Sunday, October 05, 2008

Festival screens Newman swansong

A wildlife documentary narrated by late Hollywood star Paul Newman has received its world premiere at the Dinard Film Festival in France.

Newman, who died of cancer last month aged 83, recorded the voiceover for The Meerkats at a studio near his home in Connecticut in late 2007.

"He gave us a wonderful recording," producer Joe Oppenheimer told BBC News.

The BBC co-production, which follows a family of meerkats fighting to survive, is due out in UK cinemas next year.

'Campfire tone'

It opens in France next month with a French language version narrated by actor Guillaume Canet.

"He gave us his time freely and did exactly what was asked of him," added Mr Oppenheimer.

The film's British director James Honeyborne said: "He was such a good director, that he knew exactly what was needed.
He gives the film authority and credibility. We wanted a warm, storytelling, around-the-campfire tone, which is just what he gave us," added Mr Honeyborne, who believes it to be one of Newman's final film credits.

It was previously thought that the US actor's last screen credit was in Pixar animation Cars, in which he voiced the role of Doc Hudson.

Newman officially announced his retirement from acting in May 2007 after a career spanning more than five decades.

The Meerkats, shot over a period of six months, was one of more than 40 titles to screen at the Dinard Festival of British Film, now in its 19th year.

Boy A, Channel 4's film version of Jonathan Trigell's controversial 2004 novel, was the big winner at this year's event, taking home the festival's Golden Hitchcock Award and two other prizes.

Hunger, about IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands' final days in the Maze prison, received a special prize at an awards ceremony held on Saturday in the seaside town.

British actors Colin Firth, Tara Fitzgerald and Brian Cox were among this year's celebrity guests.