'Dead Men' subject walks away from table

Ex-spy failed to screen final cut before Toronto film fest

TORONTO -- An eleventh-hour bid to get a former British spy to waive his moral rights before Wednesday's Toronto International Film Festival screening of a story based on his memoirs has failed.

Moral rights laws, which have been introduced in the U.K. and Canada, protect an author from having their life story distorted in such a way that would harm their name or reputation.

Lawyers for the British co-producers of Kari Skogland's "Fifty Dead Men Walking" met Friday in London with Martin McGartland, a former IRA mole whose 1998 autobiography provided the basis for the British-Canadian co-production.

McGartland, who provided information to Britain's Special Branch before his cover was blown in 1991, insists that fictionalized scenes in the movie infringe his moral rights by portraying him as an accessory to torture and murder when he claims he aimed to save lives.

But Friday's attempt to allow McGartland to screen Skogland's final cut to ease his concerns, in return for 10,000 pounds sterling and the waiving of his moral rights, was abandoned when the former IRA infiltrator walked away from the table.

Sources close to the British co-producers confirm that the meeting at the London legal firm of Wiggin did take place, and that the deal remains on the table.

McGartland has retained Toronto legal firm Chitiz Pathak to represent him should he carry through on a threat to sue the film's producers.

The Toronto International Film Festival insists that the dispute is between the film's producers and McGartland, and has pledged to go ahead with next week's public and industry screenings of the film.