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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 21:01 GMT
War film sparks Hollywood row
A scene from Two Men Went to War
The film will only be seen in six of 3,000 UK cinemas
A low-budget film about the exploits of a Tyneside war hero has sparked a trans-Atlantic row over Hollywood movie muscle.

The film, Two Men Went to War, tells the story of how two members of the Army Dental Corps invaded occupied France in 1942, two years ahead of the D-Day landings.

But because the filmmakers and distributors cannot afford a 200,000 promotion bill the film is being shown in just six out of more than 3,000 UK cinemas.

The situation has prompted calls for government cash to aid Britain's faltering film industry.

Sir Alan Parker
Sir Alan Parker: Radical rethink for film industry

The film stars talented newcomer Leo Bill, Kenneth Cranham, Sir Derek Jacobi and Phyllida Law, and tells the story of Private Leslie Cuthbertson, a 20-year-old trainee dental mechanic from Tyneside, and a 55-year-old New Zealander, Sergeant Peter King.

Branded too old to fight, they decided to take the war to the Germans and sail to France in a small boat.

After a gunfight at a German radar station they escaped back to England.

Critics have praised the film as a cross between a classic Ealing comedy and Dad's Army.

Outrageous treatment

But David Nicholas-Wilkinson, of distributor Guerilla Films, said: "I've got great support for British-owned cinemas.

"But the big problem is they're saying unless I can spend 200,000 on promoting it the film they won't be able to get an audience.

"Americans have a big control of cinemas in this country and they spend large amounts of money promoting their films. Hence people flock to see them."

The film's co-producer Richard Everett said: "The way the film has been treated is outrageous.

"We knew what we would be up against, but this is the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings. The story says so much about British pluckiness."

Mr Nicholas-Wilkinson added: "Distributors like me just don't have the money available to distribute films like this.

"We need more government resources for distribution and fewer on production."

Award-winning director and chairman of the Film Council, Sir Alan Parker, said Two Men Went to War should not have been released at the same time as big-budget films like the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings sequels.

Miner's son

However, he admitted more resources should be ploughed into getting the best UK films seen by a larger audience.

But Mr Nicholas-Wilkinson said: "We brought this film out because it's about two men who 60 years ago did something very brave in the Second World War.

"In just a few days time it is Remembrance Day, what better time to bring it out."

Leo Bill, who starred in the acclaimed Gosford Park and the new British horror film 28 Days Later, plays Private Cuthbertson, a miner's son who was born in Gateshead but grew up in Sandyford, Newcastle.

The hero later become a successful businessman and in 1967 rose to the office of deputy Lord Mayor of Newcastle. He died in 1995.

The film will receive its only showing in the North East at the new Odeon cinema in Newcastle in December.

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David Nicholas-Wilkinson, Guerilla Films
"We need more government resources"

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See also:

05 Nov 02 | Entertainment
25 Oct 02 | Entertainment
03 Oct 02 | England
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