1917 Movie Poster

Trivia for 1917

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  • This is Sam Mendes's second war film. His first was Jarhead (2005).
  • This is Sam Mendes's first official writing credit.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and Colin Firth all previously appeared in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).
  • Tom Holland was in talks for the role of Lance Corporal Blake. He turned it down due to schedule conflicts.
  • The movie was shot from April to June 2019 in Wiltshire, Hankley Common, and Govan, Scotland, as well as Shepperton Studios. Conservationists, concerned that filming on Salisbury Plain could disturb potentially undiscovered remains in the area, requested an archaeological survey be conducted before any set construction began.
  • Sections of the film were shot in and around Low Force, on the River Tees, Teesdale in June 2019. The production staff posted signs warning walkers in the area not be alarmed by the bodies strewn around.
  • Richard Madden and Dean-Charles Chapman both appeared in Game of Thrones (2011).
  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott previously worked together on the series Sherlock (2010), with Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Scott as James Moriarty. Also, Mark Strong played the villain, Lord Henry Blackwood, in Sherlock Holmes (2009), starring Robert Downey Jr..
  • Andrew Scott and George MacKay previously worked together five years earlier in Pride (2014).
  • Mark Strong and Daniel Mays starred in the TV series Temple (2019).
  • George MacKay has acted in one other project whose title also consists entirely of digits, namely the TV mini-series 11.22.63 (2016).
  • This is Universal Pictures' second film to be specially formatted for IMAX, in the expanded aspect ratio of 1.90:1, since Oblivion (2013) (flashback sequences were letterboxed in 2.39:1). It's Sam Mendes' second film to be specially formatted for IMAX since Skyfall (2012), which was also shot by Roger Deakins.
  • The sixth project Benedict Cumberbatch has worked on that revolves around war. His other five are Atonement (2007), Small Island (2009), War Horse (2011), Parade's End (2012), and The Imitation Game (2014)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Strong were in another war movie together. They were both in The Imitation Game (2014) which was set during WWII.
  • Both Mark Strong and Colin Firth starred in the "Kingsman" movies and Fever Pitch (1997).
  • Inspired by Sam Mendes' grandfather's experiences in WWI: "The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991."
  • Over 5,200 feet of trenches were dug for the film (just under one mile).
  • One of the biggest headaches for the film crew was a cigarette lighter that wouldn't work on cue in one scene, leading to several retakes and wasting most of a day's filming.
  • It took 6 months for the actors to rehearse the movie before shooting started.
  • The verse that Schofield recites to the French baby is part of the poem "The Jumblies" by Edward Lear. The poem could be seen as a metaphor for Blake and Schofield's mission. (" Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long, Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong...")
  • Benedict Cumberbatch's second movie in which he portrays a British soldier during World War I. The first was War Horse (2011).
  • The film is dedicated to Sam Mendes' grandfather, a Lance Corporal in The Kings Royal Rifle Corps during The Great War. The Kings Royal Rifle Corps merged with The Royal Green Jackets in 1966, then merged with other "Red Coat" regiments to form The Rifles in 2007.
  • The lighting rig used for the burning church was five stories high and consisted of 2,000 1K tungsten lamps, a total of 2 megawatts. It was one of, if not the largest, lighting rigs ever built for a film. According to director Sam Mendes, the 'burning church' was the largest rig ever created by his DP Roger Deakins. This myriad of lights was transformed into the 'blazing inferno' by visual effects in post.
  • The flares flying over the ruined town were suspended on wires in order to control the direction of the shadows they cast. They were also designed to burn with a warmer color that was closer to tungsten light.
  • Director of photography Roger Deakins chose to shoot most of the film on an Arri Alexa LF digital format camera using several lense types, the first time he had used this particular camera in his long career.
  • One of the main credited production companies is Neal Street Productions. It is named after the street in Covent Garden, London, where the Donmar Warehouse theatre is located. Sam Mendes was artistic director of the theatre for ten years, near the beginning of his career and which was where he made his name and reputation as one of Britain's best theatre directors.
  • Mendes saw Paths of Glory (1957) when he was about 10 years old. When he reviewed it while preparing to make this film, he realized the long, uninterrupted tracking shots in Stanley Kubrick's WWI drama were not as lengthy as most people thought.
  • Referring especially to one major scene, Mendes has joked that "no rats were harmed in the making of his film...The rats, are in a way, the residents of the land. It's the humans who are passing through. And rats aside, I mean, the fact that this retreat happens in the spring of 1917 meant that we could make another personality in the movie, another character in the movie."
  • General Erinmore says to Schofield and Blake "Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne, He travels the fastest who travels alone." He's quoting "The Story of the Gadsbys," by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling also wrote "My Boy Jack," about his 18-year-old son who died in WWI.
  • The Rudyard Kipling quote "Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne, He travels the fastest who travels alone." that is said by General Erinmore as a way of telling Schofield and Blake that they must travel through hell in order to complete their mission. Gehenna is a cursed valley in Jerusalem where some of the old kings of Judah used to sacrifice their children by fire. Gehenna is also the source for the modern Hebrew word "Gehinnom" which literally means hell.
  • The British soldiers routinely refer to the German soldiers as Boche or Huns. Boche originated from the French slang caboche, meaning 'rascal'. The term 'Hun' originated with the ruthless reputation the German soldiers got because of the harsh way they dealt with enemy soldiers and civilians alike. Other used terms were Fritz and Jerry though they didn't become popular until WWII.
  • Soldiers drink alcohol in many scenes. During WWI, battle rations included 2.5 fluid ounces (70 mL) of alcohol. Soldiers behind the lines got it twice a week. Those on the front lines got it daily, with double rations when they went "over the top."
  • Sam Mendes (director) and Lee Smith (editor) stated that despite the apparently continuous shot (broken only by one interval of unconsciousness), there were actually dozens of "invisible" edits, concealed by transitions through black, moves behind objects, and so on. According to Mendes, the shortest unbroken shot was 39 seconds long, while the longest single continuous shot was 8 1/2 minutes long.
  • First prestige war film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in nearly 50 years. The last prestige war films to be nominated were Patton (1970) and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), with the latter film taking the prize.
  • The date given at the beginning of the film, April 6, 1917, is the day the United States entered the war against Germany.
  • This is the second time George MacKay portrays a soldier in WW1 - the first was in Private Peaceful.
  • Other than images in the family photos, the young woman who offered Schofield shelter, and the young baby she's caring for, are the only female characters to appear in the film.
  • The retreat of the German forces depicted in the movie were a part of a real event called Operation Alberich. It was a tactical German retreat to the old Hindenburg Line which was more easily defended. However, the date the movie provides is in error as Operation Alberich took place from February 9th to March 20th 1917. What is real is the devastation and booby traps the German forces left while retreating.
  • Because changing focal lengths would (in most cases) cause the hidden edits to become apparent, the majority of the film was shot on a single 40mm lens.
  • According to DP Roger Deakins, over 90% of the film was shot with ARRI 40mm Signature Primes, the exceptions being a 47mm for the river scenes and a 35mm for the gym basement and tunnels. Using a pair of Alexa Mini LF prototypes for the first time, Deakins was delighted with the color sensitivity and ability to shoot interior night sequences, rated at 1600 ISO, without forfeiting image quality. The first bunker lit with what appears to be oil lamps, are actually prop lamps fitted with 50W electric bulbs dimmed down.
  • In conjunction with costume designer Jacqueline Durran, sound designer Stuart Wilson experimented with various fabrics in which to conceal wireless lavalier mics on the actors, testing the noise of various wool and leather materials.
  • Throughout the shoot the production had 4 basic rigs that were always at the ready in order to be able to take advantage of the changeable weather conditions. A chief meteorologist was on location the entire time.
  • The photographic equipment used throughout this film is a product of the German company ARRI, founded in Munich in 1917 by August Arnold and Robert Richter. The company name is derived from the founders' surnames.
  • Lt. Leslie tells the soldiers to "avoid the craters, they are deeper than you think". The warning was to avoid stepping to the bottom of a crater filled with water. The mud under the water would be so thick that a soldier would get stuck and eventually die from exhaustion, exposure, or gunfire.
  • Early German WWI planes were built with canvas, but Germany's first all-metal fighter plane was built in 1914 as a prototype. By 1917, the Germans were manufacturing metal body planes, many built by Junkers & Albtros.
  • Cinematographer Roger Deakins won a total of 40 awards for his work in the movie.
  • Hope is a dangerous thing was also said by Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption
  • This film to an extent can be considered the British version of All Quiet on the Western Front. Like the latter film this film centers on young men trying to survive the horrors of the Western Front with Schofield being the main protagonist while the other film centered on the Germans.
  • In an interview, Krysty Wilson Cairns said that George Mackay never left the day of shooting without shaking everyone's hand. He knew everyone's name, he had time for everyone on set; all the assistants, all the runners, he knew everybody's name. He spent a lot of time learning about them and learning about their lives.
  • Blake mentions to his superior officer he was hoping to be home by Christmas. Back in 1914 when the war broke out many people infamously predicted the conflict would end by Christmas that year but the war would go on till 1918. And in Christmas 1914 both the sides of the war especially the British and Germans sang carols, mingled with each other, exchanged gifts and even played football (soccer) together but from 1915 fertility with the enemy was made forbidden.
  • The plot involving the two men delivering a message is actually very accurate. Like in the film soldiers were hired as 'runners' to deliver messages on upcoming attacks but on average due to the dangers and walking through mud by the time the message was delivered it was already too late to stop the attacks.
  • George MacKay and Dean Charles Chapman were 27 and 22 when this film was released. If the characters they played respectively were real this means Schofield was born in 1892 and Blake was born in 1897 respectively, meaning Schofield was 22 when World War One broke out and Blake would had been only 17. This also means Schofield was 25 years old in the film and Blake 20 when he died.
  • At end the of the film Schofield reveals his first name as William. The reason he goes by the name of Blake is because solders are traditionally addressed by their surname.

Spoilers

  • Twice, Lance Corporal Schofield bumps into running soldiers and gets up. Neither time was in the script.
  • April 6, 1917, the date on which the story begins, (as shown by a subtitle at the start of the film) is the date that the United States declared war on Germany and its allies. The United States' entry into the war is not mentioned in the film, as British soldiers on the front lines in northern France would not have heard the news until much later.
  • The two main characters' first names are not revealed until the end of the film.
  • The final scene of Schofield finding Lieutenant Blake and presenting him with his brother's rings was the very first take according to Sam Mendes and Lee Smith.
  • Although intended to appear as happening in real time, there is one exception to this, which is when Schofield passes out after storming the hideout of the sniper shooting at him from the bridge house. This is obvious because when he confronts the sniper there is still daylight but when he regains consciousness it is dark. However from Schofield's perspective it is real time. This is also the most noticeable cut in the entire film, which is otherwise doctored to look as if it is entirely one shot. Of course the film achieves this through movie magic, but in fact contains many exceptionally long and complex shots, some over eight minutes long.
  • Although based on an original screenplay, the basic premise of this film (getting a message to a front line unit to cancel a military push) was also used in Peter Weir's WWI-set film Gallipoli (1981).
  • Lieutenant Leslie sprinkles whisky on Schofield and Blake while reciting the prayer, "Through this holy unction may the Lord pardon thee whatever sins or faults thou hast committed". Andrew Scott is known for playing a priest in the second season of the highly acclaimed BBC/Prime series Fleabag (2016).
  • Blake's face gets paler and paler as he bleeds to death.
  • The opening and closing scenes of 1917 both show Lance Corporal Schofield sitting against a tree. This was done to create two book ends on the film, but also to give a feeling of a journey being completed.
  • The movie's beginning shot and ending shot both focus on a soldier sitting under a tree.
  • Mendes says his grandfather Alfred, who entered WWI as a 17-year-old in 1916, carried messages through no-man's land. He was 5'4" tall and was often hidden by the winter mist that reached as high as 6 feet. Two years in the muddy trenches left Alfred with a lifelong habit of washing his hands frequently. He didn't talk about his wartime experiences until he was in his 70s.
  • An extra said, "I can't help but laugh at the final shot at the tree. About 100 extras used that tree to urinate on as the toilets were so far away. We had no idea that the ending would take place with the main actor sitting under it!"
  • Of pivotal scene with woman with the baby, Mendes explains that when he was writing the script in October 2017; "my daughter was born a month earlier. So my youngest child was very much in the house, and I suppose it has something to do with that. And I found it very difficult to shoot because, you know, this poor little creature - Ivy, her name was - you know, she's not aware she's in a movie. And the way she behaved in the scene was so moving."
  • When Schofield plunges into a river filled with dead bodies, Sam Mendes describes this was meant to remind the audience of the mythical River Styx, bordering Hell. Especially as this scene evolves and lone hero Schofield is soon led to safety as he follows the ethereal solo voice of a singing comrade, the narrative seems to shift from a tone of naturalism to one of epic myth.
  • Dean-Charles Chapman & Richard Madden play brothers in this film but do not share a scene. Both actors were prominent roles in HBOs Game Of Thrones, this time as enemies, and only shared one scene together (Chapman playing a captured Lannister family member in season 3, before he was recast as Tommen Lannister).
  • Despite being such a graphic war film, only four soldiers are shown to be killed in combat: The German pilot, Lance Corporal Blake, the German sentry by the bridge, and the German soldier strangled. There are many soldiers behind Cpl. Schofield in the final charge who are seen falling from presumed gunfire or caught in explosions.
  • A small motorcycle was used for more complicated tracking shots such as when Schofield discovers that the shadowy figure near the burning church is an enemy soldier. The camera had been following him up to this point, then as Schofield slowly realizes that he's in danger, he starts to move backward as the camera operator climbs smoothly onto the bike and races off with Schofield in pursuit.
  • During the long sprint scene at the end of the movie, along the trench while the soldiers run out to battle, Schofield bumps into a soldier and falls, but gets back up and continues running. Apparently, this was completely accidental, but instead of calling "cut!", they kept rolling, which made it look more realistic, and obviously made it into the movie. Also, he had to run a quarter mile in that take.
  • The events involving the found milk being added to the canteen and later given to a woman looking after a baby that is not her own are almost certainly inspired by an almost identical account given by Sergeant Richard Tobin, Hood Battalion, Royal Naval Division that occurred during the fall of Antwerp in October 1914. The account ends "The British government had lost a water-bottle, but a baby found a meal"
  • After Schofield & Blake leave the collapsing German bunker they come across a abandoned artillery sight. When walking through they walk only on the duckboards. This would have been out of habit. Duckboards were placed on the ground & in trenches as a safe way to walk in mud covered grounds, and as a measure to prevent Trench Foot.
  • While it has been often noted that Schofield's first and last scenes show him sitting under a tree, Blake's first and last scenes are also similarly book-ended, showing him laying on his back, face towards the sky, eyes closed.
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