Weir’s ‘Way Back’ Due in December, but He Sounds Hesitant about His Filmmaking Future

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You can tell we’re on the verge of Oscar season as films such as All Good Things and Biutiful have recently landed distribution deals and now an update on Peter Weir’s The Way Back arrives courtesy of producer Joni Levin’s Facebook page (via The Playlist).

Levin writes, “Just wanted to let everyone know that I produced a movie last year that my husband, Keith co-wrote with our director Peter Weir (Master and Commander, Dead Poets Society, Witness, Year of Living Dangerously). it’s called The Way Back…stars Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess and Saoirse Ronan….comes out for a week in December, wide release Jan 21st 2011.”

This is obviously big news considering up to this point all that was known was Exclusive Film Distribution had taken over distribution rights, but as to how they would handle that distribution was unknown. A one week release in December obviously signals an Oscar run and considering this is a Peter Weir flick with a certain level of talent involved you better believe it’s not being overlooked.

The Way Back is a fact-based story of the escape of soldiers from a Siberian gulag in 1940. It is based on several sources, most notably the Slavomir Rawicz book “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom.” The book is Rawicz’s account of being captured by the Red Army in 1939 and his journey to freedom with six other inmates. When they escape a Siberian labor camp in 1940 the seven multi-national prisoners discover the true meaning of friendship as their epic journey takes them across thousands of miles of hostile terrain including the Siberian arctic, the Gobi desert and the Himalayas, finally settling in Tibet and India.

The film was shot in Bulgaria, Morocco and India over the course of sixty-three days. Weir was quoted in a recent interview with DGA Quarterly saying, “We shot mostly in Bulgaria, standing in for Siberia, and Morocco, which played the part of Mongolia and finally India. We did use CGI for the Great Wall of China.”

Weir also spoke of the recent state of movies and filmmaking saying, “This is an uncomfortable era for nongenre films.” He added the following answer when asked what he thought had happened:

Because we’re going through this change right now it’s hard to get a broad view. Clearly there’s a change in the audience, a generation that’s grown up with video games and such, and who have different expectations from a film. And to cater to that audience, the distributors have changed their practices too rapidly. It’s not just a matter of cost. If a change has been too fast for the entire world public to have made, that creates a situation in which a lot of people are fi nding little to go and see, and they’re frustrated. The distributors presume that this middle audience is gone, but it’s not.

I must admit, it’s a bit disheartening to hear a filmmaker of Weir’s talents sounding a bit defeated and it doesn’t end there.

When asked about what his next movie would be, or if there would even be a next movie he said, “I really want to see how this film goes. I’m looking for information about where I might fit in this estranged film world. To a degree that will affect what I do next, I think. I don’t want to change my approach to subject matter, I can’t simply move to the kinds of films the studios are making now. Marvel Comics are not my interest, or my talent, or my experience. The studios know that, and I know that.”

So be on the lookout for The Way Back in December if you, most likely, live in New York or Los Angeles and if not, then January may be the time to find it at your local art house.

Just below I’ve included a few more stills from the film that I couldn’t work into the body of this piece.

Saoirse Ronan in The Way Back
Photo: Exclusive Film Distribution
Colin Farrell in The Way Back
Photo: Exclusive Film Distribution
Photo: Exclusive Film Distribution
Photo: Exclusive Film Distribution