The movie industry news media are talking about Tom Hank’s latest project, a World War 2 movie about the Atlantic Convoy War called Greyhound, to be shot on board the WW2 destroyer, USS Kidd.
Hanks has written the screenplay and will play the lead character. His script is based on the 1957 novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester – probably best known for his Hornblower series and The African Queen.
What is the movie about?
It is set in the winter of 1942, the height of the war in the Atlantic, and features fictional characters on a fictional convoy. Its central character is a firmly religious U.S. Navy Commander, George Krause, commanding the multi-national escort ships from his own destroyer USS Keeling (renamed ‘Greyhound’ for the movie). He doesn’t have that many escorts; just two destroyers: his USS Keeling and a Polish destroyer Viktor, plus two corvettes: HMS James (British) and HMCS Dodge (Canadian).
As the book starts, the convoy of 37 merchantmen is in the middle of the ‘Atlantic Gap’ where allied patrol aircraft can’t reach, and a wolf pack of U-boats is closing in on them. The book follows Commander Krause as he directs his forces over two days and nights with no sleep and little respite, as they rush around the convoy fending off attacks.
Indeed that’s one of the key aspects of the book. The pace is relentless making it almost impossible to put down. When I started reading it, I thought I’d put it down when I got to the end of the first chapter. Big mistake. There are no chapters!
So, it should make a cracking film!
So far there is no other casting news, other than Hanks, but we do know that Aaron Scheider has been signed up to direct the movie and Sony Pictures have reportedly bought the worldwide distribution rights.
So, who are they going to use for USS Keeling/Greyhound?
LED estimates $29.5m of the $50.3m budget will get spent in Louisiana. Let’s hope the USS Kidd Veterans Museum gets a serious chunk of that to spend on maintenance, restoration and facilities.
UPDATE (07 Jan 2020): The release date for the movie has been changed a few times but it seems Sony Pictures are now planning to release it on 08 May 2020.
UPDATE (08 Feb 2020): The USS Kidd is overdue for some dry dock maintenance, so she is expected to move from her current site for a while.
UPDATE (05 Mar 2020): The trailer is out. It’s a June opening.
ADDENDUM (29 Jul 2020): The Nautical Archaeology Society has been streaming weekly live 30 min lectures since lockdown started, and one of the recent ones (I’ve been away for a few weeks so I was watching the catch-up video) was all about the wreck of German submarine UB-116, sunk in the closing days of WW1 while trying to sneak into the Royal Navy’s anchorage at Scapa Flow, Scotland. The sub was on a near-suicide mission, hoping to cause maximum damage to the home fleet in a bid to secure better terms in the armistice.
It turns out (at 15′ 49″ in the lecture), C.S. Forester wrote, not only the Hornblower series for which he is famous, AND The Good Shepherd, which Tom Hanks’ film Greyhound is based on, but he also wrote a little known play in 1931 called ‘U-97‘ which was based on the UB-116. It was never produced in the UK or USA, but did run for nine performances in Germany, where it was performed as a propaganda piece about heroic German submariners in the build up to WW2.
UPDATE (25 Jan 2021): There are a couple of interesting articles on the production of Greyhound.
1) Tom Hanks has been writing in the Los Angeles Times about the set they used for ‘dry land’ filming.
He confirms that the USS Kidd is “as fine a motion picture set as it is a museum”, and they shot as much footage as possible on board including the firing of her guns. However the cramped interiors didn’t lend themselves to filming, so they built their own destroyer interiors (principally the bridge, its wings, foredeck and sonar room) on a sound stage nearby and mounted them on a huge gimbal to put it in motion so they looked (and felt) like they were at sea.
He says the movement was continuous and a bit like a roller-coaster ride, so the cast were “sometimes falling into each other, spilling our coffee, bumping our heads and chasing rolling pencils. There were many pencils used and much coffee spilled during the Battle of the Atlantic!”
2) Meanwhile, in TheWrap.com, Brian Welk talks to Nathan McGuinness, the visual effects supervisor about the extraordinary work of the CGI team, who created pretty much everything else in the movie in just 4 months!
That’s the ocean, the ships on it, the U-boats under it, and the sky, in 1,500 full CG shots built from scratch. Fortunately they’ve produced a video to demonstrate…
Feature image: USS Kidd in Baton Rouge, 2013 (CC BY-SA 3.0 By Niagara, own work, via Wikimedia Commons)
Convoy image: United States Coast Guard Cutter Spencer (WPG-36) during WWII in 1942 or 1943. Spencer sank the German submarine U-175 on April 17, 1943. Photographer unknown but possibly Bob Gates
Pacific fleet image: USS Kidd (DD-661) off Roi Island, Kwajalein, en route to the Saipan Invasion, 12 June 1944. Anchored in the left background is the battleship USS Tennessee (BB-43), with a destroyer alongside and an escort carrier beyond. Photo taken from USS New Mexico (BB-40).