Revealed: The Norfolk film that Lord Richard Attenborough spent decades trying to make - but never managed to

File photo dated 04/09/08 of Richard Attenborough with his autobiography

File photo dated 04/09/08 of Richard Attenborough with his autobiography

During his lifetime he made and starred in many landmark films including Jurassic Park, Gandhi, The Great Escape and A Bridge Too Far.

Thomas Paine statueThomas Paine statue

However there was one movie Richard Attenborough aspired to make but never did - the story of the Thetford-born revolutionary Thomas Paine.

The film director and producer, who died on Sunday at he age of 90, had even gone so far as getting a script written for the biopic, reportedly saying: “I would love to do it.”

However, as other biographical movies fell foul of cinema critics, he apparently struggled to attract funding to produce the Paine film he had always dreamed of making.

Now, following his death, members of the UK Thomas Paine Society - which frequently meets at his birthplace in the town - are hoping to revive the idea and find a new director to take it on in Mr Attenborough’s - and Paine’s - memory.

Stuart Wright, deputy mayor of Thetford and treasurer of the UK Thomas Paine Society, said the idea was first mooted during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“The society had correspondence with him about it and was supportive of the idea,” he said.

“A script was written for the film but the problem was getting the money together. I think the film companies had a bit of trepidation about letting him take on his pet projects. As his health declined, we became less hopeful that he would be able to deliver the film.

“However, we are hopeful someone will be able to pick up on the idea of a film to represent the views of Thomas Paine.

“We are still hopeful one of the major networks will pick it up.”

As the script never made it into Hollywood, it was used as the basis of a play about Thomas Paine at London’s Globe Theatre to celebrate his life in 2009.

Mr Wright believes an Attenborough film about Thomas Paine would have given the revolutionary and writer a “fair hearing” - even though Paine’s views, as expressed in his book The Rights of Man, were a source of controversy for many years.

Mr Attenborough reportedly said of Paine: “I think he was one of the finest men who ever lived.

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

A film would also, Mr Wright believes, succeed in spreading much-needed knowledge about an important but, to many people, little known historical figure.

“There are still a lot of people locally who don’t appreciate who Paine was,” said Mr Wright.

“They walk past his statue in King Street and walk on by, rather than understand what part he played.”


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