The life of a famous fossil hunter is edging closer to the big screen in what has been labelled as ‘the Poldark of Dorset.’

The life and career of Lyme Regis’ own Mary Anning could hit the big screen next summer after Lyme Regis Town Council gave a favourable response to a request for funding for a two-part feature film.

The film, which is partly complete, stars Jenny Agutter – of the Avengers, An American Werewolf in London and Call the Midwife – and is currently being filmed on location in Lyme Regis. 

Director Sharon Sheehan is halfway through shooting the first of two-part epic about the ‘life and loves’ of the eminent palaeontologist.

Speaking of her inspiration behind the film, Ms Sheehan said: “Her story was inspired during my visits to Lyme to fossil as a child. It always stayed with me. As a keen fossiller, I began researching and writing her story in 2000. My daughter was very young at the time and we were fossilling in Charmouth.

“We found the most beautiful ammonite – the first for her of a myriad of finds. She was fossilling in a dress instead of trousers. I admonished her and said ‘who fossils in a dress?’ to which she replied ‘Mary Anning.’ I was really inspired by this. Mary Anning had, and to this day has, practically no mark in history.

“I started writing the script and sent it to Jenny Agutter who was fascinated by the plight of Mary Anning, her incredible and unrecognised contribution to paleontology and science, and that she was constantly plagiarised by men at that time and never got the credit she deserved. I find her fascinating and I’m amazed the film has not been made before.” 

Ms Sheehan is appealing to local businesses and the community for help get the film - to premier in Lyme at a charity gala screening by summer 2018 - finished.

Funding is needed to complete the first film, which will cover Mary Anning’s childhood and lead up to her discovery of the ichthyosaur.

With nine days of filming scheduled, £10,000 is needed for film stock and processing requirements. £100,000 is required to complete the second film, covering Mary Anning’s adulthood and discoveries of the plesiosaur and the pterodactyl.

Lyme Regis Town Council’s tourism, community and publicity committee has approved a request for £5,000, subject to both West Dorset District Council and Dorset County Council offering at least an equal amount of funding and approval at full council. 

Ms Sheehan said: “We have received wonderful support from the community and the town council is behind us. 

“We want to champion Mary Anning – together with Dorset’s spectacular scenery as the backdrop. It is hoped that the film will bring to Dorset what Poldark has brought to Cornwall in tourism and business – and will finally put Mary on the map as the most prominent palaeontologists of all time.”