A new distributor was found and the project was moving forward again. However the CEO who signed off on the project left, and was replaced with “the number two” who caused the last deal to fall through. “For the second time he shot us down in flames, slashing the budget from $13 million to somewhere below six. The film couldn’t be made for six.” The crew joined a British funding body, but found out later that they hadn’t raised a single cent for the movie. “We discovered later, that when they talked to investors, they hadn’t even told them what the projects were – none of the investors even knew one of the movies they were being asked to invest in was Red Dwarf,” Naylor later revealed. “They didn’t think it would make any difference.” During another meeting with an American financier, Naylor had the money on the table if he recast the movie with American actors. “For some insane reason I said, ‘no,'” Naylor later joked. “I said we had to use the British cast. They said, ‘How about a compromise? What about using British movie stars instead?’ I laughed and said, ‘Like who?’ This is true. I swear this is true. They said, ‘How about… Hugh Grant? He could be Lister. And what’s Emma Thompson doing these days? She could be Kochanski.’ I thanked them for their time and ran from the building.”
While public news on the movie was very quiet, a science fiction magazine posted a possible flyer which detailed the film’s plot. “Red Dwarf: The Movie is set in the distant future where Homo Sapienoids, a fearsome combination of flesh and machine, and the next stage of human evolution, have taken over the solar system and almost wiped out the human race. The only survivors are the crews of long-haul space freighters that left Earth before the conflict began. The Sapienoids send forth fleets of Death Ships to hunt them down. One by one – the human ships fall, until only one remains. Its name – Red Dwarf…” Although some speculated it was fake, the official Red Dwarf website confirmed the flyer was real, and was being used to try and sell the movie in foreign markets.
In 2004, a bright light hit production for Red Dwarf: The Movie. Naylor received a call from WETA, Peter Jackson’s production house who offered their services on the film. Naylor told them he wouldn’t be able to afford them, so they offered to do it at a cut rate as they were fans of the show. Jackson was even planning on being involved after deciding to take a break following The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. But, once again, the bright light was dimmed when Jackson took on Universal’s remake King Kong and WETA had to leave Red Dwarf: The Movie. Naylor stayed in Australia and decided to seek funding there, which lead to one of the more bizarre distribution deals.
“I got a call from the UK,” Naylor later recalled. “An Australian guy had called the GNP office, he had sixty million pounds to invest in movies and he wondered if we were funded yet. He said he’d just withdrawn from a Will Smith film and his money was freed up and he was a huge Red Dwarf fan. How much did I need? The whole 60 million or would something less be okay? I said, ‘We could do something amazing for 20 million, maybe less. But, let me think about it because maybe 60 million was the way to go’. I thought about it. It took 3 nanoseconds. Yes, 60 million was indeed the way to go.”
The unnamed investor asked to meet with Naylor in Queensland as he was based in Melbourne, but alarm bells began to ring when the investor asked for Naylor to pay for his airfare and offer him somewhere to sleep – and that he was actually the Duke of Manchester. “Now, I come from Manchester,” Naylor later joked. “And I’ve never heard of the Duke of Manchester.”
A call to the GNP office confirmed that this benefactor was indeed “The Duke of Manchester” and so Naylor asked politely if he would send over proof of funds. The Duke fought and said his bank manager was too busy, and so instead faxed over a copy of a bank statement. “Slowly, it came out of the fax machine, inch by agonising inch,” Naylor later recalled. “We looked. It said in his account was the sum of 100 million US dollars. 100 big ones. Completely faked of course. He was not the Duke of Manchester and he did not have 60 million pounds. He even tried one last attempt to convince us by saying he could get one of Australia’s most famous actresses to vouch for him. We called her. A woman’s voice, which sounded as if she had a clothes peg on her nose. ‘I’ve got such a bad cold’, she insisted, ‘but I really am the famous actress.'”
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