The Railway Man Starts Shooting

Firth, Kidman & crew talk war movies

Filming is set to commence on wartime drama The Railway Man in Edinburgh on April 30, and ahead of that date we attended a press conference with the principle cast and crew in Scotland’s capital. In attendance were stars Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, new addition Stellan Skarsgard (whose casting was announced this morning) and Jeremy Irvine, himself no stranger to World War dramatics after playing the lead in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse.

There wasn't much in the way of news, since the movie's still gearing up, which Firth alluded to in typically articulate fashion when asked about his approach to the role. “I haven’t started it yet, so I don’t know how I’m approaching it”, he explained. “What you usually do is watch the film when it’s made and then you can tell the press conference that you intended it that way.”

For those unaware, The Railway Man is a true story adapted from Eric Lomax’s best-selling book. According to the official blurb, “Eric Lomax (Firth) was one of thousands of Allied prisoners of war forced to work on the construction of the Thai/Burma railway during World War II. Years later, still haunted by memories of brutality and torture, he met a beautiful woman on a train. Patti (Kidman) was determined to rid Eric of his demons. With the help of a wartime colleague, she set up a mission back to the Bridge on the River Kwai where Eric would confront his tormentor, Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada, who was absent).”

Describing it as a story about mental trauma following the atrocities of war, Firth went on to describe the character he’ll be playing as someone who is “searching for a way home”. Firth described the real Lomax and Patti as “incredibly engaging” and said that the 92-year-old former is “far more agile than I am”.

Interesting, Kidman’s Patti will be more of a focus in the film than the book, and Kidman claimed that she was still “polishing” her English accent. Irvine plays the young Colin Firth, and laughed “You find yourself looking in the mirror going ‘Am I quite up to that?’” (Firth retorted, “Nobody remembers what Colin Firth looks like!”).

Skarsgard, whose attendance at the conference was a pleasant surprise after being added to the cast this morning as Lomax’s friend, gave Firth a run for his money in the dry, self-deprecating stakes. “I’m struggling to play English” he said. “We’ll see how it works.”

When asked why Scotland was chosen as a location for shooting, director Jonathan Teplitzky (Better Than Sex) dead-panned, “The weather”, before adding more seriously that, “It’s a story that began here and we want to honour that.”

Handling the book-to-screen translation is screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce (A Cock And Bull Story, 24 Hour Party People) and producer-come-co-scripter Andy Paterson. “It’s one of those stories that once you’ve read it you can never let it go” stressed Paterson, saying that the movie is both a “big production” and an “emotional thriller”.

The ten-week shoot will start in and around Edinburgh on April 30, with production scheduled to move to the rather warmer climates of Thailand and Australia in May and June respectively. Good luck buying Iron Bru over there, guys.