Sky and director in bitter dispute over 'Best' film

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The Independent Online

One of the biggest British films of the spring, a movie on the life of the former soccer star George Best, is at the centre of a bitter dispute between its makers and BSkyB.

Sky, which is providing 30 per cent of Best's £5m budget, is insisting on showing the film on television on the first weekend of the cinema release next month. Cinema managers and distributors have warned the director that this could ruin the film at the cinema.

Mary McGuckian, the film's director, has already successfully gone to court to take out an injunction against Sky to prevent it from showing Best a month before release. But the threat to scupper the cinema run still stands.

The film has the blessing of Best, who acted as a script consultant. It stars John Lynch as the footballer and will feature Patsy Kensit, Stephen Fry, Roger Daltrey, the late Ian Bannen, Linus Roache and Jerome Flynn.

Lynch said yesterday that Best, 53, had watched a screening of the film shortly before he was admitted to hospital suffering severe stomach pains on 8 March. "It was a very emotional experience. George said it was like watching a screen full of ghosts," Lynch said. "I am immensely disappointed [about Sky's decision]. It's been four years of our lives. It's now a spite thing with Sky."

A Sky spokesman said: "We fully expect the producers to abide by the contract they signed with us, which was for simultaneous television and theatrical release."

McGuckian said: "They are contractually entitled to release it on TV simultaneously. But we are amazed they are insisting on the entitlement."

George Best was last night said to be "making more rapid progress" in his fight against a liver problem. His doctor said his condition was very satisfactory, but he will stay in hospital for at least another week.