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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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.)

Acceptable in the 50s

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.

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]

Do keep up, dear

Once upon a time the Hollywood magazine Variety was regarded as the voice of show business, regularly breaking dozens of stories in a famously sensationalist style which used a language all its own:

Now, it seems, it employs ‘reporters’ who are reduced to reading film directors’ Facebook pages and regurgitating material without any pre-existing knowledge. Last week, Dave McNary fearlessly exposed the brand new (to him) news that:

Peter Jackson has tapped British thesp Stephen Fry to play the Master of Laketown in “The Hobbit” and revealed on his Facebook page that he and Fry are collaborating on “Dambusters,” a WWII actioner that has been in development since 2006.

“I’ve known Stephen for several years, and we’re developing a ‘Dambusters’ movie together,” Jackson said in his Facebook post. “In addition to his writing skills, he’s a terrific actor and will create a very memorable Master for us.”

Fry’s involvement with “Dambusters,” produced through Jackson’s WingNut Films, hadn’t been announced previously. Project is centered on the 1943 Allied air raid on three German dams essential to the Nazi steel industry. [Emphasis added]

If Mr McNary had bothered to check on Google (it’s called a “search engine”, old boy) he would have come across a few thousand references to this ‘actioner’ project, going back several years:

Modesty forbids me mentioning the name of the blog which ranks third and fourth in these search results.

Suffice it to say that Mr Fry’s involvement with the film has been around so long that he even wrote about it in the latest instalment of his autobiography. And that came out in September last year.

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.]

Gibson in tears exclusive

For some reason a Lincolnshire newspaper has decided that the Dambusters remake is likely to be postponed, or even cancelled. They have no evidence for this, other than the fact that no one from Peter Jackson’s production company has recently been in touch with a few local enthusiasts. More reliable information comes from scriptwriter Stephen Fry in a Radio 5 interview last week. 
Podcast of interview here, talking about the responsibility he feels working on the remake, and revealing something of Guy Gibson’s sensitive side. It’s about 7 minutes in. (Hat tip Aviation Forum.)