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]


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.

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]

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!

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.

Something he forgot to mention?

NZ film mogul Peter Jackson gave an interview to local newspaper The Dominion Post last week, talking about his favourite First World War movies. He told the interviewer about his long term plans to make a film about the Gallipoli campaign, a subject which is close to the hearts of both Kiwis and Aussies, and also mentioned that progress was being made ‘untangling’ the situation with The Hobbitt, which is bogged down in the financial turmoil surrounding MGM. Even the new Tintin movie got a namecheck.
Any news on The Dam Busters, you might ask? Nope, not even an item under Any Other Business.
Sometimes reading the runes at Wingnut Studios is like trying to work out what is going on in the North Korean Communist Party. At the moment nobody outside really has a clue.
You heard it here first!

Dambusters not affected by MGM woes

The news that Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro is no longer to direct The Hobbit, which was to be produced by Peter Jackson, does not at first glance have any repercussions on Jackson’s projected Dambusters film. However, it is obviously a distraction for the great man, when the last we heard was that he was working on revisions to Stephen Fry’s script.
The fate of The Hobbit is closely bound up with the current state of flux with mega-production company MGM, which is up for sale. This is having a severe knock on effect further down the food chain — even to the extent that box office biggies like the new James Bond film are now on hold.
The Dambusters remake, however, will be distributed by Universal and Studio Canal so, in theory, MGM’s woes are irrelevant. And it is to be directed by Christian Rivers, who doesn’t appear to have any other projects on the go at the moment.
Jackson has said that if necessary he will direct The Hobbit himself. That, obviously, would eat into the time he has available for other work. But if he can delegate his work on the Dambusters to his co-producers then this could be minimised.
Whatever happens, we can expect very few public announcements until there is real news to report. Wingnut Films is a secretive outfit (it doesn’t even have a website) tucked away in a small country thousands of miles from anywhere. Even though its films since the Lord of the Rings saga have had mixed responses, it is still a wealthy company which can put substantial resources into movie-making. There is no reason at present to be worried about the Dambusters project.
However, our speculation eighteen months ago that 2011 would be the earliest it would appear now seems less likely to be true. It surely won’t hit the screens until 2012.

Arise, Sir Peter

Peter Jackson is to receive the same accolade as that given to other great film directors such as Sir David Lean and Sir Alfred Hitchcock, with a knighthood. (Another report here.) Regular readers of this blog will know that amongst his future projects are a remake of The Dam Busters, the 1955 classic war film, which may start filming in late 2010 with a possible release in 2011. I’ve covered this story at length, and look forward to bringing you further news in the year to come.
In the meantime, a Happy New Year to all blog readers!

Jackson speaks: Dam Busters remake to start shooting in 2010

Here’s a great seasonal present for all Dambuster film fans. Speaking on Campbell Live, a New Zealand TV show, on Monday 14 December Peter Jackson confirmed that the remake is going ahead, and that shooting is likely to start sometime next year. He is a busy man, and the bulk of the TV interview was about his newest release, The Lovely Bones, which has just concluded a series of premieres around the globe. Also on his studio’s horizon is The Hobbit, with Ian MacKellen lined up to play a role. But towards the end of the interview he said “if all goes well we’ll be shooting Dambusters in 2010″, and confirmed that ten full size Lancaster models are currently in a warehouse in Wellington.
As the moderator of NZ’s foremost aviation forum, Dave Homewood, has pointed out this interview should dispel any doubts that the project has been put on permanent hold: “Maybe you guys aren’t getting the full gen up-over” are his exact words. Thanks, Dave!

More news from Stephen Fry on Dambusters remake

New Zealand TV reporter Kate Rodger caught up with Stephen Fry at the launch in London of The Lovely Bones, and received a 30 second update on progress on the Dambusters remake. (If you want to see the video you’ll need the latest version of Adobe Flash player, BTW.) Fry confirmed that the project is still very much going ahead, although the financing etc needs a little ‘finessing’. So, no sign of back burnering, at the moment, it would seem.

[Hat tip Dave Homewood, Historic Aviation Forum.]