Director Peter Jackson has unveiled the first glimpses of his Dambusters movie.
Jackson, the King Kong of New Zealand's film industry, visited Hood Aerodrome in Masterton yesterday to oversee a mockup of a World War II airfield, complete with a full-scale replica of a Lancaster bomber.
It took a large crew a week to put together the replica, which is one of 10 designed by Weta Workshop and built in China out of fibreglass and steel.
Sandbags, guns, tanks and hired extras in war uniform all helped to set the scene.
Although the Jackson-produced NZ$52-million movie about 617 Squadron's famous dam assault was announced to the world in 2006, little has been said until now about its progress other than confirmation that British writer and comedian Stephen Fry would write the script.
The film is being directed by Kiwi first-time director Christian Rivers.
It has also emerged that Fry was asked to come up with alternative names for squadron leader Guy Gibson's dog, Nigger, but that executive producer Sir David Frost rejected them all.
"Guy sometimes used to call his dog 'Nigsy', so I think that's what we will call it," Sir David told the Daily Mail newspaper. "Stephen has been coming up with other names, but this is the one I want."
Matthew Dravitzki, a spokesman for Jackson, confirmed the movie was still in development stages, with work focusing on building the Lancasters and writing scripts.
Just when shooting will start is still under wraps and the movie is yet to be cast.
"Right now we are having fun working on a number of different projects and have the luxury to make things at our own speed. We are yet to choose the location for the film's shooting, and that is going to come down to wherever is most suitable for our needs."
Yesterday's mockup was also a chance to test new camera technology. "We are not shooting any scenes that are project-specific; this is about just keeping up with technology and trying new things."
Preparation for Dambusters is part of a hectic schedule for Jackson. Big-budget science fiction movie District 9, which he has produced, comes out in October, and The Lovely Bones, which he directed, is due for release on Boxing Day.
The first of three planned Tintin movies is in post-production and The Hobbit is to be shot next year.
- The Dominion Post