On a wet and windy London afternoon, All About History settles down to meet Hamish McColl and Oliver Parker, the writer and the director of the new Dad’s Army film. It’s time to chat everything Walmington-on-Sea and just how tough the battle was to recreate a sitcom classic on the big screen.
How and why did the idea come around for a Dad’s Army film?
Hamish McColl: The first time I heard about it was when the producer of the film came to me and asked me if I would consider writing a script. I of course said no because it’s been done and is brilliant. Then, as these things do, the seed had been planted and I went back and watched the original TV series. The characters were so rich and wonderful that I decided I wanted to spend more time with them and slowly evolved a story that I felt would fit the screen.
Oliver Parker: I had a similar response, but Hamish’s script changed my mind. He had found a terrific story based on some genuine historical moments. That extra dimension of authenticity for a new audience seemed very appealing to me.
Did you talk to original writer Jimmy Perry at all? Was he positive towards the project?
HM: I met Jimmy and he was clear about one thing – he didn’t want to do any writing at all. His blessing was given on that condition and it was over to me to do the scribbling. He was delighted that we were doing it.
OP: He was hugely supportive and it was a real treat to visit him. He said that the point is that it was all true. At the time he felt rather like Pike himself as a young guy in the Home Guard and all those characters were closely based on real experiences.
How much of a challenge was it to recreate Walmington-on-Sea in Bridlington?
OP: The hunt for the location took us around Britain. Screen Yorkshire was very encouraging for us to look at their locations and we found Bridlington, which didn’t have too many modern intrusions. We weren’t working with a huge budget so we couldn’t afford to do massive reworkings of buildings and things. Bridlington wasn’t right on the sea but you could smell the salt and hear the seagulls in most takes! It had the real feeling of a seaside town.
How did you research the history of the era and the Home Guard? Did you have a source you went to? A historian on set? How important was it to maintain historical accuracy for you?
OP: Simon Bowles, our production designer, is a fastidious fella and wanted to root out everything that was authentic but only to a certain point. There were times when you were thinking, ‘I literally don’t have the money nor the time to change things.’ And what is more important – capturing the scene or making it exactly right and then not having the time to shoot it?
Dad’s Army is in UK cinemas now