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War of the Worlds gets a mock-umentary film

10/03/2010. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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A new live-action movie based on H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds, is in postproduction. The new movie, titled War of the Worlds – The True Story, has a planned release date of October 2010.

Pendragon Pictures is an independent motion picture company that released a previous movie version of War of the Worlds in 2005.

Pendragon producer Susan Goforth told the Nest, “This is a complete remake, not a re-working of our previous production.”

Under the direction of Timothy Hines, War of the Worlds – The True Story is being created as a faux documentary for television. Like the famous 1938 Orson Welles CBS radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, the new motion picture deliberately blurs the lines between reality and fiction.

Timothy Hines talked with about the new story approach, “When Orson Welles broadcast War of the Worlds on the radio in the 30s, he presented it in such a way as to not clearly identify that it was a work of fiction. He did it for the drama. And many people took the fictional news broadcast as a real news broadcast. People believed they were hearing an actual invasion from Mars that night. We are approaching the story in the same way, as if it were an actual news documentary.”

“We’re really enjoying ourselves with this,” added Susan Goforth. “People know there was no real Martian invasion a hundred years ago, right? So laying it out as if it were actual history is a lot of fun. And it hasn’t been done this way since that original Orson Welles broadcast.”

The premise of War of the Worlds – The True Story is that in 1965 a documentary film crew captured the memories of the last living survivor of the war between Earth and the planet Mars that took place at the turn of the 20th Century. Nothing was done with the footage until, in 2006, it was discovered in the basement vault of a condemned house. Found in the vault with the interviews, was previously unknown footage of the actual Martian invaders and their machines of war.

82-year-old stage and television actor Floyd Reichman, who plays the aging journalist recounting his war memories, leads the cast of the new movie. Highlights of Reichman’s lengthy stage credits include Willie in The Sunshine Boys. Seasoned voice talent, Jim Cissell, is providing third-person war narration drawn directly from the book.

“This project is right up Jim’s alley. He’s narrated many war documentaries for the History Channel,” said Timothy Hines. “We made so many mistakes the first time around. I wanted to make War of the Worlds. But what I made was something that has a macabre cult following, like an Ed Wood movie. We pretty much stumbled and fell on our face right out of the gate back in 2005. We were spread too thin without enough time and we really wound up in the weeds.”

A changing financial environment forced the 2005 production to downscale mid-stride. Then the director’s troubles were compounded when his distributor, who, in a rush to beat the big studio version, asked for a rough-cut to prove the film’s quality and existence to buyers. Instead, they distributed the rough-cut.

“Needless to say, we were not happy,” said Hines. “I’ve learned a lot since my first outing. My heart is really in the new War of the Worlds – The True Story. I’m relaxed and enjoying myself, and so far it’s turning out pretty well.”

Pendragon Pictures is scrapping all production design and effects work from their former movie, though a small amount of live action performances will be composited into archival footage.

“We are starting over with the special effects and designs in the new film,” Hines says. “Every concept has been re-approached. The tentacled Martians will be entirely different. We’re going way more Steampunk on the Martian machinery.”

Effects Artist Ezra Hamill told us, “We’re working hard to get things that were missed the first time. For instance, the fighting machines will shoot gas canisters and the walk cycles will fit the descriptions in the book. That’s what I’m aiming for, while trying to do it in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

Timothy Hines concluded, “The first outing I made a lot of neophyte mistakes in being too enthusiastic with the fans and then the movie didn’t meet expectations. How War of the Worlds – The True Story will turn out will remain to be seen, but we’ve worked with this material for many years and we know it pretty well. This may not be the definitive version of War of the Worlds, but we’re in a mindset of making it a really good viewing experience.”

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