The U.K. release of Ben Affleck’s feature directorial debut “Gone Baby Gone” has been shelved because of the story’s similarities to the case of missing British girl Madeleine McCann, who disappeared from her Portuguese holiday apartment in early May.
Buena Vista Intl. U.K. has suspended the release indefinitely. It had set a Dec. 28 release for the Boston-set thriller based on Dennis Lehane’s book about a 4-year-old who goes missing.
“Miramax Films and BVI U.K. are sensitive to the depth of feeling surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann,” the pair said in a statement. “We have been closely following the case and have decided to delay the release of the film in the U.K.”
In a bizarre coincidence, the missing girl in the film is played by American thesp Madeline O’Brien, who bears a physical resemblance to her missing British counterpart.
This week, the McCann parents were named as official suspects by Portuguese police. It’s possible that this development in the McCann case led to the BVI decision to pull the fictional pic, but no one at the distrib was available to comment on this matter.
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The decision to pull the film follows Affleck’s sensitive comments at the Deauville Film Festival.
“We are acutely aware of the situation. We have a greater concern for that than the release of our film, which is just a commercial matter, whereas this is a matter of life and death,” Affleck said.
“I’m not up to date on the details, and it is not something that has taken off in the United States in the way it has in the U.K.,” he said. “It is only when someone said there was this case that was very similar to my film that we looked it up. We don’t want to release the movie if it is going to touch a nerve or inflame anybody’s sensitivities.”
“Gone Baby Gone” was skedded for a splashy Oct. 26 Times London Film Festival gala screening but it has been removed from the fest lineup in line with the distrib’s decision.
News that the pic has been withdrawn from the fest program was revealed by the fest’s artistic director, Sandra Hebron, at the Thursday press launch. The decision was made too late to remove the film from the official program booklet, which attendees were handed on departure from the Odeon West End.
Affleck and his brother Casey, who stars in the pic, was to attend the London fest gala screening.
The McCann case has been subject to massive media coverage in Blighty since May, with “Maddie Pack” journalists reporting from Portugal daily on the latest developments. Numerous U.K. celebrities, including soccer player David Beckham and “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, have helped raise public awareness in the hunt for Maddie.