Tale of love and disaster calls for hundreds of extras

Last updated 05:00 05/11/2010

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Hunderds of people are needed in Wellington to help recreate an outstanding moment of international Kiwi cricket related to one of New Zealand's worst disasters.

Makers of the TV film Tangiwai are calling for up to 200 extras to play impassioned 1950s South African spectators at the Basin Reserve on Sunday.

The movie is about the Tangiwai disaster, in which 151 people lost their lives when the train bridge was hit by a lahar on Christmas Eve 1953, and follows the love story between New Zealand cricketer Bob Blair and his 19-year-old fiancee, Nerissa Love.

Miss Love died in the train wreck while Mr Blair was in South Africa, with the team only finding out about the disaster shortly before they were to play a test match at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, on Boxing Day.

A grieving Blair was excused from the game, in which Kiwi batsmen were left coughing blood after being hit by speeding bouncers, and iconic cricketer Bert Sutcliffe returned to the pitch with his head bandaged after a ball split his ear.

Tangiwai producer Paula Boock said one of the final scenes in the film, which will be partly shot at the Basin Reserve on Sunday, captures Blair overcoming his grief to help the Kiwi batsmen. "It was pretty dramatic. Bert Sutcliffe was still out on the field but had run out of partners and [Blair] came out of the tunnel unexpectedly and they put on a world-record over."

"That day is known as one of the most emotional moments in world cricket. The commentators were choked up ... and apparently 24,000 people at this ground stood as Blair walked out to the wicket. It was one of those incredible moments and the whole South African crowd got behind them."

Ms Boock, from Lippy Pictures, said they were looking for people to put on their best attempt at a 1950s costume, preferably in pale colours, and have some fun.

Another 200 people are needed to play spectators for another cricket scene at the Petone Cricket Ground on November 23.

Tangiwai, which has a $3 million budget, features The Lovely Bones star Rose McIver as Nerissa Love, Miranda Harcourt as her mother, Ryan O'Kane as Bob Blair. It will be directed by Charlie Haskell, who was behind the The Cult television series.

The film will also tell the tale of Cyril Ellis, played by Wellington actor Paul Yates, who ran down the tracks waving a torch to try to stop the train, and later helped save people from the wreckage.

A locomotive and carriages from Plimmerton's Mainline Steam will be used in the production, with Weta founder Sir Richard Taylor overseeing the creation of a model of the train that will be used to recreate the disaster.

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Though shooting does not begin until Sunday, Ms Boock said the cast and crew had already been inundated with people sharing their poignant stories of Tangiwai.

"A lot of Wellingtonians knew people who died in the disaster. It's still very widely remembered out there, but there is a whole younger generation who don't know."

The 90-minute feature is expected to be broadcast on TV1 next year.

Anyone interested in being an extra can contact the extras casting managers on: tangiwai.extras@gmail.com

- The Dominion Post

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