Warner stalls over release of pounds 30m IRA film

The release in Britain of the new pounds 30m film on the IRA's founding father, Michael Collins, may be delayed because of Hollywood fears that it could spark renewed IRA violence.

The film, which stars Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts, is directed by Neil Jordan, the British director who made The Crying Game, the highly successful film about an IRA man who falls in love with a transvestite.

Jordan's movie about Collins was praised last month at the Venice Film festival and opens in Los Angeles in a few weeks. In yesterday's edition of Screen International, Collins is given an October release date in Britain. But Warner Brothers are stalling on naming a release date in the UK or Ireland.

One insider said yesterday: "We haven't cancelled the release in Britain, but we are watching the situation. If we had a mainland bombing campaign we would have to think hard about whether the film could inflame the situation, and whether it would be right to release it."

Warner Brothers in London yesterday denied reports that pressure had been put on the Hollywood parent company by President Clinton, anxious to see Northern Ireland peace talks start again before the American presidential elections in November.

Robert Daly, chairman of Warner Brothers, said: "This is not a film we are hiding, but we will be sensitive to conditions in the world at the time."

Neil Jordan defended his film. "I challenge anyone to demonstrate a more accurate historical movie," he said. "It's going to be moving and traumatic when the British and Irish public see the film. But that's a good thing. Yesterday's terrorist is today's statesman. I make no apology for that."

Cinemas are certain to show the film as soon as Warnermakes the decision to release it. John Wilkinson, president of the Cinema Exhibitors' Association, predicted that the film would be shown in Britain as soon as Warner gave it the go ahead. "It will be put on where exhibitors believe there will be an audience for it," he said.

Simon Burke, chairman of Virgin Cinemas, said yesterday: "We don't shy away from putting on controversial films ... Michael Collins is a charismatic figure and it will be a good film. I don't really think it's got political overtones that are relevant today."

No release date has been given yet for another film, Devil's Own, starring Brad Pitt as an IRA man on the run. Columbia Pictures, which made the film, is also said to be studying the political situation.

Work on both films began while the IRA ceasefire was in place.

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