Filming began yesterday (Thursday March 3) on New Zealandcomedy/drama Number 2 after last month's false start due to the death ofOssie Davis, husband of the film's lead Ruby Dee.

The acting pair (pictured), have been passionate advocatesof social and racial justice. They were key players in the 1963 March onWashington and Davis spoke at the funerals of Dr Martin Luther King Jr andMalcolm X, and also did the voiceover for Spike Lee's Malcolm X. Theyboth also appeared in Lee's Jungle Fever and Do The Right Thing.

Number 2 is the much anticipated directorial debut ofToa Fraser, who adapted the script from his own very successful play.

It is financed by the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ On Airand TVNZ . NZ Film is handling sales and Working Title has already bought UKrights, while Miramax has bought Australia and New Zealand.

The producers are Auckland-based Philippa Campbell (Rain)and Sydney-based Lydia Livingstone and Tim White (Ned Kelly, Two Hands),although he is no longer Working Title's representative in this part of theworld.

Victoria Treole is the production executive for Miramax,which recently closed its Sydney office.

Dee originally arrived in New Zealand on February 4 to playthe role of the charismatic matriarch of a dynamic mixed race family whosummons her grandchildren to prepare a feast at which she will name hersuccessor.

But she flew out the next day upon hearing the news that herhusband had been found dead in a hotel in Florida, where he was also making afilm.

Dee, an African-American Emmy Award winner said Number 2has great truths, great drama and great humour, and what attracted her to theproject was the emphasis on cultural estrangement and finding a way back tofamily.

Deb Balderstone relocated to Australia from the UK late lastyear to represent Working Title.