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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34 thoughts on “Dambusters remake: quiet progress

  1. Harry PALMER December 5, 2011 / 10:38 pm

    Yes, indeed, this project (whether one believes it to be necessary or not), does appear to be a long-term one! A friend of mine supplied Peter Jackson’s company with all the “Mae West” life preservers (correct, 1941 Pattern, of course!!) just over three years ago now …

  2. Dam Buster Keaton January 7, 2012 / 7:15 am

    It will Happen. Peter Jackson loves planes and War History…. The Hobbit’s just getting in the way at present. Remember the writer of the screenplay, none other than Mr Stephen Fry, has been cast in the hobbit. I suspect the pair of them will get things rolling again as soon as the Hobbit wraps. Jackson has already rebuilt some Lancasters rivet by rivet…

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  4. has January 14, 2012 / 1:50 pm

    Maybe it is one of those attempts to be famous without doing anything but talk…

  5. Pete Clarke January 14, 2012 / 4:38 pm

    There is, and only ever will be ONE definitive film about the great dams raid by 617 Sqn, and it the original black & white 1955 film. You will never find a contemporary actor who can come close to Richard Todd as Wing Co Guy Gibson. Why? Because Todd was part of the generation that fought WW2. He was a Captain in the Para’s and fought near Pegasus bridge during D-Day. He knew instinctively how to play Gibson because he had been commissioned himself. GCI? Not impressed. The original film utilised real Lancasters and they flew them at 40 ft above the lakes, as opposed to 60 ft on the raid. Why? dramatic effect on camera. The origina film is a much loved classic British film. Somehow, the black & white format captures the atmosphere perfectly. We simply do NOT need ‘another’ also ran ‘Dambusters,’ the original is king of the hill and always will be.

    • Bob October 16, 2012 / 5:51 am

      Todd’s portrayl of Gibson wasn’t that accurate. Gibson was not well liked by the men who served under him. None of that comes through in the original film. Also, following the writer’s logic, they should never have made another movie about D-Day after The Longest Day which had some WWII vets in the cast. So we would never have the pleasure of watching Savng Private Ryan. The original Dam Busters as a great movie but there’s no reason that Peter Jackson can’t make a great movie too.

    • Gordon July 5, 2013 / 4:26 am

      I thouroughly agree Pete, and that dignified end of the movie, where Todd ‘walks off into the sunset’ for want of a better descript. Very talented, clever and constructive generation. Civil and humane and Selfless. Unlike todays lot.

  6. anthony jenner January 16, 2012 / 12:14 am

    leave the film alone because the real one is a lot better then a remake,
    kind regards tony

    • William Campbell December 5, 2012 / 10:59 am

      And you know this because…

  7. Neil Whiteman January 20, 2012 / 6:08 pm

    The original Dambuster’s movie was historically inaccurate in many parts of the story, and bore little resemblance to Paul Brickhill’s book.
    I sincerely hope the producer’s of this upcoming remake really go to town on it and get just about everything right!, ranging from costumes, car’s buildings etc. Oh and please, no four letter words beginning with F……!. the word just wasn’t used in those days!, but at the same time i hope they don’t Patronise the period the story is set in either!!!!. Geoffrey Rush should play Barnes Wallace, and i hope Guy Gibson is portrayed as a rude arrogant arsehole as he was supposed to have been in real life!!!.

    • Simon P. April 9, 2012 / 3:49 am

      The F-word was most definitely used in those days, especially in the armed forces, in both World Wars! It just wasn’t generally recorded in the literature of the day – but if you read frank memoirs like “The Recollections of Rifleman Bowlby” or novels written by servicemen like “The Middle Parts of Fortune” you will see how much it was used.

      I don’t know the extent to which it would have been used on operations but there are numerous reports of male officers on the ground being embarrassed in front of female WAAF radio operators by the stream of bad language coming over the radio from aircrew – the WAAFs usually not batting an eyelid! In one I have read (but don’t remember the source), the WAAF replied matter-of-factly “That’s nothing, before this I worked in a racing stable.” Johnnie Johnson’s book has another account of something similar.

      The Canadians in particular were famous for it, and I imagine the Canadians on the Dams Raid were no different. Anyway there are some aircrew still with us, apparently Les Munro is helping with the film, so I hope that’s one of the things the makers check with him so that they can get the speech absolutely authentic!

      • Bob October 16, 2012 / 5:59 am

        You bet the Canadians were famous for using that little word. Montgomery is said to have complained once that the the only words the Canadians knew were f**k and Left Flank (the Canucks fought on the left flank of Monty’s army group from Normandy to Germany.

      • Paul H January 1, 2013 / 7:17 pm

        My auntie was a WAAF in the war and married a pilot who flew spits (sadly he died before i was born, in the late 50’s,and she swore like a trooper in the poshest voice imaginable all her life ,including the F word ,she never apologised and we all found it very funny and endearing.

    • Robert April 9, 2012 / 7:44 am

      I think you will find that particular four letter word was used in the forties and even in the thirties. My father worked in the Railways in the early thirties and he certainly knew that word and others.
      Remember English has been around for many centuries especially old Anglo Saxon.

    • Gordon Weare November 23, 2012 / 1:22 am

      When you are in ‘authority’ over men- You won’t always be so popular. This is war, not a country club. The original movie, had real heroes playing the parts, decent men.. unlike todays cotton wool, soft porn sissies, who’d crack up with the 1940’s discipline alone. To ensure we don’t be as tough today, the pc-brigade attacks our proven authority/disciplines on all civilian & military fronts. I really wonder, if todays ilk, could ever replace the WW2 Generation ? I doubt it.

  8. William Elphinstone April 21, 2012 / 3:43 pm

    If you read “The Mint” by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) which he wrote in the 1920’s about his time in the RAF, you will find it is full of colourful barrack room language – the exact same language that I heard (and spoke) in an RAF barrack room 60 years later

  9. merk April 28, 2012 / 9:27 pm

    Opinions aside, a remake is a very good way of reminding the public and younger generations at large about this incredible feat during WW2. It will educate people all over again about the complexity, engineering skill, creativity, pilot skill and courage involved. A good idea me thinks. Whether it will be a better film, well maybe or maybe not, we’ll see.

  10. David May 29, 2012 / 3:55 pm

    Good show!
    I am a volunteer worker at RAF Woodhall Spa AKA Thorpe Camp Visitor Centre. Where they went after the famous raid. 617 Sqn went on to sink the Tirpitz from there.
    Where will the story end?
    http://www.thorpecamp.org.uk

  11. Bill Goodwin June 6, 2012 / 8:58 pm

    I hope that Stephen Fry’s screenplay gives credit to Harold Martin in P-Popsie for showing the rest of the crews how to fly on-the-deck. Also I found the the story of gunners Foxlee and Simpsons’ abilitly to knock out ground targets before they could bring their guns to bear on the Lancs pretty stirring stuff. Hope it’s all a good show Stephen.

  12. Steve James June 13, 2012 / 11:43 am

    Its such a shame the original B&W Dambusters film had very poor bath tub
    special F/X ,that said CGI F/X of model Lancasters will make it look
    just like a computer game.If you going to make a remake of something like
    this its got to be done properly.

  13. Howard Gething August 20, 2012 / 6:30 am

    I read Paul Brickhill’s book years ago, and became enthralled with the story, let alone the history it portrayed. I recnetly read Chtris Ward’s book on 617 Squadron, and if Peter Jackson can merge Brickhill’s story with Ward’s meticulous detail, then the movie has some chance for success. I just hope it doesn’t wind up with “Star Wars” type CGI – after all,there were only 19 Lanc’s on the raid, and 8 failed to retun. If Munro is a consultant on the movie, I hope they listen to him.

  14. John D December 17, 2012 / 4:00 pm

    Its starting to look like the Dambuster remake has been shelved indefinately!

    The company behind the effects and models (WETA) have now removed the Dambuster remake info from their web site including the previously released on-location images.
    So you have to wonder what the current status of this movie is as its not looking good?

  15. Larnie Puke January 2, 2013 / 12:01 am

    Fil it along the lower Waitaki Dam system including the Benmore Dam an ideal location for flying and filming sequences.

    Larnie

  16. Gordon January 15, 2013 / 11:26 pm

    Lets not nit-pick. Real Lancasters, not too many around. Les Munro never reached the dams, hit B4 he got there. Apart from 617 Sqn, 65% of bomber pilots were flt/Sgts. 24 Lancs lost in one raid on Nuremberg, biggest single loss. Once over the Target the bomb-aimer ruled; Official title is Bombardier. WW2 Generation – I miss them all, their strength, decency, perseverance, good solid men, our dads and uncles and always our heroes to look up to and admire. miss you dad…

    • Ian January 16, 2013 / 8:07 am

      Bombardier was the term in the US Air Force, Bomb Aimer is correct for the RAF.

  17. Gordon January 15, 2013 / 11:34 pm

    My late dad had an admiration for the RAF, and so have I, we’re all Naval. Most of those aircrew had never flown before, until ops began. My first flights were a 4-engine Vickers Vanguard, noisy and ‘viby’. Hate to think what an old bomber was like.

  18. Gordon January 17, 2013 / 2:20 am

    I hope PJ makes a good job of it. I am however mindful of the impressions of Mel Gibson’s movies.. you’d think [if you were ignorant ] that ‘only’ Australians were at Gallipoli ! And the ‘one’ Brit that appears in Gibson’s fenian movie, was an incompetent twit. Unlike the original ‘Dambusters’ movie, at least REAL MEN made them… I for one, cannot be bothered with todays, pop star, over fashioned, stars, who lack any real grit.

  19. Gordon February 20, 2013 / 12:22 am

    Oh oh, don’t tell me Peter Fry is gonna be in the Dambuster new movie ! what ever next Charles Hawtrey as Guy Gibson… Should’ve guest….

    • Ian February 21, 2013 / 8:26 pm

      He’s responsible for the screenplay. I haven’t seen anything about him actually appearing in it. Do you have a link?

  20. Gordon July 5, 2013 / 3:52 am

    My late Uncle ex RAF has died last month… June. Sgt Armourer. Yes, i must admit, I’ve never heard the term ‘bombardier’ used in the RAF. Must’ve read an odd book ? Anyone familiar with RAf Valley, Wales ?

  21. Gordon July 5, 2013 / 3:58 am

    I well recall a sqn of RN Wessex choppers landing in the snow, one icy One day. I saw a black naval air mechanic, come out, head lowered etc. Up until then I had only met one black in the RN – I wandered over to the RN choppers from the RAF Hunter sqn [Sqn Ldr Crawshaw, a Yorkshireman]
    , and it was him ! Tyrone Lewish

  22. gordon January 7, 2014 / 12:26 am

    OK, so its Lancasters all the time. Be real nice to have Sterlings squadrons, Wellingtons, Halifax’s, etc for a change. Remember a movie is only a movie, and will never be anything else. Good luck to PJ. Flyboys is a great flying movie, I felt airsick, lol

  23. Christopher March 12, 2015 / 11:58 pm

    The whole story of that raid has never been told as has been alluded to by Peter Jackson. The official secrets act saw to that .
    617 was just one of many X squadrons . Who provided the fighter cover for that raid on a clear moonlit night that would ordinarily have turned in to a blood bath ? What was the real reason for needing to take out those dams ? Where was 618 squadron on the night of those raids ? The clues are out there .

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