04/12/2013 17:48 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

Edward Fox Interview: New British Independent Film 'Katherine Of Alexandria' (EXCLUSIVE CLIP)

Last week saw St Katherine's Day; a date marking the arrival of winter and the dramatic martyrdom of Saint Katherine, a Christian condemned, tortured and beheaded in 305 AD by the pagan Roman Emperor Maximinus II.

So 25 November was an apt release date for the trailer of the upcoming biography film depicting the rise and fall of the Christian martyr, 'Katherine of Alexandria'.

Pitched as one of the biggest British independent films for decades, headlines also enthused about the 'return' of Peter O'Toole, months after he announced he was retiring.

Joining O'Toole on screen in the 2014 film will be a string of big British names, including Edward Fox, Joss Ackland and Steven Berkoff. Acclaimed talent also worked behind the camera, some with Oscars and Golden Globes to their name. 'Katherine of Alexandria' is Michael Redwood's directorial debut.

Redwood's quest to "create an intelligent screenplay and to seek out Britain’s best performers" has certainly been achieved, getting Lawrence of Arabia himself as well as fellow patriarch of the acting world Edward Fox in your first film is rather jaw-dropping.

Watch an exclusive clip of Katherine of Alexandria, featuring Edward Fox as Emperor Constantius:

Fox made his theatrical debut in 1958 followed by 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner' four years later. His role in 'The Go-Between' (1970) brought him to the attention of Hollywood, resulting in arguably his defining role, the silent assassin in 'Day of the Jackal' (1973).

HuffPost UK spoke to the BAFTA award-winning actor about the upcoming independent film, his take on the British film scene and his famous theatrical family.

"Michael's tenaciousness and determination to get this film made is prodigious," Fox says of Redwood. "It's very difficult to raise money on what the cast would normally get as actors, but I think they thought that this was a worthwhile project and idea. That's how things should be."

No one escapes the accountant's eye when it comes to film budgets, especially when a flop can become more famous for its box office takings than its artistic achievement (think 'Waterworld'). So when it comes to British independent films that are outside the cosy walls of major film studios, should the government be providing more money and support? Twickenham Film Studios closed their doors for business in 2012, after a history of titles such as 'Blade Runner' and Beatles films.

"I'm not sure government funding has ever really worked," Fox says. "The trouble with funding is that the government naturally want to interfere with the making of films, when they know nothing about it themselves. What is more important is that they provide support in whatever way they can, outside of their being involved.

"In the 1970s there was the beginnings of a very considerable homegrown film business, but for various reasons, such as trade unionists, that came to grief.

"Certainly there is the talent and enormous passionate enthusiasm here. Filmmakers like Powell and Pressburger [a partnership producing films between the 1930s and 70s] created great, great films, which lasted through time. It would be lovely to think that generations to come find that our current generation support a future filmmaking industry."

Saint Katherine's death has become legendary; the spiked wheel intended for her torture has been depicted alongside her image in art for centuries, and even features in our annual firework celebrations; the spinning Catherine's Wheel display. So is it, in fact, her death rather than life that captures people's imagination?

"I think it's her womanhood more than anything, her femininity and the fact that she's young," Fox says. "The equivalent in more known history is Joan of Arc."

As well as a religious figure, Katherine can be viewed as a feminist icon, one who inspired Joan of Arc to battle after seeing the Saint in a vision.

Seeing the actress Nicole Keniheart raised on the wheel in the film's trailer, with a bloody crown of thorns on her brow, she resembles a female Christ.

"Katherine pits every fibre of her being and principles against the might of Rome." Fox explains. "She believes that the power of Rome has become too great and too cruel."

In 'Katherine of Alexandria', Peter O'Toole plays palace orator Gallus. Fox and O'Toole worked together in the television film 'Gulliver's Travels' in 1996.

"He's an old friend. Some of the best performances I've ever seen on a stage have been given by Peter. I hope this isn't his final film before full retirement."

Speaking of theatre - Fox's daughter Emilia is set to tread the boards next year alongside Imelda Staunton in 'Rapture, Blister, Burn' at Hampstead Theatre, London. And young Freddie Fox starred with Rupert Everett in 'The Judas Kiss' last year.

With such successful theatrical children, does Edward find himself being asked for advice or help with lines by Emilia and Freddie?

"They're totally independent. Occasionally they'll ask my opinion, but they're very mild questions. Wisely, I never interfere. They both wanted to do this absurd job that we all do. But they wanted to do it off their own back and nothing would have deterred them."

The 'Fox dynasty' is a popular phrase in media when describing the acting Fox family. Has it been nature or nurture that has led so many Foxes to the limelight?

"I think acting is somewhere in the genetics of people, I think it exists in most people, if not all. Formal education has rather tended to knock that on the head, and replaced it with more academic requirements," says Fox.

"The strain of passion and feeling within people needs to be developed much more than it is at the moment, perhaps from a younger age."

'Katherine of Alexandria' is set for release early 2014. Watch the trailer: