Category Archives: Peter Jackson

Script issues still holding up Dambusters remake

Rivers LOR

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.]

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Jackson’s model Lancaster in close up

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:

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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.

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Peter Jackson speaks: December 2012 update

Jackson Hobbit
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.

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Blink and you’ll miss it

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.)

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Dambusters remake: quiet progress

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.

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Keep on trucking

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]

 

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Dambusters remake: no news

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.

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Fry speaks: how Jackson took on The Dam Busters

The nation’s most loved polymath, Stephen Fry, was this week’s guest on Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode’s film review sequence on Radio 5. You can download this as a podcast from the BBC website. For about 25 minutes he discussed a number of his film projects, including a couple of references to work on the Dambusters remake. He describes how David Frost, who had bought the rights to Paul Brickhill’s book, couldn’t find anyone for the remake. When he was told that Peter Jackson had a poster for the 1955 Michael Anderson film hanging in his office, he rang him immediately and did the deal there and then. (If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing scroll to about 18.30-22.00 minutes.)
At about 33.30, he also responds to the inevitable listener’s question about the dog’s name. I don’t normally mention this tedious debate, but in this case, I’m making an exception.
[Hat tip: Nigel Parkin]

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NZ film industry saved! (No news on Dambusters!)

Believe me, I’ve tried. On your behalf, I have scoured the news sites who have covered the recent travails of the New Zealand film industry in depth – and found precisely No News about the remake of The Dam Busters. The country’s Prime Minister, no less, held a news conference about the fact that The Hobbit will now be made at Peter Jackson’s studio in Wellington. Jackson himself did a series of media interviews the week before. But at no time did they mention any other film projects.
However, the feeling amongst locals is that if The Hobbit had been lost to another country, this would have ‘put the kibosh’ on the remake of the Dambusters (the words of aviation forum moderator Dave Homewood.)
Just to reiterate, the deal about The Hobbit is between Jackson and film distributors Warner Brothers. The proposed Dambusters film is a joint project of Jackson and United Artists. That’s probably why it has never been mentioned!

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Cold wind of Wellywood may blow over Dambusters remake

There were whispers a few weeks ago that all was not well in Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films studio, but no formal statement ever emerged from the famously secretive setup. However, it now seems that at least some of these rumours were true. In a long piece in today’s Dominion Post, which is mainly concerned with how the film industry in Wellington appears to be losing business to its rival, Auckland, a couple of hundred miles further north, journalist Kimberley Rothwell confirms that Christian Rivers, although still contracted to direct the remake of The Dam Busters, has sold his Wellington house and headed off to the USA.
A dozen or so years ago, Wellington was booming, says Rothwell:
In 1999, production started on The Lord of the Rings, and the label “Wellywood” was born.
The massive two-year production drew Hollywood right to Wellington’s door and brought hundreds of millions of dollars – some put the estimate at $1 billion – into the local economy.
But at the same time, advertising agencies moved a lot of their TV work to Auckland, and production houses such as Silverscreen and Flying Fish, powerhouse producers of TV commercials, closed their Wellington offices.
The slump hasn’t all been caused by Jackson or Wingnut, or their well-documented problems getting The Hobbit into production. A massive project about the life of Christ, called Kingdom Come, has been put on hold for the moment as its production company South Vineyard tries to avoid collapse. All this means that local freelances are struggling, although they are hoping that things will look up in the future. Jackson himself gets kudos for being incredibly ‘loyal and dedicated’ to his crew members but the simple fact is that there doesn’t seem to be the work there at the moment.
The irony is that Wellington’s biggest film model building and digital company, Weta, is ‘humming’, but with post-production work. The Dominion Post couldn’t find a single shoot currently going on in the Wellington area.
To those of us outside New Zealand, this might seem a parochial matter. The country’s total population, after all, is under four million, less than a third of that of greater Los Angeles, the most important city in the English language film industry. If work on the Dambusters remake was transferred to Auckland it would hardly cause a flicker on the radar of the average enthusiast.
But to those on the ground – the technicians, scene painters, caterers, drivers and all the rest of the cast of thousands whose names scroll down the screen as you rush out of the cinema to get to the bar more quickly – it means a lot. These are their jobs after all, daily work which pays their mortgages and supermarket bills. If the cold wind of recession bites further into the Wellington economy there will be fewer presents round the Christmas tree this year. Even if the temperature is a comfy 20 degrees.

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