Hello everyone, I am off to Sun Valley this weekend to meet with writer David Seidler and Dame Naomi James and her daughter Lois, to talk about the movie we are planning about Naomi’s solo sailing voyage around the world in the 53 foot yacht Express Crusader in 1978 at the age of 29. I developed this feature in the 1980’s as a vehicle for myself, until David Puttnam (Lord Puttnam) pointed out that trying to produce and star in the film, was an event unlikely to happen. He was right, my name was not big enough, on which to raise finance and I opted be Producer instead, while we tried to recruit a major name. I am proud that I raised much of the Development money from New Zealand (Naomi’s homeland) and found the then relatively unknown talented writers David Seidler and his writing partner Jacqueline Feather. David went on to great things as we know, winning an Oscar for THE KINGS SPEECH and Jacqui has since retired from the film industry. But they had to endure economy flights to Ireland to meet Rob and Naomi, staying in very lowly B&B’s while they were there, for their research.
Sadly the project was blighted by the untimely death of Rob James, married to Naomi, in a sailing accident 10 days before the birth of their daughter Lois. Rob was a
skipper, winning some of the big round the world races (the Whitbread) and he had been very much behind the film… Naomi had been a little more reluctant , being shell shocked by the media blitz and her subsequent Damehood. After the actual voyage. I think the idea of a quiet life with Rob, was appealing. So the project quietly died. I was sad, we had a wonderful story and a great script. Then earlier this year, I heard from Naomi again, would David and I like to have another go with the project? Her daughter Lois and husband Steve were keen, so here we are again friends about to embark on the great adventure and challenge of trying to get a big film made.
This will have to have substantial budget largely to accommodate filming at sea, never easy and the accompanying computer generated graphics to enhance the excitement of being in the huge waves of the Southern Ocean, the mast break, which Naomi managed to rig together again to complete the voyage among other events. But she has had to endure weeks without a radio, the failure of her rigging during gales in the Southern Ocean and her boat capsizing.
Filming at sea has always been a huge challenge and had never been 100 percent successful. Robert Redford’s recent film ALL IS LOST works very well, but sadly I felt the story let us down as we never really knew what this lone sailor was doing out there and what his thoughts were. The story is all, as I keep bleating on about, we the audience have to CARE!
So exciting times ahead, we have a wonderful story, a great screenplay and a myriad of excellent Directors who could make this. We are going to have an easier time because of the technology, although it’s very expensive and there are some terrific young actresses who could play Naomi and excellent young actors for Rob. Wish us well, This is a story worth telling. I will keep you posted.