Language main reason for transformation

Universal Pictures is planning to release a U-rated version — meaning acceptable for all audiences — of its smash hit “Billy Elliot” in Blighty.

The film, distribbed via UIP, has grossed more than $23 million to date in the U.K., despite a “15″ certificate which legally bars audiences under that age.

Language is the main reason for that restriction: There are 35 “fucks” in the film. But Tiger Aspect and WT2 have come up with a sanitized version for TV broadcast. This is now under serious consideration for a theatrical outing either in the February school break, or at Easter to coincide with the video release.

The original suggestion came from David Thompson, head of BBC Films, one of the pic’s backers.

Universal execs say many parents have expressed regret that their children cannot share this story of a 12-year-old boy struggling to fulfill his dreams.

“We don’t want to put out some insipid version of the film we’ve got. We’ll only do it if it’s still a decent movie,” says David Livingstone, Universal’s president of international marketing.

The company also wants to make sure it doesn’t cut short the theatrical life of the original film. The last time such an experiment took place was with “Saturday Night Fever,” which went from hot to stone cold overnight when a bowdlerized version was released.

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