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First degree Burns;Poet is hottest property in Hollywood ...due to Scots star Gerard

Category: Burns News
Article Date: April 1, 2007 | Publication: Mail on Sunday | Author: BRIAN PENDREIGH

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A LONG-DELAYED film about Robert Burns looks like getting the go-ahead at long last, thanks to the box office success of bloody Greek blockbuster 300.

Scots actor Gerard Butler starred as the Spartan king Leonidas fending off the Persian hordes at Thermopylae in the epic, which earned Pounds 36 million in its opening weekend in the US, breaking all records for a March release.

That turned Butler into one of Hollywood's hottest properties, so the Paisley-born star, earmarked to play Burns in a biopic six years ago, can pick and choose his parts and even 'green light' his own projects.

Now the producers of the Burns film have dusted off the script and are looking for financial backing for the Pounds 5 million movie, with a view to shooting it next year and releasing it in 2009 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the Bard's birth.

Butler, 37, has described the planned movie as 'an incredible story about an incredible man'.

When the film was first announced in 2001, Butler beat off competition from the likes of Johnny Depp to get the part. But the producers have struggled to find funding, with backers unsure of its box office potential.

Producer Andrew Boswell said: 'The success of 300 is great news for everyone, especially Gerry Butler. And it could be the shot in the arm we need. The Burns movie is a great passion with Gerry, who regards it as the role he was born to play.' Butler, who starred with Angelina Jolie in the second Tomb Raider film and appeared in the title role of the film version of Phantom of the Opera, has spoken of his frustration at delays in the Burns film.

He said: 'As much as we love Robbie Burns, trust me, he's not as known around the world as we think he is, especially not in Hollywood.' But he's hopeful now that the success of 300, which opened in Britain last Friday, could finally get the movie off the ground.

Last night, his publicist Rupert Fowler said: 'Gerry is swamped right now, but it is still a project that he is hoping to be part of.' The film is expected to concentrate more on the Bard's romantic adventures than his poetry. The role of Burns' longsuffering wife Jean Armour was previously earmarked for American actress Julia Stiles, star of The Bourne Identity.

Scottish actress Kathleen McDermott was to play Jenny Clow, a maid who had a fling with Burns and bore him a son.

Murdo Morrison, honorary president of the Robert Burns World Federation, welcomed the news the film was back on track, but added: 'The only plea we'd make is that they don't Braveheart it but stick to an authentic line.' .

Figures released yesterday showed the value of Scots film production fell to Pounds 22.1 million in 2006 down by Pounds 5 million.

The blame was put on tax breaks set up by Chancellor Gordon Brown not kicking in early enough to help the industry north of the Border.


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