Under the Mountain

UNDER THE MOUNTAIN was the second film I directed. Matthew Grainger and I wrote it, based on the book by Maurice Gee. When I first met Matt Grainger, he was writing an adaptation of Under the Mountain. The book had been published in 1980 in New Zealand, and had been a sensation. Only three years after Star Wars, it was a creepy and exciting aliens story set where we lived. A TV series followed shortly after, that enthralled the nation’s kids.

Teenage twins Rachel and Theo discover shape-shifting creatures called Wilberforces living under Auckland’s volcanoes, poised to destroy the world. Tutored by the mysterious Mr Jones, the twins must rekindle the psychic bond they once shared if they are to save themselves from the predatory creatures – and the world from destruction.

Matt had raised the idea of adapting it as a film with Chris Bailey, the original TV series’ director and his partner at Screenworks Chris Hampson. After several drafts the project hadn’t really advanced, but when I was presented with opportunities after Black Sheep’s modest success,we decided to try and make Under the Mountain our next film. Messers Bailey and Hampson became our Executive Producers and allowed us to develop the film. Matt and I, and Richard Fletcher, produced it.

Once again Weta Workshop were incredibly important in getting the film made. Richard Taylor offered us extraordinary support (including through some peaks and troughs of film financing) and we couldn’t have acheived the film’s effects without the team at the Workshop.

You can see a gallery of Weta concept art here.

The creature effects in the film were finally designed and executed by a team led by Steve Boyle, who came to us from great work on the Sperig brothersDaybreakers. Here’s a behind the scenes gallery of make up and creature effects.

The film starred Sam Neill, Sophie McBride, Tom Cameron, Oliver Driver and Leon Wadham. We shot over seven weeks in Auckland in late 2008. The film premiered at the Pifan Film Festival in Puchon, Korea and shortly after at the Toronto International Film Festival and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. It was released in New Zealand by Disney and the USA by Lionsgate.

You can click here to buy Under the Mountain.