The Best of Enemies filmmaker Robin Bissell feared his directorial debut was cursed when a lightning storm shut down his first day on set.

Bissell gathered his cast and crew together and started making plans for the first day of his first shoot when the clouds gathered and the rain pelted down.

"I got my first set-up and then we sat for three hours because of lightning strikes," he tells WENN. "After a strike, you need 30 minutes without lightning before you can turn the generators back on. We would almost get to 30, and then lightning would strike again, and we’d have to re-set the 30-minute clock. That was my first day as a director."

His film, about the unlikely friendship between an African-American single mum, called Ann Atwater, and North Carolina Ku Klux Klan leader member C.P. Ellis, was released on 5 April (19).

Based on Osha Gray Davidson’s 2008 book, which has also been turned into a successful play, the film has been well received by the Ellis and Atwater families, but Bissell is disappointed the activist didn't live to see the finished project.

"Ann (Atwater) was so very excited to see the movie and my biggest regret was that I couldn’t pull it together before she passed away in 2016," he adds.

But she died knowing Taraji P. Henson would be portraying her - and she was thrilled by the casting news.

The Empire star says, "She called me 'that Cookie woman' and I'm told she was very happy I was cast."