn't as if I just turned round and left him. Our relationship reached a friendly end and we stayed close."

Last year, Winslet married Jim Threapleton, an assistant director. Unconfirmed rumours suggest she may make a guest appearance in Fish, the first episode of which was written by Tredre. The series was finished posthumously, by Matthew Bardsley.

Tredre began to write while still working as an actor. He had a few scripts accepted for EastEnders then joined the soap's regular rota of writers. "Stephen spent most of his time in hospital working, even when the chemotherapy slowed him down," said his brother. "Most of his writing was done in the knowledge that he had cancer, and all his big breakthroughs came in the last two years of his life. He was writing an EastEnders script two weeks before he died. He was the best man at a wedding two weeks before that. We are extremely sad that he's not around to enjoy his success himself."

Between Dreams, which Tredre wrote while he was in remission, is based on his experiences during his time in hospital. He had hoped to perform it as a one-man show, or to have the work adapted for radio. Most of the cast of Between Dreams were at RADA with Tredre and agreed to make the 13-minute film in tribute to him. They include David Westhead, who appeared with Dame Judi Dench in Mrs Brown, and David Harewood, who starred opposite Vanessa Redgrave on Broadway in Antony and Cleopatra.

In the programme for the Venice festival, which ended yesterday, Ian FitzGibbon, director of Between Dreams, wrote: "Even in the darkest moments of his terrible battle with cancer Stephen always looked forward, reaching for life. It was only when he was physically beaten, exhausted beyond words, that he stopped doing what he lived for - writing.

"This is the great lesson I have learned from his death: do it while you can. You have nothing to fear but fear itself. Between Dreams is drawn from Stephen's memoirs. I hope it does justice to his great writing talent."