Hughes role for Friend Rachel

Sitcom queen Aniston is to star in a Hollywood version of a children's story by the Poet Laureate
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The Independent Online
JENNIFER ANISTON, star of cult American sitcom Friends, is to head the cast in an animated film of the Poet Laureate Ted Hughes's children's classic, The Iron Man.

Hollywood studio Warner Bros has assembled a cast - also including jazz singer Harry Connick Jr - which it hopes will turn what has become a set text in many schools into a blockbuster movie for 1999.

The Iron Man is the story of a giant metal machine which falls to earth terrorising the countryside by destroying farmland and eating tractors. The farming community snares the beast, which is then freed by Hogarth, a nine-year-old boy who uses him to fight a space dragon.

The pounds 40m Hollywood version will be based on the musical of Hughes's work, created for the West End in 1993 by Pete Townshend of the Sixties rock legends, The Who. Warner Bros said the film would be called The Iron Giant, the novel's American title when it was published in 1968. They confirmed it would star Aniston as the voice of Hogarth's mother, Annie Hughes.

Aniston, god-daughter of the late Telly Savalas, plays waitress Rachel Green in Friends, for which she is reputed to earn pounds 75,000 an episode. In 1992 she appeared as a guest star in the quirky time-travel drama Quantum Leap. Last year she launched her film career with a pounds 2m performance in the box office disappointment Picture Perfect. Most will recognise 29- year-old Aniston from the hairstyle she once sported in Friends, which has become known as the "Rachel look".

Andrew Motion, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, said that as long as the Hollywood version does not make The Iron Man "cute" it will retain its power as a tale of humanity. But he warned that although Aniston's casting was a smart marketing move, there was a danger she might "kitschify" the film.