Polanski to film 'Oliver Twist' with UK cast

Roman Polanski, the Polish director, announced yesterday that he would be turning Oliver Twist into a two-hour epic with a British cast.

The film-maker, who won his first Oscar this year after 25 years in exile from the United States, said he had been inspired to take on Charles Dickens' rags-to-riches tale by his children. He told Variety, Hollywood's trade newspaper, that he wanted to make a "family movie".

Filming for the independent production will start in Europe next year.

The 70-year-old director, who is renowned for the dark and brooding tone of many of his films, has teamed up with Ronald Harwood, the screenwriter for his last film, The Pianist, for his attempt to bring to life the filthy streets of 19th century London and the Artful Dodger's antics.

The project comes as Polanski is enjoying a rare period of mainstream success. In March, both he and Harwood won Oscars for The Pianist, which told the true story of a Jewish musician eluding capture by the Nazis in the ruins of Warsaw during the Second World War.

Polanski, who fled the US in 1978 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl and now lives in France, was presented with his famous statuette by Harrison Ford at the Deauville Film Festival this weekend. Ford starred in his 1988 film Frantic.

The new version of Oliver Twist will be the 13th production for the silver screen of Dickens' novel, which has long fascinated film-makers.

The last full-scale production was the 1969 musical Oliver!, starring Mark Lester and Oliver Reed and directed by Carol Reed. It won four Oscars.

Polanski said he recognised that condensing the Victorian novel, which tells the tale of a runaway orphan who falls into the hands of a gang of pickpockets led by Fagin, would be a challenge.

No budget has been announced, but Polanski is likely to use a similar arrangement to that forThe Pianist, avoiding the big Hollywood studios and seeking the cash from small backers and distributors.

The Pianist, which has made £235m worldwide, was largely financed through the French television company, Canal Plus. ICM, the management company that represents Polanski, said it had not finalised details of the film.

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