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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 09:20 GMT
Attenborough takes on epic Ring
By Nicola Dann
Entertainment reporter, BBC

Shirley Maclaine and Richard Attenborough
Shirley Maclaine and Richard Attenborough are old friends

At 84, most actor/directors would have long since retired but Richard Attenborough is an exception. His latest cinematic offering is Closing The Ring - a wartime love story spanning two continents and 50 years.

It should come as no surprise that he's taken on yet another epic story. He is after all the director that brought us the Academy Award-winning Ghandi and the politically sensitive Cry Freedom.

It should also come as no surprise that with Lord Attenborough at the helm, Closing The Ring attracted an all-star cast including Pete Postlethwaite, Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine.

"I think she's an icon," says the director of Maclaine. "I think she's for all time. While cinema exists, Shirley MacLaine will be part of cinema."

The feeling seems to be mutual as MacLaine jumped at the chance to collaborate with her old friend once again.

"If Dickie had sent me the phone book I probably would have said 'okay let's do the As and Bs' just to work with him again," she says.

Mischa Barton
Mischa Barton was recommended to the director by his grandchildren

Another of the film's stars is Mischa Barton. Lord Attenborough hadn't come across the OC star before.

"I didn't know at that time of Mischa Barton - the OC was not in my life," he says.

"It was only my grandchildren who said: 'Pappy you can get Mischa Barton then you'll really have a smash success picture.' And she's wonderful. She's as beautiful as anybody you could ever wish to meet and she's an exquisite actress."

Closing The Ring is based on a true story of a young American woman whose husband was killed during World War II near Belfast when the bomber he was flying crashed.

Only when a gold ring is discovered 50 years later, can she lay to rest the past and finally look to the future.

Proudest moment

So just how challenging was it to make sure everything was historically accurate for America in 1944 and Belfast in 1991?

"Apart from anything else, I remember it, you see. I know 1941," Lord Attenborough recalls.

Shirley Maclaine
Shirley Maclaine's character has to come to terms with her past

"I was in the air force in '43 so it's part of my world, as it were, so I had the advantage of sort of sniffing out things that weren't real and we had to do a tremendous amount of reconstruction and research and so on.

"And then in '91 when Shirley was 70 odd - that was available to all of us in our immediate past memory.

"The important thing was to be able to meld those together. With Shirley playing Ethel Ann in her 70s and Mischa playing her when she was 19."

Lord Attenborough is revered throughout the film industry but his proudest achievement cinematically might not be what would immediately spring to mind.

"I think the best film I made or was involved in was called Shadowlands. But I suppose if I'm thinking about the impact on cinema around the world I have to think of Cry Freedom because Mandela told me that it contributed to the end of apartheid," he says.

With those kind of credentials it's easy to see why people jump at the chance to be a part of a Richard Attenborough movie.

And while he's behind the lens for Closing The Ring, he's not yet ready to give up his first love, acting.

He can next be seen in the upcoming Jurassic Park IV which is currently in production.

It's a packed schedule so would he ever consider taking things a bit easier and retiring?

"Good heavens no," he says. "Relaxing? Sitting back? I'd be bored stiff. Oh no, I adore working. I can't believe I'm so lucky. I just have to thank the Lord God."

Closing The Ring is out in cinemas across the UK from 28th December.

Lord Richard Attenborough on 'Closing the Ring'

Awards named after Attenborough
14 Dec 07 |  Entertainment
Gala opening for Ring movie
13 Dec 07 |  Northern Ireland
Canada gala for Attenborough film
23 Aug 07 |  Entertainment
Attenborough's Picassos on show
16 Jun 07 |  Leicestershire

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