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Kiwi War Hero Immortalised

Kiwi War Hero Immortalised

Upham story to be told on the international big screen

A major international motion picture is to be made in New Zealand about the life of the country’s most decorated war hero, Captain Charles Upham, VC and Bar. As the only combatant soldier to win the Victoria Cross twice, Captain Upham is acknowledged as the outstanding hard charging soldier of the Second World War.

“Charles Upham is a remarkable New Zealander and a real hero,” says director and executive producer Nigel Hutchinson. “This movie will recreate his gallantry, exceptional leadership, determination, and complete and absolute modesty.”

Co-director and co-writer Craig Aitken says the movie, announced in the Year of the Veteran, will give a personal insight into Upham’s complex character and his life before and after the war, including the incredible enduring love he shared with his wife Molly.

Upham family spokesman and the film’s military consultant, Colonel (Retd) Mike Boissard, says the film is being made with the support, creative input and blessing of Upham’s family.

The film will be produced by Fat & Thin Productions in conjunction with Southern Mountains Movie Fund (a privately invested, home-grown film fund).

With scriptwriting, project planning, pre-production and fund raising activity well underway, Hutchinson says the aim is to start filming in 2007, with release targeted for 2008.

“We expect to cast a range of talented New Zealand, Australian and English actors and are already targeting at least two “A” list stars to play Charles and Molly,” he says.

The New Zealand Defence Force supports the production of a film about Captain Charles Upham and they will explore with the film's producers ways in which they can support this project.

The RNZRSA says it wholeheartedly supports this tribute to Upham and his peers who served and died in the Second World War.

“In the Year of the Veteran it is gratifying that the story of our greatest soldier will be told for the first time in a feature film,” says John Campbell, RSA National President. “Charles Upham’s life story and feats of heroism requires the big screen to do justice to this extraordinary soldier, citizen, New Zealander.”

With the assistance of Air New Zealand, key production crew participants will be travelling to London this weekend (24th June), accompanying four members of the Upham family who are attending the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of the Victoria Cross. The group will then visit Egypt, Crete and Colditz, Germany to examine locations and double-check research information.

Work is also underway with Richard Taylor and his team at Weta Workshop to make sure the clothing, uniforms and military equipment are as accurate as possible. “The key for me is that surviving members of the 20th Battalion and C Company (Upham’s company), don’t see anything that jars or isn’t correct,” says Aitken.

Charles Upham grew up in Canterbury and was farming and working as a rural valuer when World War 2 broke out. He trained at Burnham Military Camp and was embarked to Egypt with the 1st echelon of the 20th Battalion. The first of his Victoria Crosses was awarded for sustained gallantry, skill and leadership on Crete for nine days in May 1941, and he was awarded the bar to his Victoria Cross for outstanding gallantry in the attack of Ruweisat Ridge in July 1942. He was then captured and imprisoned, ending up in the infamous Colditz Camp in Germany. Through all of this his strength of character persevered.

“We have always needed people like Captain Upham as citizens of our country. He shows us how strong we can be in the face of adversity as well as in good times. His story is just as relevant in the 21st century as it ever was,” says Hutchinson.

Ends

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