A LONG-awaited big-budget movie about the life of Robert Burns is still short of a finished script – almost a decade after the project was announced.
Burns has Glasgow-born Gerard Butler lined up for the lead role with Brian Cox and John Hannah also set to take key parts in the £5m production.
But – unlike the Scottish Bard himself – it seems that the makers of the movie are struggling with the all-important words.
The film, which was announced in 2004, has been billed as a “sexy romance” and a Scottish version of Shakespeare in Love, which starred Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes.
Actress Julia Stiles is lined up to play Burns’ wife, Jean Armour.
But Director Vadim Jean, creator of One More Kiss and Leon The Pig Farmer, has admitted the project is still to get off the ground.
Mr Jean, in a newspaper interview, admitted: : “Gerry [Butler] and I are still trying to make the film but waiting for a rewrite on the script.
“We can’t make the film until the script is right.”
He did not expand on the reasons why the script is proving do difficult but writing talent should not be the problem. The man behind the script is reported to be Alan Sharp who previously penned Rob Roy.
Mairi Sutherland, one of the directors of a low-budget movie about the poet, Red Rose, said film-makers were frightened of Burns as a subject.
She said: “I think the problem is that everyone is scared of touching the Burns legacy.
“He’s an icon and, like Shakespeare for the English and Washington for the Americans.
“There’s a cultural fear of being accused of misinterpreting the legend.”
One of the Burns projects that failed to make the silver screen was by Ecosse Films, with a script written by Daniel Boyle who has adapted numerous Ian Rankin Rebus novels for ITV and also wrote the TV series Hamish McBeth.
Another involved Hollywood actor Johnny Depp who declined because he thought it would upset Scots to see an American actor playing the bard.
The actor and director Gerry Mulgrew recently adapted Tam o’Shanter for the stage but agreed a Burns movie was difficult to make.
He said: “To make a film you need money. There isn’t any money in Scotland so it has to come from somewhere else. It’s a difficult sell in some quarters.”
Butler himself has acknowledged that the movie will prove controversial.
He said recently: “I’m sure at the end, you can never keep everybody happy, especially the Scots – I hate to say this – if you’re dealing with one of their national heroes.
“No matter what way you do it, there’s no way you’ll keep everybody happy. So I’ll expect some praise and I’m sure I’ll get a lot of abuse.”