The Dam Busters: Will Peter Jackson's remake of the iconic film ever get off the ground?

Les Munro, the last surviving Dambusters pilot, died this week

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Following the death of the last surviving Dam Busters pilot Les Munro questions are being asked yet again whether Peter Jackson’s proposed remake of the iconic 1955 film will ever get off the ground.

The Lord of the Rings director has already had 10 replica RAF Squadron 617 Lancaster bombers made in his native New Zealand and has held the movie rights for almost six years – but production has yet to begin.

He said last year that persistent questions about the project “drives me nuts” but experts hope he will finally focus his attention now that only two surviving members of the heroic mission - Canadian former front gunner Fred Sutherland and Briton bomb aimer George “Johnny” Johnson – remain alive.

Phil Bonner, of Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire, is confident the remake will be made – citing Mr Jackson’s passion for aviation.

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Les Munro had signed on as a technical adviser to the project (PA)

He said: “With Peter Jackson behind it and the amount of investment he has put in I think it will come about. His big passion is aviation. Apparently he has a poster of the 1955 film in his office.

“It was such a classic film and laid down the mark – the remake does have to match up to that. It’s a bit like The 39 Steps: which version [of the four films] do you prefer? For me the Alfred Hitchcock one was the best and everything else has been measured against that.”

Mr Bonner said another important reason to remake the iconic movie was to tell the story of the heroic mission to a younger generation.

 

Tom Hollander and Colin Firth have been named as candidates for the lead roles of 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson and Barnes Wallis, inventor of 617 Squadron's “bouncing bombs”, played by Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave respectively in the original film.

Historian Andrew Roberts said that a remake “simply cannot be done successfully”.

He argued: “Not just because the original was one of the finest war films ever made, but because the Britain that created it has been replaced by an entirely different kind of country, one that no longer understands or appreciates the messages of this masterpiece.”

Mr Bonner disagreed saying that despite the original film coming out 12 years after the event much of the mission, to destroy three dams in the Ruhr valley which were a vital source of industrial power for Nazi Germany, was still classified in 1955 which is not the case today.

He said: “There were some inaccuracies in the film: Guy Gibson didn’t pick his own crews, he didn’t come up with the idea of converging spotlights to determine height [above the water] things like that. [The filmmakers] just didn’t have access to the full facts at the time.”

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A retelling of the story of RAF Squadron 617 was reported in 2006 (PA)

Mr Munro had signed on as a technical adviser to a project that was first reported in 2006. David Frost, who had bought the rights to Paul Brickhill’s book on which the film is based along with Mr Gibson’s 1946 memoirs, could not find anyone for the remake. After hearing Mr Jackson had the 1955 Michael Anderson film poser hanging in his office, he rang him immediately and did the deal there and then.

However the project has been beset by delays ever since. Stephen Fry confirmed he was due to write the screenplay but then Mr Jackson was sidetracked with The Hobbit films.  He is now due to direct the second Tintin movie, set for release next year, so the 75th anniversary of the Dambusters raid may come and go before work even begins on a remake.

The director did offer some hope in a recent interview when he said: “There is only a limited span I can abide, of people driving me nuts asking me when I’m going to do that project. So I’ll have to do it. I want to, actually, it’s one of the truly great true stories of the Second World War, a wonderful, wonderful story.”

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