Production will soon begin on DAMBUSTERS, the World War II adventure based on one of the most daring missions in aeronautic military history, for Universal Pictures in association with StudioCanal. Peter Jackson will produce and vfx vet Christian Rivers will make his directorial debut.
Rivers has worked with Jackson for more than 17 years: first as a storyboard artist while still in school, then as an animator, previs supervisor and second unit director, culminating in his work as animation director on Jackson's KING KONG, which won him a 2006 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects (which he shared with Joe Letteri, Brian Van't Hul and Richard Taylor).
DAMBUSTERS is based on the book THE DAM BUSTERS by Paul Brickhill and the 1955 British film directed by Michael Anderson. The WingNut Films production is also produced by Jan Blenkin and Carolynne Cunningham, with Sir David Frost and Ken Kamins serving as exec producers.
DAMBUSTERS chronicles the story of Operation Chastise, a top-secret Royal Air Force bombing mission designed to strike a decisive blow against the seemingly invincible Nazi war machine at the height of its aggression.
In March 1943, a group of airmen drawn from across the ranks of the RAF were assembled and trained for an unprecedented and potentially deadly assignment whose complete nature was not revealed to them. This largely handpicked group, known as 617 Squadron, including pilots from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S., were led by Wing Cmdr. Guy Gibson. They had only seven weeks to train with exercises that imitated, but never revealed, their ultimate intent: to fly deep within well-armed Germany at tree top level and destroy three dams that were essential to the Nazi steel industry. A revolutionary "bouncing" bomb that could skip across water had been developed by a visionary scientist, Barnes Wallis, but to be effective, the bomb had to be dropped from a terrifyingly close range and at very low altitude. In specially-modified Lancaster aircraft, the airmen trained for a single mission, the likes of which had never been undertaken and whose potential for success was small.
"This is one of the most remarkable true stories to come out of World War II," stated Jackson. "When Michael Anderson made his thrilling version of this story in 1955, many details of the dams raid were still a closely guarded secret. It has since been declassified by the British Government, making the dynamics of the story and the people involved even more intriguing. That, combined with our ability to harness state-of-the-art computer-generated visual effects, will enable us to bring the events of these desperate days of 1943 to life in a very visceral way. This is an astonishing story that continues to be revered in British Commonwealth history, and our hope is to make their exploits known to more of the world and extend their legacy to a generation that might not otherwise recognize their inspiration and sacrifice."
"Peter Jackson is the ideal producer for a remake of DAMBUSTERS," said Sir David Frost. "Not only because of his filmmaking genius, but also because of his aeronautical expertise and his unique understanding of the human pressures wrought by war."
"The bravery of these young pilots, some of whom were only 20 years old, inspired the whole Allied world not just to resist, but to strike back against Nazi Germany," said Rivers. "I grew up with the Dambusters mythology as part of my heritage. I remember seeing it for the first time on television in England with my grandfather. I'll never forget marveling at the image of the bouncing bomb punching across the water. This is one of the most revered stories of British ingenuity and heroism. We intend to be true to the values of the era in which these events took place."
The Oscar-winning artists at Weta Digital Ltd. and Weta Workshop Ltd. will create the visual effects and miniatures.
Universal Pictures is a division of Universal Studios (www.universalstudios.com). Universal Studios is part of NBC Universal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80%-owned by General Electric, with 20% controlled by Vivendi.
StudioCanal (www.studiocanal.com), which owns the original 1955 film and is a partner in the new production, is the largest film company in Europe. StudioCanal is a subsidiary of Canal + Group, the leading French media company which is 100% owned by Vivendi.