EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Real-Life Philomena Lee

By ANTOINETTE BUENO

November 14, 2013

British drama Philomena -- based on a true story about a political journalist (Steve Coogan) chronicling Philomena's (Judi Dench) search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent -- has been picking up tons of awards season buzz, and only ET got an opportunity to speak to the real-life Philomena Lee to get her take on her incredible story being told through the big-screen.

The film starts with Philomena revealing to her daughter that she gave birth to a son in Ireland 50 years ago, but because she wasn't married she was forced to give him up for adoption. She had given birth to her son Anthony at a convent, but was forced to sign away parental rights when he was taken away at three years old.

Pics: Stars Take on Real-Life Roles

"Normally I live a quiet life at home," Philomena tells ET, clearly overwhelmed at all the attention now being paid to her life. "I cannot believe all the .. at my age anyway. I'm getting used to it."

"We were so embedded, all [those] years ago, in Ireland [by] education -- we'd committed such a grave sin, having a baby," she says about why she and the baby's father kept the secret of her son for so long. "And of course it sticks with you over the years, having been educated by the Catholic nuns, that it was an awful thing to have a baby out of marriage in those days."

But despite the outrage her story has caused, Coogan, who also co-wrote the screenplay of the film, shares that Philomena has actually made peace with the injustice that was done to her.

"Well I asked her outright, about all the wrongs that have been perpetrated against her, 'Do you forgive who did this to you?' and she said, 'Yes I do.' And that to me was part of the key to how to tell the story," he says. " ... I wanted to honor her dignity in the face of adversity."

Related: Dame Judi Dench -- I'm Not Going Blind

Check out the video to hear how Philomena feels about Judi Dench playing her in the film, as well as what Coogan's response to reports that the Sisters of the Sacred Heart have called the film misleading.

Philomena hits theaters November 27.



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