Irons says the US censors of `Lolita' are as bad as Chinese

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Jeremy Irons yesterday drew a direct comparison between the censorship in the United States of his new film, Lolita, and the repressive Chinese attitude towards freedom of expression in the cinema.

The actor spoke out during a news conference, at the Venice film festival, about Chinese Box, a film by Hong Kong-born director Wayne Wang, in which he stars as an English journalist. When asked how China's film censorship affected the ability to make films, he replied: "I have a film [Lolita] that's being held in America - censorship is censorship."

Wang had earlier said that it was very difficult to work in China because authorities hold the negatives of a film until they have approved it.

Irons stars as Humbert Humbert in the new movie version of Vladimir Nabokov's classic story of a middle-aged man's love affair with an under-age girl.

The film includes scenes of Lolita, played by 15-year-old Dominique Swain, lounging naked on a bed. A body double was used for some scenes.

The film has drawn criticism over the suitability of its subject matter, and its distribution was held up in the US by major Hollywood studios. It is scheduled to open officially in Rome, later this month, after showing at a film festival in Spain.

Last December, Irons threatened to leave Britain if his film was not released here. "I don't believe there is anything wrong with the movie," he said at the time.

"I have heard people say it will not get a distributor to release it and if it does not get one I will leave the country."

The original Lolita film, directed in Britain by Stanley Kubrick and starring James Mason and Sue Lyon, was described as "the most controversial film ever to be made".

Despite calls for a ban it was given an X-certificate in 1962, but by today's standards it seems a coy adaptation.

The remake was directed by Adrian Lyne, who made Indecent Proposal and, Fatal Attraction.

The subject of censorship had already been raised at Venice. Zhang Yimou, the acclaimed Chinese director of films including Red Sorghum and To Live, showed his latest work, Keep Cool, at Venice on Wednesday after its planned premiere at the Cannes film festival in May was blocked by Peking.

The Chinese authorities have accused Zhang of portraying a backward China, out of step with their campaign for positive socialist ethics.