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Maureen was still in her mother’s womb when her father, Olympic runner Eric Liddell, sent his wife and two older daughters to live in Canada. Despite the increasing danger, he stayed behind, in China, to continue his missionary work. Within two years, the Japanese, fighting the Second Sino-Japanese War against the Chinese, had forced Liddell into an internment camp. Two years after that, he died there.
Although she never met her father, Maureen Liddell Moore is fiercely protective of his legacy. She and her sisters love the 1981 Oscar-winning movie about his life, Chariots of Fire. But a new film, The Last Race, which stars Joseph Fiennes as her father, she dislikes so much that she is asking moviegoers to skip it.
“For anyone interested in the story of the real Eric Liddell and the profound work he did in the Weihsien Internment Camp, The Last Race is not a film worth seeing. It is shallow, simplistic and totally inaccurate,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter.
The Last Race tells of Eric Liddell’s life after he won gold at the 1924 Summer Olympics — even after refusing to race on Sundays because he considered it a Christian holy day — and one reason Maureen hates the movie is that it downplays her dad’s faith, which was his entire reason for being in China, where the bulk of the film takes place.
While her two older sisters were consultants on The Last Race, Moore declined to participate after reading the script. Still, she was shown the film prior to Alibaba Pictures Group opening it in China a few weeks ago, and she was “appalled.”
She said the film has her dad engaging in a power struggle with the Weihsien commandant but, in fact, no such struggle existed. “My father encouraged the inmates to pray for the Japanese,” she says.
And while her dad and the other 1,800 internees lived under extreme deprivation, crammed into a space roughly the size of an NFL football stadium, he was never thrown into a pit and treated as a martyr, as shown in the movie, Moore says.
She said her dad hauled water, carried coal, was a teacher to 300 students who called him Uncle Eric, led prayer groups and organized activities during his four years interned at the camp. “His example of being civilized in uncivil conditions inspired all,” she says.
The Last Race, largely a Chinese production, was co-directed by Stephen Shin and Michael Parker, and Shin said early on that he would downplay the Christian elements of the film, a necessity since the Chinese government promotes atheism and censors what it deems politically or religiously inconvenient.
Alibaba had no comment on Moore’s assessment of the film, and Shin and Parker were not available for comment. Insiders say a deal to distribute the film in the U.S. hasn’t yet been finalized.
“The inaccuracies of The Last Race are too numerous to mention, but the end result is a boring, nationalistic piece of nonsense,” says Moore.
Moore says that fans interested in her father’s activities post-Olympics should wait for an untitled biography set for publishing next year from Eric Eichinger. The author is also writing a novelization of the same story, called Absolute Surrender, coinciding with a film by the same name. Moore and her two sisters are cooperating with Eichinger in an unofficial capacity on both projects.
Howie Klausner, who wrote Space Cowboys for Clint Eastwood, is co-writing Absolute Surrender and Sean McNamara, who directed Soul Surfer, is in negotiations to direct. Mark Joseph, who is producing a biopic about Ronald Reagan, is negotiating to produce Absolute Surrender.
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