One of Andreas Prochaska’s most cherished childhood memories is watching Das Boot in the local movie theater. The 53-year-old director is from Bad Ischl, a small spa town in Austria, and was barely 16 years old when he was sucked right into the claustrophobic world of a German U96 submarine in the Second World War. In contrast, the TV series of the iconic film, which aired four years later in 1985, left him “rather exhausted.”
The Austrian is directing a remake of the classic film, which is scheduled to air on television in eight episodes in the fall of 2018 – first on Sky’s German subscription channel and then internationally. With a budget of €25 million ($28.24 million), a top-rate cast and an updated narrative style, “Das Boot – The Series” is expected to become a global smash hit. At least that is what investors are hoping, which include a state-owned Bavarian TV production company, Sky (part of the Rupert Murdoch empire) and Sonar Entertainment from Los Angeles.
“It’s an extremely exciting project,” says director Prochaska, partially because it’s not just simply a remake. Instead, he has chosen to combine elements from the true story of the Battle of the Atlantic with the original novel by Lothar-Günther Buchheim, while introducing a fictitious story line that takes place within the ranks of the French Resistance. Mr. Prochaska stresses that he is also pleased to be able to introduce strong female characters. The involvement of big name German actors and actresses have him humbly claiming that he feels “almost like a novice” on set. These include Robert Stadlober (“Das Sacher,” a two-part German TV movie), Rick Okon (“Tatort”, a popular, long-running German TV police series), and August Wittgenstein (“The Crown,” a Netflix bio-drama ).
The involvement of big name German actors and actresses have him humbly claiming that he feels “almost like a novice” on set.
Indoor shooting begins on August 31 in Prague. Some filming will also take place at Bavaria Studios in Munich, where the original was shot in 1980. While parts of the original submarine sets are on display at the studio, Mr. Prochaska can only look but not touch. The French harbor town of La Rochelle will make an appearance, though the director plans on using Malta Film Studios’ water facilities for the turbulent battle scenes. While filming the series 32 years ago, the TV submarine almost came apart off the coast of La Rochelle. The crew had to make do with half a submarine. Production costs skyrocketed from the original budget of 18.5 million German marks to 32 million. Mr. Prochaska is confident that won’t happen this time around. Currently, some 104 days of shooting have been budgeted through February 2018.
“We want to delve into what war does to people.”
Having first become known for directing such German-language TV films such as “Maximilian,” “Das Finstere Tal (“The Dark Valley”) and “Das Wunder von Kärnten” (“A Day for a Miracle”), his Das Boot remake is his largest production to date. Accordingly, Mr. Prochaska has made an in-depth study of the subject matter. He admits that his interest in the special effects in Das Boot was “next to zero.” Instead he is more interested in “the story of people who had the misfortune to live at that time.” “We want to delve into what war does to people,” says the director, adding that “we are also living today in disturbing times.”
In preparation for shooting, Mr. Prochaska has closely rewatched the 208-minute director’s cut of the 1980 original, released in 1997. He also had the privilege of speaking with the film’s director Wolfgang Petersen, now 76. Mr. Petersen’s Hollywood career took off after he made the film. According to Mr. Prochaska, the conversation was an “intensive exchange of information.” Why he chose to speak with Mr. Petersen? “Respect demands it.”
Hans-Jürgen Jakobs is Senior Editor and Handelsblatt author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org