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Fifty Dead Men Walking's makers defend movie

Mark Medley, found at National Post  Published: Thursday, August 28, 2008

Colm HoganJim Sturgess in FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING.


The behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the film Fifty Dead Men Walking, which is scheduled to have its world premiere at next month's Toronto International Film Festival, is quickly becoming as gripping as the memoir it's based on.

On Tuesday, the film's producers released a joint statement confirming the film would still be screening next month at TIFF. It stated that "although inspired by the contents" of Martin McGartland's 1997 memoir of the same name, the film adaptation "is not a representation of Mr. Mc-Gartland's life."

Jim Sturgess in FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING.Furthermore, the statement claimed McGartland -- a onetime infiltrator of the Irish Republican Army whose book chronicles his experiences as a British agent, and who threatened legal action against the film's producers this week -- read the script, was given an advance screening and also turned down the chance to have the name of the main character changed.

Yesterday, McGartland -- who has been living under an assumed identity since 1991 and has been mounting a campaign against the film -- released a new statement to the National Post, re-iterating his unhappiness with the film and accusing the filmmakers of rewriting history.


McGartland contends he was asked him to sign a "moral rights waiver" in November, 2007, which he refused to do. He also claims he was never asked whether he wanted the name of the lead character -- "Marty," played in the film by Jim Sturgess -- to be changed. He says the first time he read the script was October, 2007, at which time the main character was named "Brendan" and the film was called Man on the Run.

In his latest statement, Mc-Gartland specifically targets Canadian director Kari Skogland, saying "shepersonally gave me her word that she would stick to the facts of my story. ... As a filmmaker she has a moral obligation to remain faithful, to me, to keep to her word."

Stephen Hegyes of Brightlight Pictures, one of the film's producers, was diplomatic about the situation.

"If there are details that he disputes then there are details that he disputes," he said. "In certain cases there are, in any telling of a true story, the need to take some creative licence."

The film stars Sir Ben Kingsley, Jim Sturgess and Rose McGowan. It will have a Gala screening on Sept. 10 at Roy Thomson Hall. Hegyes hopes that McGartland will be pleased when he sees the final cut.

"It's very clear that this is a guy who put his life on the line to save other people's lives," he said. "There's no question when you see it [that]Marty's a hero."


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