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Dustin Hoffman finally to direct, and James Bond gets his old car back, reports Nick Roddick.

He’s held out longer than most. But Dustin Hoffman is finally thinking about making his feature directorial debut. The star - to whom, given memories of The Graduate, it is hard to attach the usually required moniker of ‘veteran’ - has been involved behind the camera since the mid-nineties, when he set up his own company, Punch Productions.

That company has four completed movies to its credit including American Buffalo and Over the Moon - the most recent of them being Boys and Girls. But Hoffman has generally taken a back seat (except for American Buffalo, in which he starred). It will, however, be as a multi-hyphenate that he approaches Personal Injuries, which is based on the latest legal thriller by Scott Turow. Hoffman will direct, produce and star in the film, which is being made in association with Disney. No start date or further cast members have yet been announced.

Here are a few facts that you probably already knew about James Bond movies. Having run uninterrupted for just short of 40 years, the Bond films are the longest-running franchise in the history of the cinema, easily dwarfing such earlier contenders as Rin-Tin-Tin, Lassie and Abbot and Costello. In fact, next year will be the official 40th anniversaary of the opening of Dr No.

There have now been 19 official movies - not to mention a couple of unofficial ones and any number of spoofs and spin-offs - but only nine directors. There have been multiple memorable villains, but only one actor common to every film (except Dr No): Desmond Llewellyn, who played gadget master Q. Bond 19 - The World Is Not Enough (1999) - will, however, mark his final appearance: Llewellyn was killed in a car crash last summer at the age of 85.

Here, however, are a few facts that you may not have known. First, the series will add its tenth director to the roster when New Zealander Lee Tamahori takes the helm of what, following tradition, is currently known only as Bond 20 goes in front of the cameras early next year.

Tamahori made a huge impact with his directorial debut, Once Were Warriors, which remains New Zealand’s most successful film ever. He proved less lucky with his first two North American movies, Mulholland Falls and The Edge (both featured in Preview), but was back on the right track with Along Came a Spider, which was a hit around the world earlier this year.

Pierce Brosnan will again play 007 in what is rumoured to be his last appearance in the role. Naturally, speculation is rife as to who might replace him, with a recent feature in Entertainment Weekly listing Russell Crowe, pop star Robbie Williams and Gerard Butler (star of Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000) among the front runners.

But I’ve saved the best piece of news about Bond 20 until last. After three films spent driving around in BMWs, 007 is to return to his beloved Aston Martin, albeit an updated version of the DB5 behind whose wheel James first climbed in Goldfinger (1964).

For Bond 20, he will drive a brand new V12 Vanquish, which has a Formula One-style gearbox, a V12 engine and can be bought in the US starting this month (September) for a mere $228,000.

"I am sure James Bond will recognise some of the styling cues on the Aston Martin Vanquish," says Dr Ulrich Bez (a name which could easily feature in the cast list of a Bond film), boss of Aston Martin Lagonda. "He will find it technologically advanced and perfectly suited for the type of work he does today."

Here’s a heart-warming tale which proves that even established film-makers can be at the mercy of events. This Is Not a Love Song is a new British thriller, directed by Bille Eltringham and written by Simon Beaufoy, who scripted The Full Monty.

Beaufoy is a recognisable enough name that he is currently being used to sell a brand of laptop computers on British television, and the new film is about the accidental shooting of a farmer’s daughter and the cross-country vigilante manhunt which ensues. It is a 100%-digital production and was originally supposed to be shot in Cumbria this Northern summer.

But the part of Cumbria selected was one of the hot-spots of the recent British outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and the location turned out to be right in the middle of the no-go area. A new location was swiftly found near Settle. But, before shooting could begin, this also became a foot-and-mouth-infected area. Finally, Scottish Screen, the promotional organisation set up some four years ago to promote film-making north of the border, stepped in and found a location near Aberfoyle in the Scottish lowlands.

For a variety of reasons, this left the production very little time to complete, and the film was shot on a punishing schedule in a mere 12 days. This Is Not a Love Song is one of the first batch of films to be made under the UK Film Council’s New Cinema Fund, and is designed to promote projects using new technology. But the technology proved powerless against one of the oldest scourges of British agriculture.

When America examined its radical past in the Abbie Hoffman biopic, Steal This Movie, not many members of the current generation turned out to see what it had all been about - which is a polite way of saying that the film bombed (unlike its subject, who drew the line at blowing things up).

But Germany, it seems, is a different matter. True, German radicalism in the sixties and seventies was an altogether more serious business, and one which has left traumatic scars on a generation. There were assassinations of politicians and businessmen, bombings and shoot-outs, all of which indicate that the Baader-Meinhof Group had about as much in common with Hoffman’s Yippies (Youth International Protest Party) as Atomic Kitten have with NWA.

Whether because or inspite of this, German audiences have recently warmed to a trio of films which pry into the recent slice of their past: Volker Schlöndorff’s 2000 return to form, Die Stille nach dem Schuss (Rita’s Legends); Christian Petzold’s Die innere Sicherheit (The State I’m In), which got a special screening at Cannes this year; and, more recently, the documentary Black Box BRD.

Not since Reinhard Hauff’s trial movie, Stammheim, however, has a German film-maker come close to the radical heart of the Rote Armee Fraktion, the ‘official’ name for the Baader-Meinhof Group (they were very insistent about the ‘r’ that turned ‘faction’ into ‘fraction’). Now, Andy Paterson, Anand Tucker and Frank Cottrell Boyce’s London-based company, Archer Street, working together with Berlin’s Hope & Glory and Danish producer Mats Egmont Christiansen is in pre-production on Wanted, which will focus on the two women at the heart of the RAF: Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrunn Ennslin.

The film, which is due to start shooting shortly on a budget of around US$7.5 million, will be directed by an Englishman, Peter Webber, with two top European actresses in the lead roles. Heike Makatsch, seen most recently in the German period drama Gripsholm, will play Ennslin; and Sweden’s Pernilla August will be Meinhof. The film, which will be shot in English, is based on a (German) novel by Stefan Aust.

Published September 6, 2001

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