Stephen Fry: Dambusters

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IT’S one of the best British films ever made.

Classic 1950s war movie The Dam Busters told a story of heroism and sacrifice against the odds.

It starred Richard Todd as Wing Commander Guy Gibson and Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis, inventor of the bouncing bomb.

Now a new version – Dambusters – is to be filmed, directed by Peter Jackson, with a screenplay by Stephen Fry.

I touched on the story in last month’s blog on Stephen here.

There’s also a flavour of the project in today’s MEN feature interview with Mr Fry – back this Sunday in ITV1’s Kingdom – here.

But for those interested in the production, here’s what Stephen had to say in full about Dam Busters, old and new:

“The Dam Busters is one of the best war films ever made – in its own way, perfect. And we will never unmake it by making ours.

“There are things that we can bring to the screenplay that were not available for the Mike Anderson version.

“They were either still secret, for example the actual nature of the bomb itself.

“There was an element to it, the fact that it had to revolve at 500 revolutions per minute, backwards – a back-spin, infact. Some of the other details of its technology were still government secrets.

“And also the nature of the danger and the death, the appalling destruction of so many lives during the raid.

“It was too close. It was only 10 years after the raid that they made the film.

“There were too many sons and daughters, widows and brothers and sisters and parents of young men who had died in horrible ways, to show how they died.

“It’s not that one wants to be gory about it, but I think part of the heroism and the courage of those bomber crews needs to be told properly for us to understand their astounding sacrifice and their extraordinary skill.

“Having met some of the survivors who are still with us – there are not many left, as you can imagine – and having been in a Lancaster bomber and tried to move around in one, my admiration for these people just cannot be overstated.

“And that’s true of Peter Jackson and everyone at WingNut, his production company, who are trying to make this film.

“It starts with an unreserved and schoolboy, if you like, adoration and admiration for these extraordinary people.

“There are things we can do. We can really make people feel they’re in the air far more.

“We can make them live the nature of the raid itself, that May evening in 1943 which was extraordinary. Everything you learn about it makes it more remarkable.

“Also the great achievement of Barnes Wallis, the fights he had. Again, there was a bit more tact in the Anderson film about some of the pig-headedness of the original leaders of Bomber Command who were convinced it wasn’t going to work.

“We can just be more honest about the kind of opposition he met, without making pointless assaults on the character of noble Air Marshals.

“So there is a lot going for it. It’s 54 / 55 years since that first film was made.

“So I think there is justification for it, although of course it is always a risk.

“It’s worth knowing that if you say to America ‘Dam Busters’, no-one knows what you’re talking about. It’s only in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain that it’s probably one of the best known films ever made.

“Though I think a lot of fans of George Lucas know that he used the final reel, as it were, of Dambusters, almost shot for shot in the attack on the Death Star in the original Star Wars movie. IE The fourth Star Wars movie, if you want to be pedantic about them.

“Where they go down into the canyon and release the mine – it’s based on entirely on Dam Busters, and he’s been quite honest about that.”

The Dam Busters Film

Stephen Fry Official Site

The Official Peter Jackson Fan Club

Brainy? Fry Blames His Feet

Stephen Fry: Walking With 007