A feel-good celebration from director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty), Military Wives is inspired by the true story of the first Military Wives Choir.
The film stars Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Sharon Horgan (“Catastrophe,” Game Night), with Jason Flemyng (“Jamestown,” Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and Greg Wise (Sense and Sensibility, “The Crown”).
Inspired by the popularity of the Military Wives Choir, Military Wives is loosely based on the real story of a small of group of women who banded together and sparked a worldwide movement that now serves more than 2,300 people across the U.K. and in British military bases abroad.
Producer Rory Aitken was introduced to the phenomenon through choirmaster and broadcaster Gareth Malone’s popular BBC television series, “The Choir: Military Wives,” which documented the creation of the second Military Wives Choir in 2011.
“I was unexpectedly moved by it,” says Aitken. “It did what the best movies do. It punched you in the gut. What they did in that documentary was uncover a small section of society that one might never think about, but who actually go through a difficult time in service for the rest of us. And harness the power of music to pull themselves up. It is really extraordinary.”
Producer Ben Pugh was given the documentary by Aitken and immediately felt the material would lend itself to the big screen. “The combination of a real-life struggle of these wives and partners, that is given a voice through the choir, felt completely universal.” he said.
Director Peter Cattaneo admits he came to the project knowing almost nothing about the lives of military families. “I was excited by a concept that would allow me to explore a way of life that has rarely been seen on the big screen, as well as make a film with music and singing at its core,” he recalls.
It was essential to the filmmakers that Military Wives accurately portray the daily lives of women whose partners are abroad risking their lives in service to their country. “Our screenwriter Rachel Tunnard met with and communicated with a group of wives to get details and anecdotes about their world,” says Cattaneo. “She had some quite intense and moving exchanges with them that brought a lot of reality into the script.”
As Cattaneo started meeting real military wives, he discovered two rich themes at the heart of the narrative: A fragmented group of people coming together through song, and the idea of women who are expected to “keep calm and carry on” finding their voices. “We got to know some very courageous and candid military wives who shared personal stories that were humbling, sometimes harrowing, and often hilarious,” he says. “I was struck by their honest, down-to-earth humor and I became determined to fill the film with this kind of comedy.”
The women’s satisfaction with the final screenplay became evident, he says, when several asked to appear in the film as extras. “In the scene where all the soldiers are going off to war, we used as many of them as we could. So when you see that scene, remember that those are real military families saying goodbye.
“Although the characters and much of the story is fictionalized, every effort was made to honor the huge sacrifices real military families make every day,” says Producer Piers Tempest. “I think the best films have a deep truth in them, and that’s what we felt about this story.
Nobody talks about them, but military wives are—forgive the pun—the unsung heroes of the armed forces.”
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