The tragic (and, many say, unjust) summary executions of some 300 British soldiers during WW1 are evoked in Michael Morpurgo’s novel, now coming to the movies.
War Horse author Michael Morpurgo’s other novel of World War One, Private Peaceful, is on its way to the big screen. This news should delight Morpurgo fans, coming mere months before Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated adaptation of War Horse hits cinemas world-wide.
Principal photography on Private Peaceful began the last week of August in the village of Woolpit, in Suffolk, England.
Morpurgo is an executive producer on the project.
Set in the fields of rural Devon from 1908 and in the front line trenches of Flanders during the First World War, Private Peaceful is a classic rite of passage story about two brothers, Tommo and Charlie Peaceful. It chronicles the exuberance and pain of their teenage love for the same girl, and the pressures of their feudal family life.
When war breaks out, the boys enlist and go to the front lines of Flanders. There, they learn more than they ever wanted to know about horrors and folly of war, the cruelty of command, and the ultimate price of courage and cowardice.
Battlefield injustice: the inspration for Private Peaceful
After writing War Horse, his first book about the World War One, Morpurgo visited Ypres in Belgium, where he learned of the 300 British soldiers executed during the war for cowardice or desertion – two for simply falling asleep at their posts.
“I read transcripts of their trials, and saw how unjust it had been” says Morpurgo. “I visited their graves and knew I had to tell this story.”
The all-British cast of Private Peaceful includes George MacKay (The Boys are Back, Birdsong), Jack O’Connell (Eden Lake, Harry Brown, Skins), Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter, The History Boys, Withnail and I), Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady), Frances De La Tour (Alice in Wonderland, The History Boys, The Book of Eli).
Private Peaceful is produced by Guy de Beaujeu and Simon Reade for Fluidity Films in association with Poonamallee Productions. Its being developed in association with Peppermint Pictures. UK distributors are Exile Media.
Former Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler will compose the score for the film. Knopfler has scored a number of films, including Local Hero, Wag The Dog and The Princess Bride.
2003 review of Private Peaceful by the Guardian