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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
Reformer may be captured on film
Statue of Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine left school at the age of 13
One of Thetford's most famous sons could be immortalised on film by Sir Richard Attenborough.

Radical reformer Thomas Paine, author of the pamphlet The Rights of Man, was born in 1736 and went to Thetford Grammar School.

Cambridge-born Lord Attenborough has long wanted to make a film of Paine's life.

"I think he was one of the finest men that ever lived," he said.

"I think the joy of encountering him throws up all sorts of wonderful, emotional, dramatic moments and scenes and sequences.

It's as difficult (to make) as Ghandi was - but I don't have 20 years to put Paine on the screen.

We should spend more time on the people who anticipated what needed to be done and then had the courage to speak up
Former Labour MP Tony Benn
"I would love to do it."

Chad Goodwin of the Thomas Paine Appreciation Society said Lord Attenborough had been wanting to make a film about Paine for many years.

"He's always had trouble getting the financial backing for it.

"He's not a young man any more, but finally we hope he's going to do it."

Former Labour MP Tony Benn, a leading figure in the Thomas Paine Society, welcomed the news that a film may finally be made about Paine.

"He was a republican, a humanist, he believed in women's rights and laid the foundation of the welfare state... of course we should remember him.

"We spend too much time on kings and queens.

Richard Attenborough
Richard Attenborough has dreamed of making a film about Paine
"We should spend more time on the people who anticipated what needed to be done and then had the courage to speak up as he did and had a message for the present modern generation."

Destined to be a corset maker, Thomas Paine instead travelled to America, where he is said to have invented the phrase 'the United States of America'.

He returned to Europe and in 1791 he published his reforming pamphlet, 'The Rights of Man' for which he was made a French citizen.

Thomas Paine died in New York in miserable circumstances in 1809.

His statue now stands outside King's House in Thetford.




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