What have boy band superstar Matt Willis, World Cup football champion Frank Leboeuf and period drama heart-throb Julian Ovenden got in common?
They’ve all been filming in the Peak District, playing characters in an action thriller movie which is scheduled for worldwide release.
This stellar line-up has been recreating scenes from the Second World War in the most beautiful countryside in Britain, complete with 35-ton Panzer tanks, armoured trucks and a half-track (half tank, half truck) which rolled into action in the award-winning movie Saving Private Ryan.
Final scenes for the movie Allies are due to be shot in June, wrapping up filming which began last summer when the crew visited rural locations near Matlock, Ripley, Buxton and Ashbourne.
Director Dominic Burns, who lives in Allestree and co-wrote the script with Jeremy Sheldon, said: “I was absolutely astounded by the beautiful countryside and that within 15 minutes of leaving Derby city centre you could find yourself in the middle of nowhere.
“We visited an amazing farm, drove down into a grass field and into a basin where you could turn a full 360 degrees and see breath-taking views all around which gave us huge scope for filming.
“Filming has been a long process when you are dealing with 1940 tanks which can break down. With filming, you shoot as fast as you can but the problems with the old equipment such as tanks slowed us down. It was very stressful but a lot of fun at the same time.”
The actors in Allies include Chris Reilly, who is in upcoming Hollywood movie Everest with Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal and starred in Game of Thrones, and Edmund Kingsley, who is credited with the films Hugo and Beast and is the son of Sir Ben Kingsley.
Dominic said: “We are really lucky with the cast. There were a lot of girls queueing up to get their photos taken with Matt Willis last year and that queue is going to get bigger this summer now that his band, McBusted, has gone from strength to strength.“
Matt plays a British sniper who is led behind enemy lines into occupied France in 1944. Chris is cast as a British captain, Edward plays a gunner and Julian Ovenden, who played Charles Blake in the last series of Downton Abbey, takes on the role of American captain who leads the Brits behind enemy lines. Frank Leboeuf plays the leader of the French Resistance.
The 20-strong cast is augmented by more than 200 extras. Dominic said: “We had a lot of local guys coming down - members of World War Two re-enactment groups and residents.”
Allies is the latest of half a dozen films in which Dominic has been involved. including UFO in which he worked with Jean-Claude Van Damme in Derby. He said: “I am immensely proud of Allies and the performance of its boys and girls. I feel it is the best film I have made.”
Clips from Allies, which is due to be released at the end of the year, and experiences of making the movie will be shared by its stars and director on Monday, May 12, at 8pm in Derby Quad in one of the highlights of the city’s film festival.