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Category: Burns News
Article Date: January 16, 2005 | Publication: Sunday Mail | Author: John Millar

Posted by: admin

Top film director Vadim Jean is about to bring the Bard to the big screen. Today he unveils the true love story behind the film.. how Rabbie helped him find the woman of his dreams

ROBERT BURNS' womanising exploits are legendary... and his eye for the ladies has been inherited by film boss Vadim Jean. The director, who is about to start filming his all-star biopic of the Bard's life, fell head-over-heels for his wife Susan at a Burns Supper.

Vadim, 41, had been invited to the celebration in London because of his involvement with the Burns film.

And when the organiser was delayed, he found himself proclaimed the only Burns expert and expected to give The Immortal Memory.

Vadim said: 'Haggis and tatties were cooked then, after the meal, the guests turned to me to do The Immortal Memory - at the time I had no idea it was called that - because I was making this film about Burns.

'Just before I started, three gorgeous women - who it turned out were lawyers - came in. Then I told the story of our film.' As the director, whose previous films include One More Kiss and Leon The Pig Farmer, gave his potted history on Burns, he realised he was speaking directly to one of the women lawyers.

It was suggested that each of the guests should recite a Burns poem and Vadim chose the romantic Ae Fond Kiss.

He said: 'It was supposed to be for the entire company but I read it pretty much only to her, the woman who had fascinated me since arriving with her friends.

'Later, she left and all I managed to find out about her was that her name was Susan and she was a family law barrister.

'The next day, I decided that I really wanted to see her again but I had no way of getting in touch with her.

'So I called a friend who was a QC and he provided a list of the places where she might work. Then he tracked down four possibilities, all called Susan or Susanne.

'One - Susan Budaly - sounded the most likely so I emailed her the first two lines of Ae Fond Kiss followed by the message, 'If you were at this Burns Night, please get in touch'.

'It was her and we got married on January 24, the day before Burns Night last year.'

The final link with the Burns movie was made at their wedding ceremony when actor Gerard Butler, who plays the Bard in the new film, recited Ae Fond Kiss.

Vadim said: 'The poetry works. I found my wife thanks to Robert Burns and there surely couldn't be a better reason for making the film.'

The director's true romance happened much quicker than getting the Burns film off the ground. It's been six years since the project - which focuses on Burns and his romances with Jean Armour and Edinburgh society hostess Clarinda - was announced by James Cosmo's production company, Alloway Films.

There were initial rumours that stars such as Robert Carlyle, Ewan McGregor and even Johnny Depp might be in the running to portray the Bard.

Since then, producers have fallen out and quit and there have been serious concerns that the whole thing might collapse due to lack of financial backing.

There was a boost when acclaimed Scots writer Alan Sharp, whose films include Rob Roy, Night Moves and The Osterman Weekend, signed up.

And now Vadim has assembled an impressive cast, headed by Phantom of the Opera star Gerard as Burns, with Bourne Identity beauty Julia Stiles as Jean Armour.

Other big names signed up to appear include Brian Cox, Robert Cavanah, John Hannah, David Hayman, Kathleen McDermott and James Cosmo, who is also executive producer.

Vadim has spent years doing his homework on Burns and has made visits to Ayrshire and Edinburgh to select the perfect locations for filming.

He said: 'Robert Burns must be in every-one's top three when they are talking of a list of the greatest Scots.

'He had a rich and complex life but we made a decision that we didn't want to do his entire life, so deciding which part of it to go for is a big decision 'If I had to choose one word for Burns, it would be passion so we decided our film should focus on the love story.'

The director also admits that he feels a great weight on his shoulders because of the passion for Burns worldwide.

'We were conscious of being faithful to the life of Burns and still managing to make a film for people who know nothing about him.

'I know we are going make a wonderful film but I also know that not everyone will be happy with it. We are trying to make a film that lots of people will go and see and come away feeling as though they've discovered things about Burns that they never knew.

'Lots of people can quote the poems but very few know much about his life. I hope that if I achieve nothing else with the film, it will be that the world will be aware of what an incredible life he had.'

Despite Burns' iconic status, only one major movie has been previously made about his life - Auld Lang Syne, way back in 1937, which starred a young Andrew Cruickshank as the poet.

In recent years, several big-screen versions of the Burns story have been mooted, only to disappear faster than Tam o'Shanter's grey mare.

Hayman once planned his own version, with McGregor as his No.1 choice for the lead.

Dougray Scott was also mentioned as a possible choice to play the Bard in Red Rose.

Even Ecosse Films - who made Oscar- nominated flick Mrs Brown - commissioned a Burns script but later pulled out.

Vadim admits that his film will be a sexy look at Robert Burns.

He said: 'It is a very witty script - Burns was bawdy and witty.

'Alan Sharp's script is remarkably faithful to the life of Burns and Gerry Butler is charismatic and perfect for the role.'


EX-EASTENDER Robert Cavanah plays Burns' brother Gilbert.

Robert is best-known as Vicki Fowler's boyfriend Tommy in the BBC soap - famously run out of the Square after trying to do the dirty with Den's missus.

He has also played Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and starred in the second Lara Croft movie.

VETERAN actor James Cosmo plays Mauchline minister Rev Auld, who baptised Rabbie and Jean's first set of twins.

Cosmo has featured in many of the biggest Scots films of recent years, including Trainspotting and Braveheart.

Burns is the third film he has worked on with Brian Cox.

BRIAN COX plays the poet's fatherin-law, James Armour, a dour 'churchy' man who disapproved of Burns' romance with his daughter. Cox is one of Hollywood's favourite Scots stars. He was the original Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter in 1986 and has starred in a string of blockbusters, including X Men, Bourne Supremacy and Troy.

JOHN HANNAH plays Burns' friend and patron, Gavin Hamilton.

John trained as an electrician before turning to acting.

He got his big break in Four Weddings and a Funeral and has also starred in Hollywood hits The Mummy and Sliding Doors. On TV, he is best known as Edinburgh detective Inspector Rebus.

DAVID HAYMAN plays The Rev. Kemp, minister to society hostess Agnes M'Lehose (Clarinda), who struck up a close friendship with Burns.

Hayman has turned in acclaimed performances in films such as Hope and My Name Is Joe.

He is also a tireless worker for Glasgow-based charity Spirit Aid.

KATHLEEN McDERMOTT plays Jenny Clow, Clarinda's maid, who had a fling with the Bard and bore him a son.

Kathleen won a Bafta for her debut role in Morvern Callar.

The Burns film will be the biggest break yet for the stunning redhead, who still hosts karaoke nights in Glasgow.


PHANTOM of the Opera star Gerard has the tough job of bringing the passion, the genius and the frailties of the Bard to the small screen.

Butler kicked off his career in a small role opposite Billy Connolly in Mrs Brown but got his big break alongside Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

In his lifetime, Burns went from ploughman to taxman to poet to national hero. A renowned drinker and womaniser, he is best known as the genius who penned Auld Lang Syne.


NEW York beauty Julia plays the long- suffering Mrs Burns.

Jean, immortalised by the poet in the ballad Bonie Jean, had to put up with her husband's many affairs, which resulted in his fathering eight illegitimate children with five different women. The new Burns movie will reunite Stiles with her Bourne Supremacy co-star, Brian Cox.

Julia has starred in a string of Hollywood hits, including 10 Things I Hate About You, Mona Lisa Smile and Save The Last Dance. She also played Ophelia opposite Ethan Hawke's Hamlet in 2000.


IT'S Burns night on January 25 and to celebrate we're on the hunt for the new Rabbie.

We're looking for your verse on why the Bard's still No.1 after all these years.

Send your poems to Rabbie Rules, Sunday Mail, One Central Quay, Glasgow, G3 8DA or email to The rules are simple - a maximum of 100 words, all work must be original and please enclose a daytime phone number. There's 25 for every one we publish.


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