Jackson keeps dream of making Anzac film alive

BY TOM CARDY AND KIMBERLEY ROTHWELL
Last updated 05:00 26/08/2010

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With only five years until the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, Sir Peter Jackson has reiterated his wish to make a feature film about the Anzacs.

He is also confident that there should soon be certainty about whether he would direct The Hobbit movie, which would allow him to map out a five-year plan for projects "that will keep many people very busy".

Jackson mentions his dream for a film on the Gallipoli battle in an article he has written for today's Dominion Post on his favourite World War I movies.

In his list he ranked Australian director Peter Weir's 1981 film Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson, at No 4, praising the performances and saying that the powerful ending was without equal.

"I choke back the tears every time I watch it."

But Jackson said the film had historic flaws, including its depiction of the British at the 3rd Light Horse Brigade charge on "the Nek", a vital position on the front line, in August 1915. More than 300 Anzacs were killed.

He said it was not doomed because the British were "drinking tea on the beach" as the film claimed.

"It was doomed because while the Australians charged the Nek from below, the New Zealanders, who were supposed to simultaneously attack from above, didn't show up. But that's another story, and one I'd love to make as the 100th anniversary gets closer."

Jackson has previously said he wanted to make a Gallipoli movie.

"The Anzac story is a very interesting one. It's always been at the back of my mind as a film that would be worth making – a big movie to make," he said in 2006.

However, this was the first time Jackson had hinted that his wish may be fuelled by the impending centenary.

A decision was still to be made on whether he would direct The Hobbit, which is in limbo while problems are resolved with Warner Bros and MGM, which is heavily in debt and up for sale.

But he said yesterday that Warner Bros was "making progress untangling the MGM situation, so we should have certainty with The Hobbit sometime soon".

Jackson's other commitments include directing the second Tintin film – the first, directed by Steven Spielberg, is to be released next year.

During the past 10 years Jackson has become more involved in projects about Gallipoli and World War I, as well as building up an extensive collection of fighter planes from the era. In 2005 his team used cutting-edge film technology to restore the only film taken of the Anzacs at Gallipoli in 1915. The 20 minutes of footage included soldiers from the Wellington Battalion in a trench.

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In 2007, Jackson wrote and directed a 15-minute film, Crossing the Line, set in World War I. It was largely filmed near Masterton and included trench warfare, plane dogfights and a replica of one of the first tanks.

Jackson's movie list also included the new Australian World War I movie Beneath Hill 60, based on the true story of Australian miners who dug under enemy lines to plant explosives.

Jackson and Spielberg, who is to make the World War I film War Horse, both requested advance screenings of the film, which opens in New Zealand today.

Beneath Hill 60 is directed by Australian Jeremy Sims, who is also an actor. By coincidence, Sims auditioned in Sydney last week for a role as a troll in The Hobbit.

"If he wants to know what the director of Beneath Hill 60 looks like, tell him to go through his audition tapes of trolls. He'll find me," Sims said.

"I'm bearded and short and squat and I figured if I'm not going to get the role of a troll I might as well give up acting."

- The Dominion Post

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