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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK


Harris cans his Cannes film

Richard Harris: Angry at cuts made to The Barber of Siberia

Actor Richard Harris is boycotting his latest movie at the Cannes Film Festival - because he thinks the three-hour epic has been savagely cut.

Rosie Millard: "The photographers were all over Julia Ormond, but Harris stayed away."
The 68-year-old pulled out of Thursday night's premiere of The Barber of Siberia, a British-Russian co-production, after finding his role had been almost completely cut out.

He accuses the film's producers of cutting the film from its original six-and-a-half hour length to three hours just to attract box-office crowds.

"I saw the finished film on Friday night and found out I wasn't in it," he said.

"If I had gone to Cannes I would have had egg all over my face. I gave them eight or nine months of my life and I have been left on the cutting room floor."

The film, directed by Nikita Mikhalkov, has outsold Titanic in Russia, but has had poor reviews in the West.

[ image: Director Nikita Mikhalkov with Julia Ormond and Oleg Menshikov]
Director Nikita Mikhalkov with Julia Ormond and Oleg Menshikov
Harris added: "It's still a wonderful movie but it could have been a masterpiece. In my view, they have destroyed an absolute classic."

Trade magazine Variety has called the cut film "overblown, overlong and decidedly underwhelming".

But Harris maintains the cuts damaged the film, and says Mikhalkov was the best director he had ever worked with.

"I think it could have been the greatest script I have ever read in my entire life. It was an incredible part and a great opportunity to exercise my talents," he said.

"If I had been shown the role as it appears in the film I saw on Friday, I would never have agreed to take it on."

Harris plays US inventor Douglas McCracken, who wants to sell a forest-felling machine to the Russians, a metaphor for the march of modern technology. Julia Ormond plays his representative, who falls in love with a Russian cadet, Oleg Menshikov.

Harris said he wanted to reveal the reason for his absence from Cannes after recent rumours of ill health, after he was taken to hospital following "a bottle of white wine that disagreed with me".

Harris said he would not be attending his old friend Oliver Reed's funeral in Ireland, but added: "I shall drink a pint or two in his honour. I am sorry for poor old Oliver, but he died the way he wanted to go."

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