- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001

BURBANK, Calif. — Ben Kingsley, who plays Otto Frank in the new ABC miniseries "Anne Frank," is describing the harrowing moment when Anne is wrenched from her father as the cattle trucks unload at Auschwitz.
"Everyone watching will have a howl of indignation inside them which will say, 'Not her, not that one. But she is one of 11/2 million… . And only by saying, 'No, no, no, no, no, not that one, will we identify with all the others," the Oscar-winning actor says in an interview.
The Frank familys arrival at Auschwitz is not recorded in "The Diary of Anne Frank," which Anne wrote while hiding in an Amsterdam attic during the German occupation of Holland.
In fact, the four-hour miniseries, which airs Sunday and Monday (WJLA Channel 7 at 9 p.m.) has courted controversy because it is not based on the diary, which ends at the time of Annes arrest in 1944 and is the basis for most previous accounts of her life.
The miniseries is based on a 1998 book by Melissa Muller, "Anne Frank: The Biography," and additional research by screenwriter and co-producer Kirk Ellis.
Miss Muller tried to explore Annes life before, during and after her family was in hiding. Her book searches for clues about who betrayed them and how Anne died in the typhus-plagued Bergen-Belsen concentration camp only a few weeks before it was liberated by British troops on April 15, 1945.
Says Mr. Ellis, who adapted the book for television: "Its a chance to restore some much-needed context to this girl and to take her off that iconic pedestal and put her into a level of flesh and blood and humanity that people can relate to."
The book and the miniseries both have been criticized by some who say Annes legacy must be protected. Miss Mullers book was condemned for dealing specifically with details of Annes life that for years have been the subject of speculation, such as her relations with her parents.
Annes cousin Bernd "Buddy" Elias, chairman of the Swiss-based Anne Frank Fund, was quoted recently about the miniseries in the Los Angeles Times. He raised questions of copyright infringement and said filming Annes story without her words is "morally wrong."
Mr. Elias, whom Miss Muller thanked in her book for help during her research, declined to comment to Associated Press until he had seen the miniseries.
Pressure from the foundation — which was set up by Annes father, Otto, who died in 1980 — caused Steven Spielberg, who had signed on as a producer of the ABC film, to withdraw from the project. His spokesman, Marvin Levy, said the director of "Schindlers List" didnt want to upset or disturb the legacy of Anne Frank in any way.
Mr. Kingsley, who starred in the 1993 "Schindlers List," says Mr. Spielberg gave him his blessing to remain with the ABC telefilm. Mr. Kingsley declined to comment on the controversy but called his role a "marvelous experience."
Miss Mullers book quotes extensively from Annes diaries, both her original version and the version she was amending at the time of her death. Mr. Ellis said he avoided using any direct diary quotes.
Mr. Ellis views the diary primarily as a literary work, not the full story of the girl whose life from ages 9 to 15 is portrayed in the miniseries.
"Otto Frank himself said after the war, when he finally read the diary, that it was a revelation to him because his daughter never spoke this way," Mr. Ellis says. "I took that really as a watchword because I wanted to try to find a way in which we could distill a lot of thought that had come down to us in a way that was realistic to her age and the situation she was in at the time."
Mr. Ellis said he debated with himself at length about whether to use Annes familiar line: " … In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
"In the end, I decided not to use that line at all, because in doing the research and going through the odyssey, I just came to the conclusion that the association of the line with the life of Anne Frank is such a misrepresentation of what happened to her," he says.
Mr. Ellis says Annes ideas as a writer and as a person were in transition at the time of her arrest.
Mr. Elias, of the Anne Frank Fund, has authorized a Fox 2000 feature film adapted from Annes diaries. Pier Koralnik, co-producer of the planned film, says that if audiences believe the miniseries contains Annes actual words, there is "dishonesty."
The ABC movie, directed by Robert Dornhelm, also stars Hannah Taylor Gordon as Anne Frank.
Mr. Kingsley highlighted the close relationship portrayed between father and daughter.
"Otto clearly guided, nursed, educated, provoked Anne and provided a matrix, provided an environment in which she could really flourish," he says.


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