The Southland Times
September 3, 2000

Branagh, McKellen Linked to NZ Deserter Film
Staff Reporter

A multi-million dollar film about the life of Bluff soldier Victor Spencer is set to begin shooting in Southland in October next year.

Spencer and four other New Zealand soldiers were executed for desertion during World War One but a government bill currently before a defence select committee could offer a posthumous pardon.

Film maker Mark Winter, who manages Invercargill's Movieland 5 cinema complex, said discussions had been held with actors including Ben Kingsley, John Hurt, Kenneth Branagh and Lord of the Rings stars Sir Ian Holm and Sir Ian McKellen.

Queenstown-born Royal Academy of Dramatic Art graduate Ben Farry would also be involved.

Working with Christchurch writer Grant McCrostie, Mr Winter hoped to finish the film script before Christmas. Tapanui-based Trishia Downie could produce the film.

Most of the movie would be filmed in Southland.

He said researcher Andrew Macdonald had discovered some new, controversial information which would be revealed in the film.

Mr Winter said Mr Spencer was quiet but mischievous and the film would reflect his character.

There would also be a few twists in the plot and a "Snowtex" final 20 minutes.

The cast would include about 50 speaking parts and there would be a major scene, replicating the battle at Armentieres where Mr Spencer was injured.

Mr Winter is seeking funding for the film.