Stars sign up for Marathon, the movie
By Chris Hastings and Beth Jones
(Filed: 22/01/2006)

When it was first run a quarter of a century ago, it attracted just 7,000 competitors of whom more than 1,000 did not manage to cross the finishing line.

Today, it is one of the world's most famous sporting events, attracts almost 50,000 athletes a year, huge crowds of supporters and has been completed by more than 500,000 people.

Now, the London Marathon is set for a starring role on cinema screens around the world - as the subject of its own Hollywood film, entitled simply Marathon.

Johnny Lee Miller, the star of Trainspotting, Toby Stephens, who was a Bond villain in Die Another Day and Parminder Nagra, the star of Bend it Like Beckham, are set to star in the £20 million film which is being dubbed the new Chariots of Fire.

The cast will be entered into this year's race on April 23 to ensure that the film captures the drama of the event which is watched by millions around the world.

Tim Sullivan, the director of Jack and Sarah who is making the film, has been given permission by the marathon's organisers to place 25 camera crews along the 26-mile route.

The shoot, which is due to begin in early March, will be one of the most logistically complex in recent film history.

The Notting Hill director Roger Mitchell, who is the co-producer of the film, has also secured exclusive access to BBC footage of this year's event.

Tim Sullivan, who is writing and directing the film, told the Sunday Telegraph he was confident that the film would have international appeal.

"The reason I thought it would make a good film is that although I am not a fan of athletics I find myself watching the race every year," he said. "Every time I see the bobbing heads at the beginning I well up.

"I remember watching the the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and as the marathon winner, who wasn't even British, ran around a street corner, this gruff Northern voice shouted 'Come on my son'.

"That is the sort of emotion that we are trying to capture with this film," he said.

The new film will tell the story of six strangers, who all have different reasons for entering the event.

The first half of the film will concentrate on the background stories of the characters while the race will dominate the final third of the film.

"Marathon is about ordinary people and why they choose to come together in this event," said Mr Sullivan.

''They are from different layers of society. The London Marathon is an extraordinary leveller of people. Millionaire chief executives run alongside the most humble."

He added: "Our cast will be official race entrants but they will not be expected to run the whole 26 miles."

Films about British sport have enjoyed mix fortunes at the box office.

Chariots of Fire, which told the story of the British runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams as they competed in the 1924 Olympics, won four Oscars including best film.

Bend It Like Beckham, which featured Parminder Nagra as a schoolgirl obsessed with football, and launched the career of Keira Knightley, was an unexpected hit in America.

Other films, however, have not proved to be winners. Last year's Wimbledon, a love story set around the annual tennis tournament, received a lukewarm response.


Jonny Lee Miller Pulls Out Of Marathon So He Can Film 'Marathon'

Angelina Jolie's ex-husband Jonny Lee Miller has pulled out of a gruelling 150 mile marathon across the Sahara desert. The British actor was set to run the Marathon des Sables, a seven day straight sprint across desert, for UK charity Mencap. Instead, he will be filming his new movie, the fittingly titled Marathon, in Los Angeles. A source said: "Jonny would have given the event some much-needed publicity so it was a real blow when he cancelled."

A spokesperson for the actor, who shot to fame in cult Scottish movie Trainspotting, said: "Jonny is very disappointed too. He's been doing an awful lot of training for it, but unfortunately he will be in Los Angeles filming at the time."



ER star PARMINDER NAGRA is preparing to run this year's (06) gruelling London Marathon after landing a starring role in a Hollywood movie about the annual event.

The 36-year-old British actress will appear alongside TRAINSPOTTING heart-throb JOHNNY LEE MILLER and JAMES BOND villain TOBY STEVENS in $36 million film MARATHON.

The athletic drama will tell the story of six strangers, who all have different reasons for entering the event, and the lead roles have all been entered into this year's race on 23 April (06) to ensure the film captures the true drama of the event.

Director TIM SULLIVAN has been given permission to place 25 camera crews along the 26-mile route and has already secured the film rights to exclusive BBC footage of the event.

Sullivan says, "Marathon is about real people and why they choose to come together in this event.

"Our cast will be official race entrants but they will not be expected to run the whole 26 miles."



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