Irish movie maker Mary McGuckian credits British Prime Minister TONY BLAIR's stirring post-September 11 address with getting her ambitious new project off the ground.

The THIS IS THE SEA director bought the rights to Thornton Wilder's 1927 bestseller THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY a decade ago, but it was only when Blair quoted from the story in his emotional speech that her phone started ringing.

Now, the project has become a major motion picture featuring ROBERT DE NIRO, F Murray Abraham, Kathy Bates, McGuckian's husband John Lynch and a host of European movie talent.

At a cost of $24 million (GBP16 million), the film is the most expensive European movie project this year (03).

McGuckian says, "When I began working on the script nobody wanted to make the film, so I put it aside.

"Tony Blair used the final paragraph from the book in his speech and then the interest came."

The Irish filmmaker admits her cast, currently shooting the film in Malaga, Spain, is a dream come true: "I scribbled down the names of my favourite actors. I never for a moment thought that they'd all do it."

02/06/2003 09:29