Maybe it’s a mark of how far this subject has dropped off the radar, but I have only just caught up with a four-month-old snippet of news from Down Under. New Zealand Herald film critic Dominic Corry met Christian Rivers at the premiere of The Hobbit last December (yes really!), and asked him what was the situation with the remake of everyone’s favourite 1955 war film.
In 2008, it was announced that Jackson would produce a remake of 1955 World War II classic The Dam Busters, which was to be directed by Weta staple Christian Rivers (who won a special effects Oscar for his work on King Kong). The project seemed a natural fit for a war plane-obsessed ‘wingnut’ like Peter Jackson, but nothing has come to pass as yet, despite a bunch of replica planes having apparently already been built for the project.
I spoke to Rivers briefly on the red carpet at the Wellington premiere of The Hobbit, and he told me they are still planning to make the film but that it’s on hold at the moment due to script issues. I hope it happens eventually – there’s such a wealth of creativity at Weta, it seems crazy that we haven’t seen a film come out of that talent pool yet.
‘Script issues’ eh? To me, the problem is time. Jackson and his cohorts are getting a whole lot of moolah for spinning out The Hobbit over three films. Then there’s the small matter of a sequel to Tintin, and various other fantasy film projects. A remake of The Dam Busters, however much it might appeal to readers of this blog and a few million other war film buffs, would never make as much money as these high profile movies. That’s the way the economics of the film industry works.
On the other hand, we can’t discount the fact that Jackson is a self-confessed aero nut, and is probably still personally committed to the project. And so is Christian Rivers, despite the rumour a year or so ago that he was off doing something else.
Jackson’s involvement in the Dambusters remake was originally announced in 2006. Will we see it completed by the tenth anniversary of this historic day? I wouldn’t bet on it.
[Hat tip: Wings over New Zealand Forum.]
I can’t believe that I missed this, more than three years ago! When filming their Last Chance to See natural history TV programme, Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine interviewed Peter Jackson in New Zealand. And there, right in the hangar, was one of the full size model Lancasters built for the Dambusters remake.
A very perceptive recent visitor to this blog has sent me these screen shots, taken from the programme which was first broadcast in 2009:
From these pictures, the level of detailing on the model seems extraordinary.
In recent interviews, Jackson has said that ten models have been built. It is noticeable, however, that only one seems to have been on show here.
By the way, this edition of Last Chance to See became notorious for a film clip showing the very rare kakapo flightless parrot attempting to mate with Mark Carwardine’s head. Far be it from me to suggest that you amuse yourselves by watching it again on Youtube.
Much respect, Ali P(lumb). While every other film journalist has kept to Middle Earthy subjects in their recent questioning of Peter Jackson, Empire Magazine’s finest video interviewer slipped in a query about a much more important subject (to readers of this blog, at least).
Plumb: “What is the current state of the Dambusters project?”
Jackson: “Dambusters is on hold waiting for me to finish The Hobbit. The Hobbit wasn’t something I intended to get involved in [as much] as I did, so there was an option at one stage I’d be shooting The Dambusters while Guillermo [del Toro] was shooting The Hobbit, but as things ended up going, The Dambusters has just had to sit on the sidelines.”
“But it’s there. The Lancasters are built. We’ve got ten Lancs built for us sitting in storage. And it’s ready to go as soon as we possibly can.”
So there we have it. The one person who can decide when the Dambusters remake will proceed has given a firm commitment that it will happen. One day.
When I started this blog four and a half years ago one of my first posts predicted that we would have to wait to ‘at least 2011’ to see the remake on our screens. Foolish me! The film world has its own logic and moves at its own pace. But at least we now have it on the best authority possible — the Dambusters remake is on, and will appear some time. Exactly when? I suspect no one knows.
My good friend Dom Howard kindly recorded Stephen Fry’s very brief reference to the Dambusters remake on The One Show on BBC1 last night.
Receiving an award for “Most Consistent Attempt to Remake a Film” the great man revealed that he will be flying out to New Zealand “next Monday” for talks with Peter Jackson on “restarting” the remake. Rest assured, gentle readers, that they will be taking nothing away from the original, “one of the greatest British films ever made… Peter is still passionate about it, and so am I”.
(And, if this is your first time reading this blog, please don’t waste your time writing in about the dog’s name. It won’t be published. See this post for the reason why.)
If you watched The Dam Busters earlier today on ITV4, and are now paying your first visit to this blog, welcome.
You may be searching for more information about the remake of the film, which is in the hands of Peter Jackson, in which case I can tell you quite categorically, there is no news. There are rumours aplenty, but all we can currently say is that it seems unlikely that he will make much progress on the project until he has got his Hobbit blockbuster out of the way – and that will last well into next year.
But in the meantime we can report that in the more rarefied atmosphere of the BBC Radio 3 studios, there will be a radio talk this week on the original film by the well known pundit, Simon Heffer. This is one of a series he is doing on British war films of the 1950s. You can catch it on Wednesday 11 January at 10.45pm.
Pic: Natasha Baucas
Sources tell us that some quiet progress is being made on filming the remake of The Dam Busters.
(A brief recap for those not familiar with the project. This story has been going on since 2006, when David Frost bought the rights to remake the 1955 original, which was directed by Michael Anderson and starred Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave. Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame became the producer, announced that it would be called Dambusters and made in New Zealand, under the direction of Christian Rivers with a script by Stephen Fry. A full size model Lancaster bomber was built, and unveiled to the press in 2009. However, Jackson is now busy filming The Hobbit, so is obviously not giving the Dambusters project his full attention.)
Sources have told us that some CGI and special effects work is now being undertaken in workshops in New Zealand. Some of this involves models – one of the spinning bomb in the bomb bay – and some is completely generated on computers. This kind of work is laborious and time-consuming and is essential if the project is to meet the high standards of a Jackson-helmed production.
No actual casting has yet been announced, so the date when real life filming will begin is still a matter of speculation. I said at the time I started this blog, in 2008, that 2011 would be the earliest possible date that the film would appear. It now looks as though it could be 2013 or 2014. May 2013 will be the seventieth anniversary of the Dams Raid, so this could be a date which the producers will aim for.
When I noted, three posts ago, that a Second World War petrol bowser had recently been imported into New Zealand as a prop for the forthcoming Dambusters remake, I didn’t make the connection with the vehicle which had been sold at an auction in England earlier this year. But, as has been pointed out to me by both Graeme Stevenson and Colin Barron, they are one and the same. This bowser was at RAF Scampton in 1943, and therefore was most likely to have been used to carry fuel for the Dams Raid Lancasters. A great way to add background authenticity!
Which begs the question: how, between June and September, did it get so filthy that it required complete fumigation on its arrival in New Zealand?
* Headline courtesy J Lennon – I’ve been rereading Ian Macdonald’s magisterial Revolution in the Head
Pic: Dominion Post
It may not look much, but the arrival of a filthy Second World War truck into a New Zealand port is the first bit of news about the Dambusters remake that we have had for months. Apparently it was covered with live spiders and other creepy crawlies, and had to be thoroughly cleansed and fumigated to comply with the country’s strict Biosecurity laws.
Quite why the Jackson outfit need a genuine truck, which will probably cost thousands to repair, rather than a life size replica is difficult to say. Perhaps it is to given a yet-to-be-disclosed leading role.
[Hat tip: Graeme Stevenson]
If you’ve come to this page today after watching the C4 documentary, and then searching the web for information about the remake of the 1955 film The Dam Busters – the answer is there is no news. The film project is in the hands of Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame, and is ‘in production’. Sir Peter is himself very busy on his new Hobbit film and, it would appear, has put The Dam Busters on the back burner for the moment. At various times over the last five years we have been promised that filming would start in 2009, 2010 and 2011. The best guess now is that it won’t be until 2013 at the earliest.
The sigh which Stephen Fry gave live on radio on Friday 3 June as he was interviewed by Simon Mayo was clearly audible. Mayo read out a question about the Dambusters remake, sent in by a listener: ‘Is the dog still with us and does it have a different name?’
Fry made the perfectly justifiable point that things have changed since the original film came out, and that the name was to be changed to ‘Digger’. He went on:
It’s no good saying that it is the Latin word for black or that it didn’t have the meaning that it does now – you just can’t go back, which is unfortunate.
You can go to RAF Scampton and see the dog’s grave and there he is with his name, and it’s an important part of the film.
The name of the dog was a code word to show that the dam had been successfully breached.
In the film, you’re constantly hearing ‘N-word, N-word, N-word, hurray’ and Barnes Wallis is punching the air. But obviously that’s not going to happen now.
So Digger seems OK, I reckon.
You would think that in these days of instant reaction, this comment would have been round the world by teatime. But, strangely, most of the interwebnet was silent on the subject. (Although not this blog. Thanks to a tipoff by a reader, I was able to download the podcast and wrote a piece last Saturday.)
A full week later on Friday 10 June, the BBC Lincolnshire webpage picked up the comments and later in the day so did, inevitably, the Daily Mail.
Cue furore. Every discussion board and forum has gone nuts over the story. As usual when a Dambusters story hits the headlines, there has been a huge spike in hits on this blog. And, as usual, there are a number of comments in my pending file as readers express their views.
That’s where they’ll stay. I’m not going to publish them on this website because, frankly, this is a tedious debate that has happened many times over.
Back in 2009, writer Steven Baxter put the point well in his Enemies of Reason blog: ‘I think there was a time when it was acceptable to use words like Paki or nigger or sambo, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t offensive, or hurtful, or wrong.’
I agree. The world has moved on, folks. The word is offensive and it simply can’t be used in the remake of the film, however historically accurate it might be. You can justify using a racist word in other places on the interwebnet, but you can’t on this blog. If you send me a comment about it, I won’t publish it. My blog, my rules.