SCREEN WATCH

The Wind In The Willows astonishingly has never been made into a film - until now. The force behind the new project is former Monty Python man Terry Jones, who has adapted Kenneth Grahame's book, directs, and plays Mr Toad into the bargain.

Jones has assembled his friends, who are also some of the best British comic talent - John Cleese, Michael Palin, Steve Coogan, and, notably, Eric Idle, who gives a a delightfully whimsical performance as Ratty. The film, which will be released in October, is disappointingly a little short on the magic of the original, but its indulgence in special effects and quick-fire humour may find a receptive children's audience.

Terry Jones himself speculates that the book has never been filmed before because it is "too placid and episodic". He adds that before he embarked on the film, he had never read the book. Now that's what I call a deprived childhood.

One of the first films to be partly financed by the National Lottery began shooting yesterday.

Downtime, a co-production of the Newcastle-based Pilgrim Films, London- based Scala Productions and IMA Films of Paris, is directed by Bharat Nalluri and stars Paul McGann and Susan Lynch. Two lovers are trapped in the lift of a decaying tower block with a child and an elderly neighbour when the lift shaft catches fire. "So begins a nail-biting white-knuckle ride," the producers promise. It sounds rather like a Tyneside version of the Towering Inferno, though that movie, not depending on lottery money, didn't promise "an authentic portrayal of current social issues".

The shooting season evidently started in earnest yesterday. Also on location in the UK were Sir Ian McKellen and Kathy Bates in Beeban Kidron's new film Amy Foster, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's short story. The director had her first major international success with the television adaptation of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.

The film charts the affair of a young servant girl and her immigrant lover, the sole survivor of a ship bound for America. It is the debut feature of Tapson Steel Films, and lacking any real exploration of current social issues, missed out on lottery finance.

David Lister

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