Glendyn Ivin is a huge fan of Peter Weir’s Gallipoli but he has resisted the temptation to revisit Weir’s seminal 1981 movie since he was hired to direct the Nine Network miniseries Gallipoli.
“I love that film; it’s one of the reasons I became a filmmaker,” Ivin told IF on Monday during a recce for the eight-hour production which starts shooting in and near Melbourne on March 17. “But I have avoided watching it again because we are doing a very different story.”
In keeping with this fresh take on the saga of the young Aussies who fought in the legendary WW1 campaign, Ivin said he and his DoP Germain McMicking will shoot the film in a style which is far from a traditional drama.
The screenplay is by Christopher Lee (Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, Paper Giants, Rush, Police Rescue), adapted from the best-selling book by Les Carlyon.
“We’re striking a balance between an epic battle and a personal, emotional story,” he said. “I am more interested in the inner lives of the soldiers who were 17 when they were sent to a very bleak and intense place.”
Ivin always wanted Kodi Smit-McPhee to play the central character, teenager Thomas “Tolly” Johnson, who lies about his age to enlist with his brother Bevan (Harry Greenwood) in the Great War. He was delighted when the US-based actor found time in his busy schedule and signed up.
“Kodi was at the top of our list,” he said. “He gives the show a real shape. He has a haunted sensibility as his character’s life changes when he spends 10 months in Gallipoli.”
The director went to Turkey soon after he was attached to the Endemol Australia production in October 2012. He then shot Puberty Blues 2 and has worked full-time on the miniseries for the past six months.
The young actors are being put through a boot camp this week under the watchful eye of the production’s military advisor, a former major, and will spend two days at a rifle range.
Most of the battle scenes will be shot in Werribee and Bacchus Marsh, where the rocky, rugged terrain resembles Gallipoli. A second unit will film some sequences in Turkey. .
The producers are John Edwards, Imogen Banks and Robert Connolly. Nine’s co-Heads of Drama Jo Rooney and Andy Ryan and Endemol Australia CEO Janeen Faithfull are the executive producers.
The creative team includes production designer Josephine Ford and costume designer Cappi Ireland, who both worked on Tony Ayres’ Cut Snake and David Michod’s The Rover; Ford collaborated with Ivin on his first feature, Last Ride.
McMicking has just shot Ariel Kleiman’s thriller Partisan, which stars Vincent Cassel and Sapidah Kian; his credits include the ABC telemovie An Accident Soldier and Tony Krawitz’s Dead Europe.
“I’ve got a great team around me as we go into battle,” Ivin said.