Pic: Jan Kmiecik
Michael Anderson’s 1955 film The Dam Busters is being shown again on ITV4 this afternoon – the second screening on this channel in the last six days!
Experience shows that this will result in a number of first time visitors reading this blog, so if this is you, welcome aboard. This is the one-stop shop for all Dambuster-related news and information, coming to you regularly for almost ten years. I try to publish several items every month so please check back regularly. You can ensure you see every post by clicking the “Follow blog by email” button in the right hand column.
If you are searching today for information on when Peter Jackson’s much delayed remake of the 1955 film will appear, the news is simply that there is no news. Jackson bought the rights to remake the film back in 2006. Since then he has announced that a director has been appointed and a script commissioned and that a number of life size model Lancasters have been built. But since that time, he has been very busy making three Hobbit films and is now working on a number of other projects, including another series of fantasy films, these based on the Mortal Engines books. It is notable that the Dambusters remake no longer appears in Jackson’s IMDB listing.
The reshowing of the 1955 film does however give me a good excuse to show this picture again, kindly sent to me by Jan Kmiecik, whose father was Flt Sgt Joe Kmiecik, a Second World war veteran who took part in the filming of The Dam Busters in 1954.
The picture shows the three Lancasters used in the film flying together probably for the last time. This was taken at a Battle of Britain Day tribute at Silloth in Cumbria, probably in 1955. Note that only two of the aircraft have been modified to the “Dambuster” configuration, with a dummy “bouncing bomb” and no mid upper turret. The central Lancaster must be NX782, which was left as standard and used in an early sequence in the film where Gibson is completing his final flight as CO of 106 Squadron.
Note also how low the three Lancasters are flying, and how close they are to the members of the public wandering across the runway. Modern air displays have much stricter health and safety rules!
The good news: once again, Peter Jackson has indicated that his remake of the classic 1955 film, The Dam Busters, is still an ongoing project. The bad news: it has been shunted to the back of the production queue by what sounds like another interminable series of fantasy fiction films.
WingNut Films [will] be producing a feature film based on Philip Reeve’s book Mortal Engines, to be directed by Christian Rivers. The script has been written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and myself.
Some of you may recall that Christian was going to direct the Dambusters a few years back. Since then he’s kept himself busy, making short films, and directing Second Units on The Hobbit and Pete’s Dragon.
Our involvement in Mortal Engines actually pre-dates Dambusters (which is still happening) – Christian actually worked on Mortal Engines previs [sic] way back in 2009. It’s very exciting to finally get it underway!
This is obviously great news for the writer of Mortal Engines, Philip Reeves. There are four books in this series, and adapting and filming them will keep much of the New Zealand movie industry busy for years to come. But it does mean that the chance of the Dambusters remake hitting the screens anytime in this decade becomes more and more remote.
Jackson obviously included the four words in parentheses above in his statement (‘which is still happening’) to forestall the questions he would inevitably be asked by Dambuster enthusiasts. But if it is ‘still happening’, would he like to give us an update? A comment below would be appreciated.
[Hat tip: Graeme Stevenson]
UPDATE: More about this from the Waikato Times in New Zealand.
Pic: © Sean1552
An alert aviation buff called Sean in Wellington, New Zealand, spotted some interesting activity back in October near his workplace. Writing on the Wings over New Zealand forum, he reported: “The rumors that five Lancaster’s were / are stored next to where I work have now proven to be true, as over the last few days I have seen three truckloads of Lancaster parts being put back into storage. These included wings, and engines and other big parts. The trucks were uncovered, so they were not trying to hide anything. Have no idea where they came from but I am guessing Masterton, as that was where there were seen last. Not sure if this means they are going back into storage as there is no further need for them (no film), or they may have finished some filming…. hopefully someone here might know. I know Peter Jackson stores a lot of his stuff here as we are always seeing his WW1 tanks and buses etc being moved in or out usually in the weeks up to ANZAC day.”
A few days later, Sean saw another shipment in transit, and took a series of photographs, one of which is shown above. The fact that one segment of fuselage displayed the code letters AJ-G is of course confirmation that the models were made for the Dambusters film remake. However, as Sean points out, there has been no clue from the notoriously secretive Wingut Films as to when the remake will go ahead.
Sources do continue to suggest that Peter Jackson remains personally committed to the project. This was confirmed in the interview given by Jackson in Oxford in the summer, which appears to have been reported only in the hitherto obscure medium of the website of Exeter College, whose ex-students include JRR Tolkien.
Asked what projects he might want to pursue next, Jackson stated he was in “no rush” to recommence filming. Nor indeed, to return to Hollywood.
“At the moment . . . a lot of the films there are not the sort of films I particularly enjoy. So what Fran and I are probably going to do is make some smaller movies, make some New Zealand movies.
“I’ve got The Dam Busters too: I’ve been working on a script with Stephen Fry over the last few years on and off. But whatever we do over the next few years, it will be quite a lot smaller.”
So there we have it. A small Christmas bonus for Dambusters fanatics.
If you want another treat, then scroll backwards in the Wings Over New Zealand posting mentioned above, and find some great pictures from the New Zealand premiere of the 1955 film:
Peter Jackson has been giving interviews to mark the end of the process of making The Hobbit trilogy, which combined with the Lord of the Rings make up a series of six films that have taken his company almost fifteen years to complete. Already the films have grossed $4.89 billion in worldwide box office takings and by the time The Battle Of The Five Armies, the finale to The Hobbit trilogy, plays out, the total may reach $6 billion.
Now, in an interview posted on the Deadline blog, Jackson has admitted that he probably would have started on the remake of The Dam Busters four or five years ago, having handed over directorial duties on The Hobbit to Guillermo del Toro. But del Toro left this project in May 2010 and Jackson stepped back behind the camera, saying that it was important to protect Warner Bros’ investment. He admits that all the time since there has been pressure on him to say what he will be doing next:
I’ve had so many people the last five years come and ask, ‘When are you going to make The Dam Busters? When are you going to make The Dam Busters?’ Honestly, you ask me what I got out of five years of making The Hobbit? It was me feeling like I have to make The Dam Busters, because of the endless people asking, ‘When are you going to make The Dam Busters?…
[W]e still have the rights, and it’s one in a little pot of movies. We don’t have a next movie nailed down, but certainly The Dam Busters is one of them. There is only a limited span I can abide, of people driving me nuts asking me when I’m going to do that project. So I’ll have to do it. I want to, actually, it’s one of the truly great true stories of the Second World War, a wonderful, wonderful story.
I reckon that’s as near as we have come to a real commitment from Jackson to make the film. But when will it happen? He has a pretty busy schedule: Hobbit 3 is due for worldwide release in December 2014, and then there is the small matter of the second Tintin movie, scheduled for release in 2016, which he is also due to direct. (He did a deal with Steven Spielberg.) He won’t be directing The Dam Busters, but it will surely take up quite a bit of his time so it could fit into his schedule here – before a third Tintin movie, so far untitled.
If The Dam Busters is ever going to get to the clapperboard stage, the next thing to expect would be news that the difficulties with the screenplay have been ironed out, that the director is confirmed (a role earmarked eight years ago for Jackson protegé, Christian Rivers) and, most important of all, that Universal Pictures and Studio Canal are still behind the project.
Watch this space.
A ‘reliable source’ (as they are known in the trade) has told us that Stephen Fry has now finished the script for the remake of The Dambusters, and it is now in the hands of Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films. It is not yet clear what will happen next, as the New Zealand-based outfit is still hard at work on the post-production for Hobbit Numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and so on, and so on. (How many more of these little blighters are there?)
Casting the film should be the next step. If we hear of agencies getting calls looking for 133 young men with a mixture of accents then we will let you know.
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.