Sir Peter Jackson has just nine months to work some movie magic after agreeing to build a new World War I exhibition in the capital by April.
The Oscar-winning director will provide the "creative direction" for a new commemorative exhibition in the old Dominion Museum building, which organisers hope will form a big anchor for the World War I centenary celebrations.
It will likely include reproduction tanks, planes, famous battlegrounds and even a "smelly" trench, allowing people to experience the muddy and decaying stench soldiers were forced to endure on the frontline.
The Dominion Museum building stands behind the National War Memorial and will overlook the National War Memorial Park scheduled to open in April. The exhibition will be free.
However, with the centenary looming, many details of the exhibition remain vague, with design still at a "concept stage" and funding unresolved.
The Government and Wellington City Council will between them stump up about $7 million - although who will pay what remains undecided - and attempt to attract corporate sponsors for a top-up.
No-one involved would say how much the exhibition was expected to cost.
Prime Minister John Key joined Jackson in announcing the new exhibition at the Dominion Museum building yesterday and said that it would be a huge attraction for many young New Zealanders.
"I am delighted that Sir Peter Jackson has offered to lead the creative development of the commemorative exhibition.
"He will bring his considerable talent and expertise in storytelling for . . . one of the most significant stories in our development of nationhood."
Jackson said the museum would focus on soldiers and their families rather than the strategies of government and generals.
Many of the personal stories of World War I had never been told, he said, with returning soldiers often remaining silent, unable to discuss the horrors they had experienced.
"We now feel like we are able to commemorate them in a way they never wanted to commemorate themselves."
Jackson said his great uncle had died in World War I and his grandfather met his grandmother while recovering from bullet wounds suffered on the front.
"In a way my own existence is down to a German machine-gun."
Jackson left soon after the announcement, leaving Key to describe plans for the exhibition, including the smelly trench, and the commemoration of major Anzac battles.
"You will probably only be able to stay there for a few moments because it will offend your senses but he is trying to give you a sense of what the soldiers had to go through."
Key rejected the suggestion he was borrowing Jackson's star power during a tough few days in the election period, as he faced questions over allegations of "dirty politics" within the National Party.
"Our opponents will always be critical of what we do . . . this is something we have been working on for a very long period of time."
At this stage the exhibition will be temporary, remaining open for the duration of the centenary through to 2019, but those involved hinted it could remain and be expanded into a permanent war museum.
The Government has longer-term ambitions to buy back the Dominion Museum building, which is owned by a trust and used by Massey University.
The building previously housed the National Museum but was closed in 1996, with its exhibitions moving to Te Papa.
Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson said the Government did not need to buy the building back for the World War I exhibition but it could help the eventual business case for resurrecting a permanent museum.
He said the deadline of April was tight but achievable.
FORMER TOURISM BOSS NAMED FOR MUSEUM
Momentum is growing for the proposed Wellington Film Museum, likely to be sited on the waterfront.
The film museum project, led by Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor, has been in the pipeline since it was first mooted in 2001, after the global success of the first Lord of the Rings movie.
Now Jackson's spokesman has confirmed the involvement of George Hickton, former boss of Tourism NZ and a director of several Wingnut and Weta companies
During Hickton's 10 years at the helm of Tourism NZ, he launched the 100% Pure New Zealand brand recognised around the world.
The exact location of the film museum has not been revealed but Wellington City Council says on its website that "an interactive film museum will be a fantastic new addition to our existing museums, attracting a worldwide audience.
"A film museum located in central Wellington could take the world's love of film to a whole new level. It would also be a window on some of our most talented Wellingtonians - alongside plenty of swords and trolls."
- The Dominion Post