Robert Burns & the cinema.


It has been rumoured for some time that it would happen, but now it seems that now it’s about to go ahead. I’m talking about a filmed biography of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. It was announced yesterday, to coincide with the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the poet’s birth, that a planned film biography of the poet , scripted by Alan Sharp, directed by Vadim Jean and starring Gerard Butler  in the leading role will commence shooting in Scotland later this year following the launch of a government-backed campaign to raise some of the funding required for the £5m production.

 The Times Sunday 25/01/2009

Butler to star in Burns movie


The long-awaited film based on the life of Scotland’s favourite son is to start filming this year

Stuart MacDonald


A biopic of Robert Burns, starring the Scots actor Gerard Butler, will begin shooting in Scotland this year.

The £5m production, which has been beset with financial difficulties, will begin filming following the launch of a government-backed campaign to raise funding.

Glasgow-born Butler, 39, has starred in blockbusters including The Phantom of the Opera and 300. The script has been written by Greenock-born Alan Sharp, who penned Rob Roy, the 1995 blockbuster starring Liam Neeson.

The film, which will be directed by Vadim Jean, a French film-maker, and produced by James Cosmo, a Scots actor, will be shot on location in Edinburgh and Burns’s native Ayrshire.

Most of the budget, which includes investment from Scottish Screen, is already in place. The remainder will be raised by signing up 250 “subscribers” to the project.

Each will commit a sum to the project in the same way that investors backed the publication in 1786 of the famous Kilmarnock Edition of Burns’s poetry. The success of the collection convinced Burns to stay in Scotland rather than emigrate to Jamaica, as he had planned.

Alex Salmond, the first minister, will host a dinner at Edinburgh Castle in May to help raise funds.

The film, titled Burns, will be the first big-screen biopic of the poet since the 1930s. It will focus on his love affairs with his wife Jean Armour and Agnes McLehose, also known as Clarinda, an Edinburgh society hostess.

“Robert Burns is rightly regarded as Scotland’s favourite son,” said Salmond.

“It would be great for Scotland if Burns could be immortalised in modern film, particularly as we mark the 250th anniversary of his birth this year and celebrate his genius through Scotland’s Year of Homecoming.”

One wonders why it has taken cinema so long to get around to thinking of Burns as a suitable subject for a film biography.  The only other attempt at filming anything about him is the lack-lustre 1947 production Comin’ Thro’ the Rye:


Not a remake of the famous Cecil Hepworth silent film, Comin’ Thro’ the Rye is the life story of 18th century Scottish poet Robert Burns. Within an incredibly brief 55 minutes, director Walter C. Mycroft manages to pack most of the significant events in Burns’ existence, “illustrating” certain transitional scenes with still pictures and narration, and throwing 19 songs based on Burns’ best works into the stew. Most of the film is shot silent, utilizing actual locations and nonprofessional actors. Burns himself is played by Terence Alexander, who seems to have been cast primarily on the basis of his resemblance to the original. More of a valentine to the Robert Burns Society than a feature film, Comin’ Thro’ the Rye was evidently never intended for a mass audience. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide


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