Ibstock children enjoy special story time with Hollywood star Stephen Graham
Hollywood star Stephen Graham isn't known for being a soft touch – but he revealed his gentler side by reading a story to toddlers during a visit to a nursery.
The 39-year-old Liverpudlian, who is well known for playing tough guys in films such as The Damned United, This is England and Pirates of the Caribbean, took time out from his busy schedule to read to children at Ibstock Day Nursery.
The actor, who lives in Ibstock with actress wife Hannah Walters and the couple's two young children, is starring as legendary gangster Al Capone in the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
His visit was arranged by family friend Joanne Sparrow, pre-school leader and deputy nursery manager.
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"Although he's a big star, everyone in Ibstock just knows him as Stephen," she said. "It was only when I saw him in Pirates of the Caribbean I realised, 'okay, he really is famous!'
"Stephen is well known for playing hard men or troubled characters, in some cases quite nasty people, but in reality he's a real softy and is great with kids.
"His two children used to attend the nursery, so he has strong connections here.
"This visit came about during a chance visit in the street.
"He'd just finished doing a couple of episodes of the CBeebies children's channel's Bedtime Stories and asked if we would like him to come in and read a story or two. Of course, we jumped at the chance."
Stephen spent about an hour with the youngsters.
"They were in awe of him," said Joanne. "They loved it and it was a real treat for all us staff, too.
"He was so great with the youngsters and, being a wonderful actor, was able to use different voices and accents for each of the characters.
"The children were hanging on his every word."
Johnny Depp is on record as calling Stephen "one of the finest English actors of his generation".
He has lived in the north west Leicestershire village for about nine years.
He wasn't available to speak to the Mercury yesterday but has previously described his love for Ibstock.
"I'm part of the furniture," he said. "I love the sense of camaraderie in Ibstock, the community spirit. It's a proper English village."
Born in Kirby, Merseyside, Stephen's roles have seen him portray characters from several British regions, including Cockney, a Geordie, a Scouser and a Scotsman.
He has also played a 19th century New York gang member, a Chicago mobster, a Brooklyn mobster, a Texan, and the short-fused British nationalist "Combo" in This is England.
He was nominated for a Royal Television Society award for his role on The Street and a British Independent Film Award for This is England.