“The battle of France is over. The battle of Britain is about to begin.”
With those words, spoken in June 1940, newly elected Prime Minister Winston Churchill prepared his country for the Nazi air assault aimed at decimating the flying forces of the United Kingdom. Now two Oscar winners are joining forces to announce the battle is beginning again.
Producer Graham King, who won the Best Picture Academy Award for The Departed, has hired Robert Towne, who claimed the original screenplay prize for Chinatown, to pen a new script about the attacks.
The battled lasted from July until October of 1940, with spectacular aerial battles unfolding over the cities, and later citizens huddled in basements and subway tunnels (as seen in the photo) during The Blitz. British resilience ultimately gave Hitler one of his first major losses.
Had he succeeded in decimating the British military and populace, the Nazis might have launched a land invasion of England, occupying the country as they did France. It would have later deprived the United States and Soviet Union of an important base of operations and a key ally in the war.
King (The Town, The Aviator) described the film as a kind of personal passion project. “My father lived in London and watched this spectacular dog fight over the city, so bringing this story of endurance and triumph to the big screen means a great deal to me,” the producer said. King praised Towne, who also wrote Shampoo, The Firm, and the first two Mission: Impossible movies, as “a master of mixing complex characters and tremendously compelling plots. Robert has a passion for history and a shared love of this particular story.”
The conflict has been told in many films over the years, from the sublime to the silly, ranging from the 1941 propaganda picture Churchill’s Island (which won the first Oscar for short film) to Disney’s 2002 animated Peter Pan sequel Return to Never Land. Most famously, the era was chronicled in the 1969 war epic Battle of Britain, starring Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, and Christopher Plummer.
King recently produced the Bosnian War saga In the Land of Blood and Honey, written and directed by Angelina Jolie (out in late December), while Towne recently wrote the HBO mini-series Pompeii. No schedule was set for their Battle of Britain project.
On Twitter: @Breznican