Director to sue over Hollywood's new 'Wicker Man'

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The Independent Culture

A Hollywood remake of the British cinema classic The Wicker Man is causing a furore among the team that created the original movie. One of its stars has branded it "a crime", while the first film's director, Robin Hardy, has called in lawyers in an attempt to distance himself from the new production.

The original film, recently voted the greatest cult movie of all time, is the latest in a growing list of US revamps for well-loved British movies. Alfie, The Italian Job and Get Carter have also been given an overhaul.

The £20m remake will be released later this year with action hero Nicolas Cage in its leading role and set not on a remote Hebridean community, like the original, but on an island off the US mainland.

Mr Hardy called in legal help when he found his name was being trailed as one of the screenwriters for the new production, fearing it would jeopardise his own future production. He is preparing a new film, Cowboys for Christ, which will reunite some of the team from his film.

Ingrid Pitt, one of the original stars, said: "I think it is terrible. I can't stand the idea of a new version it. I won't be seeing it. I think it's a crime."

Originally released in 1973, The Wicker Man was hated by the studio that backed it and was lucky to get a release. It eventually emerged as a B-movie supporting Nicolas Roeg's thriller Don't Look Now, but word-of-mouth interest made it a sleeper hit.

Vast swaths of footage were cast on the cutting room floor to bring it in at a manageable length, giving the film even greater cult status among devotees who became intrigued by the lost scenes.

Neil LaBute, director and writer of the new version, has defended his decision to rejig the story, saying: "I always loved the movie and I loved the script in particular, but I never thought that it was completed so well that it couldn't be touched again."

But Mr Hardy said: "This is a very strange one to remake. I wouldn't have wanted to do it. The script is so difficult to adapt."

Jake Wright, Mr Hardy's assistant director, said: "I feel rather sorry they are doing it. The original was just so, well, original... I just don't think it will be very good. I can't imagine what they could do with it really. Edward Woodward was just so right in the lead role."

In the remake, Christopher Lee's character, Lord Summerisle, is replaced by the head of a matriarchal society, played by Ellen Burstyn, and the action is set off the coast of Maine.

Steve Phillips, who runs a website devoted to The Wicker Man, said: "It will be intriguing to see how they have tackled this, because so much of it is rooted in British folklore."