Male stars fight shy of new Avengers

By: Harry Pruchnik | Views: 1414 | Date: 15-Mar-2011

For the price, you can't expect to get something spectacular...but it's fun and revealing, and would look great on the right girl for a photo shoot. The g-string, which is barely-there mesh (much tinier than the one seen in the photo), is especially sexy.

THEY were the leather-clad apostles of 1960s feminism who karate-kicked their way to equality. But plans to remake The Avengers as a politically correct 1990s Hollywood film, giving the dominant role to John Steed's female partner, have run into trouble because male actors are refusing to play the subservient role.
 An urgent rewrite of the screenplay has been ordered by Warner Brothers after producers failed to persuade a well-known star to take on the role of Steed, made famous by Patrick Macnee. Casting agents could not find a leading actor willing to sacrifice top billing to a woman.
 The disclosure has revived fears about the ability of American producers to translate the success of a clutch of cult British television shows to the big screen. Earlier this year another Hollywood studio, Paramount, admitted it was having problems in finding a star to play the suave leading role in The Saint, popularised by Roger Moore.
 With its props of kinky boots, bowler hats and villains worthy of pantomime, The Avengers became Britain's most successful television export to America. It paired the Edwardian figure of Steed with futuristic female accomplices played, memorably, by Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman. The role was later assumed by Linda Thorson as Tara King, with Joanna Lumley taking over as Purdey for the 1970s series of The New Avengers inspiring fans to copy her short-bobbed hairstyle.
 Hollywood's attempts to put the story on the big screen began in 1987 when Jerry Weintraub, the producer, who most recently made The Specialist with Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone, bought the rights from Thorn EMI. After winning the backing of Warner Brothers, he announced plans to begin shooting this year. Stone has been mooted as a contender for the female lead.
 Problems began to emerge as agents embarked on their hunt for a male lead.  This weekend RJ Lewis, the film's executive producer, admitted he had failed to find a suitable actor and said the script would now be rewritten by Nicholas Meyer, director of one of the Star Trek films, to boost Steed's role.
 ''We are trying to make a picture with two main stars and the only way you do that is to keep the parts as equal as possible,'' he said. ''We want A-list actors. Mel Gibson, Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Hurley and Emma Thompson are the calibre of the cast. We are still trying to get it all together.''
 The British team behind the original hit show believes the project is facing disaster. Honor Blackman, who played Cathy Gale in the series, said the proposed film risked dissipating the sexual tension that drove the television programme.
 ''I don't think either Hugh Grant or Richard EGrant would be right,'' she said. ''They are both rather effete characters. Although John Steed is wonderfully good-mannered and frightfully English, he is still quite virile and masculine. There was a certain titillation in the relationship.''
 Blackman warned that a highly dominant female could make Steed look like an employee. ''They are mad if they are going to unbalance it. The whole point was that Cathy and Emma Peel had an intelligence equal to a man, which was surprising at that time.
 ''On top of that, she had the physical ability to defend herself and she could vie with him in every field. It had never been done before. Nothing has stood out in the past 25 years in that line.''
 Macnee, 73, who lives in Palm Springs, California, believes the Americans have misjudged the essence of the show. ''The Americans have very little sense of irony. They think it was kinky boots and kinky sex, but it wasn't that at all. It was about a tremendous sense of humour and an ironic view of life,'' he said.
 ''By God, Diana Rigg was dominant over the criminals. But when she comes along in a catsuit and starts demolishing all those men, you have to remember that she related to me as an equal. They would be making a big mistake to model the film on those television commercials you see here with business women ordering the men around.
 ''The Avengers was about John Steed the other characters were all co-stars.''
 Macnee, a second world war veteran who is remembered in the series for brandishing a furled umbrella instead of a gun, also criticised a plan by Warner Brothers to set the film in the 1990s: ''Why do you want to update it?  Steed's partner wears latex leggings, mini-skirts, and the attitudes couldn't be more up to date.''

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