Judi Dench has joined the cast of The Shipping News, Lasse Hallstrom's movie version of the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by E Annie Proulx, which is currently in pre-production and is set to start shooting in March. Produced and financed by Miramax Films, it marks the fourth Miramax picture in which Dench has starred after Mrs Brown (a BBC Films production acquired by Miramax in 1997), Shakespeare In Love for which she won an Oscar and Chocolat, which was also directed by Hallstrom.

Dench joins Kevin Spacey and Julianne Moore in the film which is the story of a widowed New Yorker (Spacey) who relocates to a small coastal village in Newfoundland with his two daughters and his aunt. He takes a job on the town newspaper reporting on the shipping news. Dench will play the aunt, Moore will play a woman whom Spacey falls in love with.

Dench is scheduled to star in two further Miramax pictures before the potential actors' strike - Intermedia's Iris, in which she will play Irish Murdoch for director Richard Eyre (Miramax has domestic rights) and The Importance Of Being Earnest, a film of the Noel Coward play directed by Oliver Parker (An Ideal Husband) in which she will play Lady Bracknell.