Film Zulu Quotes: Pte. Thomas Cole: Why is it us? Why us? Colour Sergeant Bourne: Because we're here, lad. Nobody else. Just us.
HomeHome  CalendarCalendar  GalleryGallery  PublicationsPublications  FAQFAQ  SearchSearch  RegisterRegister  Log inLog in  
Latest topics
Lt. Lionel Algernon White--53rd Regt.
Transport/Commissaritat, Medal/Clasp [Hart's] (Isandula Collection)
The Zulu warriors attack the Brits at the Battle of Isandlwana

Display results as :
Rechercher Advanced Search
Top posters
Frank Allewell
Mr M. Cooper
Fair Use Notice
Fair use notice. This website may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorised by the copyright owner. We are making such material and images are available in our efforts to advance the understanding of the “Anglo Zulu War of 1879. For educational & recreational purposes. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material, as provided for in UK copyright law. The information is purely for educational and research purposes only. No profit is made from any part of this website. If you hold the copyright on any material on the site, or material refers to you, and you would like it to be removed, please let us know and we will work with you to reach a resolution.
Top posting users this month
John Young
Rory Reynolds
Most active topics
Isandlwana, Last Stands
Pte David Jenkins. 'Forgotten' Survivor of Rorke's Drift Returned to Official Records
Durnford was he capable.1
Durnford was he capable.5
Durnford was he capable. 4
The ammunition question
Durnford was he capable. 3
Durnford was he capable.2
Pte David Jenkins. 'Forgotten' Survivor of Rorke's Drift Returned to Official Records
The missing five hours.

Share | 

 Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie

Go down 

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:06 am

Nearly forty years have elapsed since "Zulu Dawn" was filmed in what was then Northern Natal. And the film nearly didn't get to be screened at all. Prior to its release, the production company, Samarkand, went bust, leaving many suppliers unpaid. The film's release was held up as a number of court battles ensued when creditors tried to secure some form of compensation for not having been paid.

The film's eventual release is more a consequence of luck than anything else....

My involvement was sparked by a friend who, in about June 1977 had seen a small classified ad in The Star newspaper, inviting men to take part as "extras" in the movie. So we called up the agent and agreed to go. Three of us - my friend and my brother and me - reported outside a hotel in central Johannesburg on the due date. We'd decided to take some "unofficial" leave from our university studies because the attraction of being in an international film production - not a common event in sanctions-stricken South Africa - was just too good to miss.

The crowd waiting to board the bus was a largely moth-eaten assembly of men. Mostly "wino's" and "down-and-outs", who had probably been attracted by the prospect of a warm-ish bed, free food and possibly copious quantities of cheap (or free) alcohol, more than desiring the chance to take a role in documenting one of history's most famous military episodes.

The bus journey from Johannesburg to Hindenburg Farm (the movie set near the village of Babanango) took several hours... made longer by increasingly frequent stops for our co-star "wino's" to empty bladders, as the bus had a free buffet which included "all you can drink" beer.

We arrived at the set shortly after dusk. A large portion of the passengers were totally pissed by this stage. No-one met us and for a good half-hour, we all just stood around, wondering what we had to do to find a place to sleep for the night. Eventually, one of our crowd collared a fellow dressed in a redcoat uniform and he gestured us to a large marquee, indicating that it was were he bedded down the night he had arrived, so was probably where we would have to go too.

So we all went into this large tent, unlit and very untidy inside, unrolled our sleeping bags (a bit of kit we were told to bring) and used our backpacks as pillows (more to ensure its contents would not be nicked during the night than for comfort of any kind) and got some sleep.

The following morning - quite early - a "military style command" barked at the marquee entrance, instructed us to get up and get dressed and report to the mess-hall - another large marquee where meals were served, meetings took place, and where a lot of entertaining was done.

There, we were treated to a really good breakfast - again an "all you can eat" affair, and our "wino" bretheren took full and extreme advantage of that!

We were told to report to "Costumes" after breakfast, get kitted out, then return to the mess-tent...


Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:53 am


At the costume hall (a converrted farm barn) we were again met with the same military-style command to "FORM UP". Instictively, most of the group made a sincere attempt at lining up in three neat regimental-type rows - possibly an ingrained reaction to their days in the real military - a fate all white male South Africans endured for 2 years after schooling was complete.

The man barking the commands was dressed in a lieutenant uniform, and we got to know him only as "Ron". What his actual role in the whole affair was remained a mystery, but it seemed as if "lieutenant Ron" was going to be in some sort of command of us during our "initiation" into the movie business.


THAT MEANS... when Cyril or Daniel ask you 'Clean' or 'Dirty', you tell them according to what row you are standing in... UNDERSTOOD?"

Cyril and Daniel were two gloriously "camp" costume fitters in the costume hall. I, my brother and friend had been in the second row... we were to say 'Dirty' when Cyril or Daniel asked.

So we filed into the costume hall, not really understanding what the consequence of being a 'clean' or 'dirty' film-star actually meant.

But we soon found out...

If you responded 'Dirty', you were handed a uniform and boots that had already seen a lot of action and absorbed a considerable quantity of sweat and possibly other bodily excreta from any number of previous incumbents. The 'dirty' soldiers would be used in scenes where really battle-hardened extras were needed. Looking dirty was essential, but smelling dirty happened to also be part of the ensemble.

If you responded 'Clean', a pristine polythene-wrapped uniform was unpeeled before your eyes, brand new boots produced along with a pair of socks that weren't standing upright on their own.

Our turn came to be fitted... 'CLEAN' we said, despite having been in row two earlier, and Cyril took an uncomfortably long time to take our inside leg measurements.

Duly kitted out, we went back to the sleeping marquee where we changed into our uniforms. Anything remotely valuable was transferred from our backpacks into the white shoulder bags. We resigned ourselves to the possibility that something would be nicked during our stay, as the packs and sleeping bags had to be left behind in the marquee.

Lieutenant Ron put his head round the marquee entrance flap. "Soon as you're done, get back to the mess tent..."

Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Mon Feb 01, 2016 3:03 am


We reassembled in the mess tent. Two fellows joined us at our table: a chap called Barry and a younger, rather stout bloke who introduced himself as Pete (or Piet, which is the Afrikaans version). Barry was a good talker - a man probably in his mid 50's, with incredibly greasy hair. While we sat waiting, Barry frequently produced a large, bright pink comb with a long tail-piece, and deftly "coiffed" his greasy curls.

"I was down at my sister's place in Bloemfontein," he said, "When I saw this call for actors..."

He wafted the pink comb through his oily locks.

"So she said to me - 'best you get there, Barry. This is your chance to get recognised' - so that's why I'm here."

The grease in his hair was surpassed only by the redness in his nose. It was clear Barry was fond of alcoholic beverages and this addiction, he told us, had been the major impediment in his life-long quest for stardom. But now he was ready to unleash his acting talents aside his contemporaries - these being (in no order of merit), Peter O'Toole, Burt Lancaster, Denholm Elliot, Simon Ward, Dai Bradley, Chris Cazenove and the swathes of others of similar talent and global recognition who were there, all around us. Barry had come, he confidently believed, to take his rightful place among them.

His sister had hurridly given him her hairdressing comb minutes before he departed and told him, or so he said, "To look neat when the camera swings round and gets me in shot... I need to look good and be noticed."

Barry swept the bright pink comb once more through his petro-chemical mullet, and returned it to the back pocket of his trousers, tail-side down, leaving the pink toothed section proudly protruding from the pocket.

That pink comb would later produce absolute hilarity on the set.

So... Lt Ron walks in and hands a few pieces of paper to all present. The top piece asks us for our names, and the phone number of a next-of-kin. This is followed by a brief statement in which Samarkand indemnifies itself... blah. blah, blah...

So we fill it in, sign, and hand it back to Ron.

The second piece of paper is a comprehensive map of the whole set, and the "residential" compound (where we were at that point), which was about a mile away from the actual film set.

Ron runs us through everything, then says we have the rest of the morning to wander around to get familiar with the layout, and then we will walk up to the set just after lunch.

Everyone leaves, but my friend - who I'll call "Steve" from now on - signals Lt Ron to come over. He does, and Steve invites him to sit.

"What's the run-down on accommodation?" asks Steve. "I mean, our stuff is vulnerable in that Marquee, and in addition, given the amount of beer that was consumed by our fellow actors on the bus, another night's chorus of blaring farts means we won't get much sleep."

Ron pointed to the map he'd handed us earlier.

"Here's the tent village. There's a lot of guys arriving and leaving - some only last a day or two. Best spend the rest of the morning hanging round there, and if you see an empty tent, just claim it. On your way there, go past the tuck-shop. They sell little padlocks there. If you see an empty tent, zip it up and lock the zipper."

We made our way to the tent village - several hundred CampCraft tents in neat rows... the sort you'd see in a large caravan site on a camping holiday. We walked round for a good forty minutes, looking for a tent that showed evidence of not being "claimed". Then, a head popped out of a tent flap...

"You guys just arrived?" said the head. "You need a tent, huh?"

"Yes... any ideas?"

"Take this one. We're leaving on today's bus. This place is a s#1t hole."

The tent was being occupied by four Natal University students whose commitment to an acting career seemed to have evaporated somewhat. They'd lasted just five days, and had decided it wasn't for them.

We waited outside the tent while they packed their stuff.

"Good luck, guys" they said, and the tent was ours. Steve went and collected our packs from the marquee, and within the hour, we'd got it all sorted. It had three separate "rooms" and a central area... a really nice tent, and absolutely suitable for the three of us. We locked it up, hung some socks on a guy-rope to indicate "occupation", and spent the next couple of hours walking round the "village" familiarising ourselves with as much as possible...


Last edited by fairestcape on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Mon Feb 01, 2016 5:38 am

CHAPTER FOUR - "... and ... ACTION!" - (what action?)

One thing you learn on a movie set of this magnitude is that for most of the time, you sit around and wait. A whole day can go by without so much as a frame of film being shot around or near you.

Basically, you're "on call"... you need to be on set just in case you're needed for some shot or other.

In many cases, getting into a shot that you later see yourself in, is very rare - even when the action is very close, and the camera is a few feet away, panning past you several times, capturing the real action happening either in front of you, or behind.

We were on the set for almost seven weeks, and were frequently featured in major scenes (in the background, of course, or doing "soldier-like" things while the major stars took centre stage) and when the movie finally came out, many of those scenes had ended up on the cutting floor, or been edited down.

I can only say that "I think that's me..." in a handful of fleeting moments.

So our first day on the set was pretty much a sitting-around-and-wait affair. On the way up to the set, we walked behind our friend Barry, who, during the walk, took out his comb several times to adjust his locks. Some days later, after walking behind him on several occasions, we started to bet with each other on guessing the number of times he'd comb his hair during the daily trek up the path to the set. If the production schedule for any given day's shooting listed the names of some of the big stars, we'd notice the frequency of Barry's "comb events" increase substantially.

So, the night before, we'd look at the next day's production schedule, and from the list we'd gauge quite accurately how likely it would be for a lot of "comb events", or just a few.

There were about 12 or 15 of us in this betting syndicate, and the pot would go to the guy(s) who either guessed accurately, or got closest to it. As we had discovered what influenced the frequency of "comb events", we'd win the pot most days.

This little game provided some relief for the boredom. On set, you had to remain in (or very close to) a designated location. Strolling around, or going "exploring" was not permitted. If the crew needed you for a shot, they needed to know where to get you.

One very strict requirement had been drummed into us... NO PERSONAL CAMERAS! We had been told very early on that we were not allowed to have, or use, cameras to take personal photos, either on the set itself, or in the "village". If a camera was seen (even if not being used) it would be taken away and destroyed.

Steve decided to chance it, saying that a opportunity to capture even just a little bit of this epic production was too precious to pass up. If, at some point, he had to hand over the camera, well... so be it.

The first week on set was really uneventful. We'd be on set for several hours, then there would be a flurry of trucks and cars arrive in the car-park, spilling out some of the most famous names in the film industry. Within ten minutes cameras would be ready... one of the production assistants would come over to us and say... "you... you... you, and you... come with me please".

A quick rehearsal or two... Director would ask us our names, then tell us what we had to do, and then get the cameras rolling for the action. In most cases, these events lasted no more than 20 minutes. Then the crew and stars would pack up, get into the cars and disappear. We would remain on-set for the remainder of the day, sometimes for 3 or 4 more hours, doing nothing.

After the first week, I had begun to appreciate why our former tent residents from Natal University had abandoned starring in block-buster movies. I was beginning to feel the same way...

But week two changed the course of events quite dramatically. The general body of extras was given the "day off" on the Monday as no shooting was scheduled for the main set. Instead, both the First and Second Director teams were going to film some charges involving horses, and these were going to be filmed on the airstrip...

... Yes... on an open field in another part of the farmland, a grass airstrip had been constructed so that aircraft could land - carrying everything from equipment, props, actors, and even horses. This smooth strip of grassland was perfect for the tracking vehicles and camera vehicles, as they could drive at speed, alongside galloping horses.

On the Sunday evening, a call had gone out for a few extras to "volunteer" to come up to the airstrip with the crews to basically be "available" if any shot required a few redcoats lurking in the background. Only a handful volunteered - mostly because others knew that it would just be another day of hanging about, whereas in the village they could do what they wanted, and secondly, we would have to walk to the airstrip - a good two miles from the village.

Steve, Richard (my brother) and I were actually keen to see how this sort of stuff was filmed, so we were three of only five extras who volunteered to go to the airstrip.

We got there at about the same time the production team arrived - in a 16-seater bus, towing a trailer full of gear. The bus was parked, and for the next three hours or so, the crew assembled all the kit and tested it.

Then, one of the director's assistants called for the bus driver... He needed to fetch the actors from the village.... but the driver was nowhere to be seen. For some reason, he'd wandered off. We sat there, listening to the crew discuss what to do, much of it over the radios to colleagues in the village. After several minutes, it became clear that no-one was either available, or able to, drive this bus, and as part of the journey back to the village was on a public road, insurance considerations ruled the day... Smashing a bus filled with the world's top movie stars, being driven by an unlicensed and uninsured driver was not an encouraging thought.

Steve nudged me...

"I'm licensed to drive that thing... here... take a look..."

Amongst the personal valuables we were carrying with us, were our National Identity Documents. It made sense to have these with us, as one often needed to produce them in South Africa, and they were a confirmed and authentic way of verifying one's identity. These documents also contained driving licenses, firearm licenses, marriage certificates, and such like. Your ID Book told everyone what you were allowed to do...

Steve's licence clearly indicated he was permitted to drive that bus, and tow the trailer as well.

The exasperation and growing anger of the crew suddenly abated when Steve called out...

"I'm licensed to drive that thing..." and he walked up to the crew to show them his ID book. There was a quick flurry of conversations over the radios with admin people back at camp. Was Steve also covered by insurance... and... yes he was.

"Can you please help us then..." an assistant director asked.

"Of course I will, and if you need a more dependable driver, I'm available at any time."

I accompanied Steve on the drive back to the village, and within a few minutes we had on board Burt Lancaster, Denholm Elliot, Simon Ward, and South African actor Brian O'Shaughnessey. Bob Hoskins, who wasn't needed for the shoot, decided to come as well, just to watch.

Steve, ever confident and self-assured, introduced himself, tossing in a joke or two about never having driven this sort of bus before, and if one of the stars could assist by keeping an eye on the road while Steve focused on the pedals, gear-stick, and much else.

Lancaster wasn't very amused, I recall, but did manage a wry smile. Simon Ward and Bob Hoskins on the other hand picked up on the banter, and in the space of the return journey to the airstrip appeared to have enjoyed our company. When we arrived back at the strip, Lancaster, Ward and O'Shaughnessey were needed for the shoot, so Bob Hoskins joined us as "spectators". For the next hour or so, we watched what was happening, with Bob explaining to us some of the technical fineries, and chatting about life in general. He got a bit bored, so asked the director if Steve could drive him back to the village - which he did.

When Steve returned he said: "Bob's asked if I can drive him and a few others up to Babanango Hotel tonight, and said we're welcome to join them..."

"Who's all going?" I asked...

"So far its Bob, Denholm Elliot, Simon Ward and perhaps a couple of others..."

Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Mon Feb 01, 2016 11:41 am


Okay... so it was a crawl of just one pub. The only one within a 50-mile radius of the set.

Babanango is a tiny hamlet in this isolated part of Zululand. It has a small, but attractive little hotel, which has become a very popular "resort" for tourists who need a base while they visit all these famous battle fields. Back in 1977, the Anglo-Zulu Campaign was not as popular as it is these days. With the eventual release of "Zulu Dawn" in the late 1970's (or was it early 80's), international exposure increased dramatically, and the hotel became a very popular stop-over, and it still does good business all year round.

Yes... Babanango was so small that the road sign saying "Welcome to Babanango" was written as such on both sides.

Anyway, at around seven in the evening we went up to the mess-tent and met up with the group of actors ready to board the bus. There were ten to twelve of them and I can't recall all the names comprising the group - except for Hoskins, Ward, Elliot and I think Dai Bradley was with us too.

Steve was obliged to remain alcohol-free that night as he was driving, but for the next four hours we got to know these international stars quite well. Bob Hoskins was extremely amusing and one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met. His film acting career was at that stage, in relative infancy. He had no "airs and graces"... He was just an ordinary fellow, enjoying life. As it was a Monday night, the hotel was very quiet. There were no other guests in residency - we had the bar area to ourselves. Simon Ward too was a really fantastic chap, and on many days on the set, we'd sit with him, chatting as if he were an old pal.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

This was the first of several trips with the stars, to the hotel bar, and in "rubbing shoulders" with them, we got to get a much better "deal" out of being extras on the movie set. Denholm Elliot really liked us too. Once or twice he'd come into the mess tent and join our table. The tent was separated in two "zones" - the crappy area for us extras, and a more exotic and classy area for the stars. Denholm would occasionally invite us to join him for breakfast in the classy area.

Steve was pretty knowledgeable about the Zulu war. Back then, there weren't many books on the subject by contemporary historians and analysts, but Steve knew a lot about the traditional accounts of the campaign. This impressed Denholm.

"I just take my direction from Douggie (Douglas Hickox - the Director)," Elliot said on one occasion. I don't really know that much about Pullein's deeper character."

Steve went into a fair amount of detail, chatting to Denholm and he mentioned that essentially, Pullein had never had any battle experience and was probably quite a "softie" - possibly even to the point of not really being capable even, of firing a gun at someone with the intent to kill.

I like to believe this stuck with Denholm, because in the movie, when the Zulu enters his tent to administer the "coup-de-grace", Pullein, gun drawn and ready to fire, hesitates and points his gun away - indicating really that the day belonged to the Zulus and nothing would be changed, or gained if Pullein was to shoot his adversary.

For me, this simple gesture, Pullein declining to fire his gun when that action mattered most, was one of the most evocative moments in the film, kind of summing up everything that had gone so badly wrong for the Brits that day, and the sheer futility of attempting to prolong the agony....


Last edited by fairestcape on Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:26 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Waiting around for "Action!"

Dressed - and ready to kill (or be killed, as it happened to be...)
Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:30 pm

My OSCAR moment.

Here, the Zulus get ready to tickle me to death...

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

I'm grinning - but I still have a very real sense of what the soldiers of the 24th must have felt when this scene was reality...
Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Thu Feb 04, 2016 5:34 pm

One fleeting moment of stardom...

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

The only moment in the film where I can confidently say... "That's me..." Marching just behind Bob Hoskins as the battle is about to commence.
Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:20 pm


If any of you have seen Peter Sellers in "The Party", you'll appreciate the havoc a movie-extra can wreak on a complex set.  In the opening sequence of "The Party", Sellers is a well-intentioned, naive buffoon of a film extra who detonates the set after using the explosives plunger as a foot-rest so he can tie his shoelace. The elaborate set booms in a massive fireball - some moments before the director calls "ACTION..."

Barry... our pink-comb wannabe filmstar is on set. It's taken the better part of the day for the directors and production crew to set up the shot. As I recall, four or five Panaflex cameras have been strategically placed in various locations, so that the action can be captured from a variety of angles. Mid way through the take, a tent will go up in flames, and something inside it will explode.

So we rehearse it a few times, with the scene director telling us that we need to keep an eye on one of the close-by cameras that will be panning right-to-left. As the camera starts to get us in shot, we need to walk backwards (then start to stumble) as Zulus enter the fray. A short way into this little sequence, the tent behind us will burst into flames and something inside it will explode.

The scene director reminds us... we have only ONE TAKE... so we must get it right.

During the rehearsals, Barry has been plotting the path of the camera pan. He's positioned himself in the midst of the group were the action will focus.

This is his chance to show his acting prowess - he's not going to pass up on it - not for anything.

During the many breaks between the rehearsals, while the crew practice getting the panning correct and co-ordination (I assumed) of the other four or so cameras that would film the shot at the same time from different angles, Barry spent time combing his hair.

So the moment to actually do the take arrives...


Camera starts to pan... Barry decides that he has a couple of seconds to do one quick last comb before the camera picks him up. He deftly whisks the comb from his back pocket and rapidly runs it a couple of times through his hair - replaces his helmet - just as the tent behind explodes - the point at which the camera is now firmly focused in that direction, with Barry, Zulus, and several of us doing our best to look like panicking soldiers about to die....

CUT... ! CUT... ! F***ING CUT...

Silence - except for the crackling of the tent, now burning furiously behind us.

Scene director walks up to Barry, and for the first time in my life I hear several derivatives of the "F" word used nine times in a sentence that only had ten words.

The first word was "YOU... " followed by the "F" word in a variety of grammatical adaptations... as a verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, noun, pronoun, conjunction... and if you stretch your imagination, possibly the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence too.

The scene director stoops, and off the ground, retrieves Barry's pink comb, and waves it under his nose. He says nothing... but expects an explanation. Barry offers the feeble assurance that he managed to put the comb away before the camera panned him into the shot.

"You F... F.... F...." replies the director... "We have FIVE effing cameras... !"

Barry just says "OH... Oh no... Oh dear..."

And so ended Barry's film career - or certainly on the set of Zulu Dawn.

I was going to suggest at that moment that the producers keep the scene, and turn the film into a comedy perhaps...

But I held my tongue... I wanted to stay on the set.

Back to top Go down

Posts : 16
Join date : 2016-01-31
Location : Hertfordshire UK

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:50 pm


Burt Lancaster is one of the greatest, most admired actors of his time.... I do feel however, that he wasn't really what I expected Durnford to be. I had imagined Durnford a little younger, perhaps... But anyway, to list Lancaster as a major star would prove to be a drawcard for the film on its release.

For the time we were on the set, we seldom saw Burt Lancaster in the flesh. If he wasn't needed, he'd stay in his hotel a hundred miles away. On the odd day he was needed - certainly while we were there, he'd be flown to the set in a helicopter, shoot the scene, then be flown out again. Apart from having him on the bus that day, we only ever saw him from some distance.

As we know, Durnford arrived at Isandlwhana at some point in the early morning of 22 January 1879, and breakfasted with Pullein and other officers. In the movie, it's Simon Ward.

Doug Hickox wanted to shoot Durnford's horseback arrival, dismounting, and getting seated at the breakfast table in a single shot, which would last somehwere between 30 and 40 seconds.

He dismounts, and says one line... then sits down with Pulleine and, in this version, Vereker (Simon Ward).

Simon got Steve and I to take his horse's reins, before he walks into the shot...

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Lancaster has dismounted, Ward is walking into shot. Denholm Elliot is in the scene, but out of veiw of our photo.

Lancaster's line is something like "... Get the men to stand down..." and this is addressed to Elliot.

So... after 2 hours of preparation, the scene is ready for the first take...

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]


Durnford dismounts and stands... silent... "What the f**k is my line?" exclaims Lancaster.

The production assistant reminds him, and he says it a couple of times.

FIRST POSITIONS... Says Doug Hickox, and everything goes back to initial position for the scene to be re-shot. This takes 20 minutes.

"... and... ACTION !!"

The truck with the camera glides just ahead of Lancaster and his men and then follows as he dismounts, and we wait for the line....


"Sh**t... What the f**k's my line again... ?" asks Lancaster.

The production assistant tells him... twice... and he repeats it several times, saying "f**k" quite a few times too.


and we start again...

Well... Burt Lancaster fluffed it TWICE MORE, before he managed to get it right on the fifth take.

This is not a criticism of Lancaster... he does a fine performance, but for me it was more a lesson in how long it can take to set up a scene and film what are just a few seconds of action. This little sequence took all day.

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

I can't recall in the final film if the scene is all in one take. Doug Hickox wanted it that way, but it could have been split up on the editing suite.

During this long and generally very boring afternoon, Steve and I were hanging onto Simon Ward's horse, which was getting increasingly impatient. Steve had a few Wilsons Mint Imperial sweets which he stuff into the horse's muzzle if it got too skittish. It would stay calm for quite a while after a few of these sweets, and it was a trick others must have noticed. We'd sometimes be at a scene where the horses were getting irritated, and their handlers - generally inexperienced goofs like us - would proffer Wilsons Mints.

Back to top Go down

Posts : 34
Join date : 2016-09-11

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Sat Nov 05, 2016 9:00 pm

Wow, thanks for sharing that. Very cool. I can't help asking but were the Foreign service helmets all plastic? They look like they were mass produced really quickly and dirtied up with tan paint. Also looks like they had no liners or head bands. Just curious.
Back to top Go down


Posts : 1203
Join date : 2015-11-24

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Sat Nov 05, 2016 10:41 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Back to top Go down


Posts : 9914
Join date : 2009-04-07
Age : 62
Location : Melbourne, Australia

PostSubject: zulu dawn - my part in making it a great movie    Tue Nov 08, 2016 5:49 am

Hi Bromhead1879
I have one of the Foreign Service Helmets from Zulu Dawn , its a canvas type , it does have a Liner & band , inside is marked
'' Waterproof Tropical Helmet , Made in England '' , there to me is no doubt that the Colonial Horseman with Burt Lancaster ( Durnford ) are wearing Black Plastic Hats , I think it was a mixture with the Imperial troops in the film .
Back to top Go down

Posts : 34
Join date : 2016-09-11

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:51 pm

Thanks 90th!! That make sense.
Back to top Go down

Posts : 17
Join date : 2013-04-30

PostSubject: Christmas presents.   Mon Nov 14, 2016 5:53 pm

Greetings all.

Here are two items for your Christmas list.......both from D.N.W. auction. An Isandlwana casualty, Private Hadden, 1st Battalion, and to go one better a Rorke's Drift defender, Micheal Minehan. Good luck chaps. Merry Christmas.
Back to top Go down

Posts : 17
Join date : 2010-11-22

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   Sat Dec 03, 2016 8:19 am


thank you very much for sharing your memories.

Maybe you can answer my question.

While making such a movie with enormous battlescenes, hundreds / thousands involved. How does the director take care that only a certain amount of attackers goes down like casualties after a salvo of the defenders?

Are these special guys like stuntmen who are mixed amongst the background actors? Or are they assigned background actors who are said "at this position fall down like a casualtie"?

I think this has to be organized otherwise too much or maybe no casualties could "occure" in a scene which would be unrealistic.

Thanks for your dedication!
Back to top Go down
Sponsored content

PostSubject: Re: Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie   

Back to top Go down
Zulu Dawn - my part in making a great movie
Back to top 
Page 1 of 1

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
Jump to: