TWO of Hollywood's hottest stars will help launch the Edinburgh International Film Festival, with a film based on the life of free-spirited Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
The Edge of Love, from the offbeat British director John Maybury, features Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller as the two women in Thomas's life, with scenes where they share a bed, and a bath.
Both are expected to attend the opening night premiere in Edinburgh in June, along with actor Matthew Rhys, who plays the poet.
The Edge of Love was written by Knightley's mother, the Scottish playwright Sharman Macdonald. It is based around an incident in 1945, when the jealous husband of her character, singer Vera Phillips, fired a sub-machine gun into the poet's home.
The festival's artistic director, Hannah McGill, sang the praises of "this utterly seductive and fascinating film, which stars some of the most charismatic young performers in the business, and affirms John Maybury as one of our most important directors".
Knightley, 23, the star of huge hits including Pirates of the Caribbean, Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, has also recorded several songs for the soundtrack.
Ms McGill said Macdonald, an award-winning author of plays including When I was a Girl, I used to Scream and Shout, was a "brilliant writer".
"It's lovely that she's Scottish, and it's nice to have that connection," she said.
"Keira is working with someone she couldn't be closer to. and that's why she's delivered a brilliant performance. She feels really comfortable, and that's one of the reasons it works so well."
The film tells the story of the legendary poet's wartime love for both Phillips, a childhood sweetheart, and his wife Caitlin, played by Miller, the US-born, English-educated star of films like Casanova and Stardust.
The two women find their own relationship, but the "lesbian love romps" described by the tabloid press are not actually explicit sex scenes, a production spokeswoman said. The film is expected to get a 15 rating.
Ms McGill said the opening night gala would be a "red carpet event".
Maybury made his name with Love is the Devil, a biopic of the painter Francis Bacon, starring Derek Jacobi and Daniel Craig, which won the Michael Powell Award for best British film in Edinburgh in 1998.
He was said to be delighted to be returning. "We want to discover people and keep them coming back," Ms McGill said.
The Scotsman's film writer, Alistair Harkness, said: "It seems like quite a decent film to open with. This year in particular they need quite a strong opening, because they are moving to June from August."
The Edge of Love should get its world premiere in Edinburgh, those involved said yesterday, but there remains a possibility of an earlier Cannes Film Festival screening. It opens in London two days after the 18 June premiere then goes on UK-wide release.
NIGHT OF DRAMA
THE Edge of Love was inspired by events on 6 March, 1945, at Cardigan Bay, west Wales. A drunken war hero, Captain William Killick, emptied his Sten gun into the bungalow where the poet Dylan Thomas lived. At least five bullets passed through the room where Thomas was sitting with his wife, Caitlin, and Killick's wife, Vera.
Writer Sharman Macdonald used the incident to construct a love triangle between Thomas and the two women. One Thomas biographer, however, has described the shooting more the result of a "drunken pub brawl" . Killick was acquitted of attempted murder.