As well as one of the country’s most beloved children’s books, Britain’s oldest recorded town is also getting the big screen treatment with Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans.

And as if Colchester featuring throughout the new hit film wasn’t enough, it also has one of the town’s most recognisable faces in the cast.

That’s actor Tony Gardner, who has appeared in such shows as Last Tango in Halifax, Fresh Meat and Lead Balloon.

“When I read the script,” he tells me, “I realised it was all about Colchester. Kate Nash, who plays Boudicca, even sings a song about my home town.

“That’s the thing about Horrible Histories, it’s all based on historical fact and so if you’re doing a film about Romans in Britain, especially with Boudicca in it, you kind of have to include Colchester.”

Although when it came to the filming, producers chose Bulgaria and Sussex instead of the Essex town.

“They have a massive Roman set just outside Sofia,” he adds, “which I went to when I did Plebs. It’s an incredible place with arenas and temples.”

If there’s one word to describe Horrible Histories: The Movie, it’s fun.

Based on the hugely popular kid’s book series by Terry Deary, it hilariously and vividly brings the Roman period to life.

The historical jumping point for the plot is the story of the Emperor Nero, and the troubles he faced with Boudicca.

This developed into following two teenage protagonists, the Roman teenage soldier Atti - banished by Nero to Britain - and Orla, a young Celtic girl who desperately wants to become a warrior. When Orla kidnaps Atti, it’s just as Boudicca is rounding up her troops to repel those rotten Romans from Britain for good.

In the film, Tony plays Atti’s dad but when he was told the character didn’t have a name, the Colchester-based actor suggested a very suitable one.

“As an actor,” he reveals, “you really want your character to have a name so I asked whether it would be ok to give Atti’s dad and they agreed, which is why in the credits I’m now playing Antonius.

“I worked with Dominic, (Brigstocke) the director, quite a few years ago,” Tony says, “but more recently with him and the writer Caroline Norris on the Tracy Ullman show.

“This was a bit of a dream job for me working with Dominic and Caroline again but also appearing in a film in which the history of the town where I live is featured so heavily.

“I think it’s a real opportunity for the town to jump on board with all the publicity the movie will bring.

“It’s a pretty big deal with such a stellar cast, including Kate Nash, who I’m a huge fan of, as well as Nick Frost, Derek Jacobi and Rupert Graves.

There’s also Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall, who plays Nero’s mother Agrippina and who admits being on the set for Horrible Histories was an absolute hoot.

“I really had a blast,” says the Liverpool-born star, who shares that the work reminded her of “British comedies from the 30s, 40s, 50s”, which she’s a big fan of.

“I still have the Carry On films - I have the whole boxset,” she elaborates.

Describing how she wanted the work she chooses to do “to be fun”, she says Horrible Histories: The Movie “really was such a great recipe for that”.

And she adds thoughtfully: “It was very welcoming. I was only there for a short period of time, and sometimes that can work against you but I felt right at home right away, which was lovely.”

Dreary’s books, the first of which was published in 1993, have undoubtedly inspired millions of children to get into history, and in 2009, a Horrible Histories TV show started on CBBC.

It has become clear it’s comedy that grown ups can enjoy too though, becoming such a hit a repackaged version aired in a primetime slot, with Stephen Fry as the host.

While the film is obviously a different kettle of fish - on TV it’s a half-hour sketch-show format, and for the silver screen, it needed to be a traditional three-act story - it also appeals to a wide audience.

“That’s the great thing,” notes Kim, “there’s a little bit for both, adults and children, - it’s not like taking your kid to see a show that you’re not going to be entertained by or have a good laugh.”

A lot of Kim’s work in this film is alongside Submarine star Craig Roberts, who plays her son Nero.

Their characters have what can only be described as an unconventional mother/son relationship.

“I didn’t know Craig until we met, in the make up trailer,” recalls Kim of their time filming together.

“There was a real freedom on the set, it was really funny. Dom (Brigstocke), our director, was very allowing and encouraging for us to come up with ideas and fun things. And it was just so well written and well researched.

“We both of course knew the level of comedy, based on Horrible Histories, but also based on the cast that was there - they were so good and so fun to play with.”

“I love to read scripts and most of them are pretty bad, pretty awful. So it’s nice to get something that’s, first of all, well written, has a great track record, has an audience built in - and have fun.”

“I’m very much interested in playing women who are not just strong and mighty, but who are doubting but also enjoy their life, or are going through some kind of challenge, whatever the story is or the conflict is.

“But this for me, there was a conflict but it was also so joyous, the company of the actors and Horrible Histories.”

Horrible Histories: The Movie - Rotten Romans is out in cinemas today.