The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ford defends ruthless role

Venice, Sept. 1 (Reuters): All-American action hero Harrison Ford today defended his controversial portrayal of a Russian submarine captain in K-19: The Widowmaker, a movie strongly criticised by the original crew.

According to the credits, K-19 is inspired by actual events and is set aboard a Soviet nuclear submarine on the verge of a meltdown in 1961.

To prevent a nuclear disaster, the captain and crew race to repair a reactor.

Ford plays Captain Alexei Vostrikov — a fictitious name — as a heartless taskmaster at the helm of the K-19 on its maiden voyage to carry out an important missile test.

But members of the original crew say the portrayal of the captain as a “soulless militant” who is arrested and handcuffed by his officers at one point is “farcical and absurd”.

K-19 was screened at the 59th Venice Film Festival though it was not part of the competition. Director Kathryn Bigelow, Ford and Irish actor Liam Neeson turned up to promote the film.

“When we started the film there were some questions among the crew about our motivations and we met with many of the survivors and...represented our intention to acknowledge the sacrifice that those men made,” Ford told a packed news conference.

“I think the concerns were addressed years ago.”

But seven members of the submarine’s crew, many of whom have been objecting to the film since they saw the first draft screenplay, sent an open letter to Venice.

“We are surprised and saddened that the Venice Film Festival chose to give K-19: The Widowmaker its European premiere,” they said to the film’s producers and cast as well as to the organisers of the festival.

“It is unthinkably painful to us that this film...will be considered a reference upon which the new generation of film goers including our own children will form ideas about us and our comrades.”

Scenes depicting the crew as incompetent drunks were left out of the final screenplay.

Bigelow said not all the survivors had complained about the script.

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