A film that never was.

I found some old copies of Starburst magazine whilst clearing out the house, all mostly dated between 1996 to 1999. Anyway there was a series of giant purple and silver coloured ads that caught my eye and instantly took me back to my teenage years. They were advertising for a chance to star in a ‘Uniquely British science fiction film’ entitled ‘legionnaires’.

Legionnaires

It would seem that anyone could star in the film, if they could only pony up the required cash (a measly £333) which would go towards funding some of the movie.

I also found various slim articles on the film and its progress which contained images of storyboards and concept art and this seems to imply that Starburst and Cult Times took it all very seriously as well (after all it had Jason Connery in a lead role!).

I mean the blurb for the trailer is designed for a deep Hollywood announcers voice, long booming bass sfx and moody lighting wouldn’t have gone amiss.

“IN THE LAST YEARS OF THE 20TH CENTURY MANKIND DISCOVERED THE SECRET OF TRAVELING BEYOND THE FINAL FRONTIER. SOMETHING WAS WATCHING. SOMETHING UNSEEN. SOMETHING UNKNOWN. SOMETHING UNINVITED. NOW ONLY ONE THING STANDS BETWEEN A WORLD WITHOUT A FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF THE WORLD :- LEGIONNAIRES”

Legionnaires 2You can just picture it can’t you! A British Starship Troopers! Complete with wee Union Jack flags on the shoulders of their Mecha suits and stiff upper lips all round! In fact the entire premise was sold on its ‘Britishness’ that somehow this film would be the rebirth of home grown science fiction, an appealing thought in a world before the rebooted Dr WHO.

I remember showing the advert to a friend of mine on the same art course (ceramics) and he simply rolled his eyes into his skull and made a farting noise with his lips and said ‘con!’. He would be proven to be oddly prescient in that opinion.

‘But there’s a Freephone number at the bottom’ I said as this proved this couldn’t be a con. The ads made claims that you could be an extra, be in the crew, get a credit and that everyone would attend the opening night and get freebies, freebies, freebies!

Then… there was nothing, no film ever appeared and no news as to why either and to be honest I plum forgot about it until seeing the ad again.

My interest peaked I decided to do a bit of digging on the internet and amazingly this has thrown up a lot less than I may have first hoped for. Mainly I suppose as the internet was still fairly in its infancy back then and that most of the sites and chat rooms dealing with this topic will have been mothballed or shut for years now.

I did though manage to uncover something about it here and there, mainly angry pages of complaints from would be actors and investors as to why the film stalled. It seems that it did actually get to the point where they were producing merchandise and posters before they had even started filming it at Elstree Studio. It also seems that anyone who put the required £333 into the pot was counted not just as a shareholder but also given the chance for artistic input into the movie’s direction which never sounds good does it? The plot thickens!

UK

What appears to have gone on-

£80,000 of the money earmarked for the movie appears to have simply vanished, people were left narked and out of pocket despite claims that the company making the film was insured against any loss so everyone would have their money back if anything should happen. Yet even when Legionnaires Plc Company knew that all the information that they were using to sell the project was incorrect to say the least, for example there were no ‘name’ actors confirmed for any parts in the movie, they kept up the pretence and the recruitment drive for more cash investment and extras.

Fours years passed and the film remained in a limbo world of ‘no comment’. Whilst all this was happening the script would continue to be rewritten many times over changing in tone and moving away entirely from the original premise that had attracted many to the project. There are some accounts of extras having been filmed in a lonely, undermanned sound stage against a green screen for a few hours but little else appears to have been done apart from a couple of early CGI ‘teaser trailers’ shown at conventions such as Capscicon ’97 & Wolf 359.

Legionnaires Plc Company would eventually vanish off the map hounded by investors, the company website would remain and deny all dealings with the actual film, people would get angry, very angry and ‘This is Wiltshire’ would still be reporting the story in the year 2000 with-

Due to massive demand the company set up to produce Elstree Studios’ first sci-fi film since Star Wars 20 years ago has extended its share offer. Legionnaires plc says it has been receiving 18,000 calls each month since December from people interested in buying shares to help fund the project due for release next spring.

Yet it had all seemed so promising, the October 1997 issue of Starburst seemed to positively rave about the project and especially about the head people involved, Gary Boulton-Brown and Kathleen Fairbairn. Even saying that-

Unlike the Heretic (Very unlike) Legionnaires has a lot to say (and show) for itself, not least of which is the fact that Creative Independent now have an office at Elstree and studio space booked there from December.

Yet even with this rave report on the prospects of this project being a winner there was a note of caution from Gary Boulton-Brown which was rather telling-

Gary positively invites debate and awkward questioning regarding the all important share offer and how safe and guaranteed it is. He admits that the main cast has not been contacted as yet (at the time of going to print) and that there is no absolute guarantee in a venture like this

In the same article any concerns on the obvious lack of any real details about plot, casting or dates and even the ‘look’ of the film was easily brushed away by those involved claiming they feared their idea might be stolen by other studios and then being pipped to the post.

This is a film that was supposed to have been released sometime at the end of 1998 and it was claimed would forever change the face of British indie Science Fiction. Instead it left bitter disappointment, anger and a lot of debt and many, many questions unanswered and a poor Jason Connery sat waiting by the phone for a call back that never happened.

Jason ConneryThe deadline for investors to claim their money back ended in January 2002, Gary Boulton-Brown would continue to run another company called, somewhat ironically ‘Maverick Camera Ltd.’ (since dissolved) yet oddly enough some sources claim he was still registered as the Company Director of Legionnaires Plc until 2009 when he ‘resigned’, as for Kathleen Tamar Fairbairn she resigned from Legionnaires Plc in December 1998 at the height of the concern over the project. Lee Medcalf who was employed on the project as computer graphics conceptual artist and modeller stayed on until December 1999 with a ‘promotion’ to the title of ‘Full Modeller & Animator’ for the entire movie. He describes this time in his own words on a publicly accessible trade CV site –

Legionnaires PLC was a publicly funded production company that was formed to make the SF movie Legionnaires. The production company which was co run by Garry Boulton Brown and Kathy Fairbarn collapsed due to a DTI investigation in to impropriety in company finances.

…and there I’m afraid the trail goes cold but I’m sure that somewhere, someone will have the full story, or their side of it, up on another website.

In the end we had to wait until 2006 until we saw small union jack flags on any British Science Fictional offering coming anything close to what Legionnaires promised for a uniquely British take on sci-fi… and well, that didn’t go down too well with many.

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Written by Drew (34 Posts)


16 thoughts on “A film that never was.

  1. I am currently collecting memrobilia for this film – did you keep the magazines with the ads in? please email me? – cheers 🙂

    • Hi Space Cadet.
      I’m so sorry for the very late reply to your message but I’ve not been able to find the time to log onto this Blog as I’d like.
      In answer to your question yes I still have all the magazines with the articles and ads in them although I’d be unlikely to ever part with them as I’m a bit of a collector (frankly more like a horder).
      If you’d like any details about them such as issue numbers, publishing dates etc. so you could track down a few back copies just let me know. I’ve seen a few on Ebay in the past and only selling for a few pounds so I’m sure you’ll be able to track one or more down.
      I hope you might have enjoyed or found what little I’ve written about the saga of the film interesting, I can’t pretend to be an expert on what went down though and obviously I attempted to be unbiased and fair in what I’ve written.
      As I say in the post most of the “facts” and information I’ve used are drawn from contemporary magazine articles at the time as well as bits and pieces from a few very old and outdated websites about the subject not yet mothballed and mainly written by people with somewhat more jaundiced & biased views based on their experiences with the production.
      Many thanks for the message and for reading the blog in the first place, I can’t help thinking its a pretty hit n’ miss affair so far and I’m still trying to find my niche.
      take care.

      • Drew – Sorry – I only just found your reply.

        I’m now not convinced it’s worth doing much more on the memerobillia collecting front – but I did manage to get in touch
        With a couple of shareholders and a graphics guy.
        They seemed surprised that anyone would be remotely interested in finding out what happened….but dug up some stuff.. (To be honest, I’d forgotten about it until someone sent me a link to your blog.)

        Here’s a link to look at some stuff if you want to http://1drv.ms/1S1C5ha

        I have now been informed that The video, shown to shareholders was the only
        Footage ever generated/seen by the public or shareholders.
        When the DTI intervened, there was a ‘shareholders shoot’ at some sports centre near Radlett Herts. (see pics) This involved many shareholders, and was videotaped by a technician , who told people he’d just been been hired for the day and was not specifically a cameraman. ( He also, apparently, said he hadn’t seen a script or received any schedule…so this, unfortunately, rings true).

        The costumes look good…but I can’t see any film lighting, (just court floodlighting), other equipment or blue-screen capability. ( They also, apparently asked for parking payment…and sold expensive slices of pizza to shareholders, in the absence of catering.)

        As for where the money went: I’d guess that lots of it went on graphics guys.?

        Through, what I’m presuming was their Ltd production company, a new sci-fi channel advert (a shareholder taped it and, apparently’ paid for their unborn child to have a ‘part’ – he never received anything!)

        Around the same time as all this…. The director also, apparently formed a girl band but I’m not sure if there was any connection here to any of the companies…so it might have been a hobby thing.

        Maybe the truth is out there…somewhere…and is completely plausible…and I am being overly cynical – Love a good sci-fi mystery…

  2. Hi,
    nice write up :-)…I unfortunately was one of those people who bought a share and I still have it as a reminder never to get conned again. The advert was even on the SF channel so I was completely taken in that it was legit…I nearly even made it to being an extra and obviously would have been spotted to take the leading role…lol

    • Hi Sean, first let me say I’m very sorry for this very late reply to your comment. I’m just rubbish at following things up I’m afraid. Secondly many thanks for reading and extra thanks for saying it was a nice write up, I’ve tried to do the best I could with what little information is still rambling around out there and I hope I’ve been fair with the story as I understand it as well. Sorry you were amongst the many who ultimately lost out though, it was horror stories like this which stunted many a later genuine attempts at generating support for indie filmmaking sadly. If any more comes to light I’ll be sure to update the blog with a follow up. Again cheers for reading!

  3. Very interesting article. I too was an investor. I remember receiving a crappy poster for my £333. I was also teased with a day of filming in a quarry but that particular rug was pulled a number of times before it vanished.

    What really pisses me off is that under the terms of the investment they had to raise a certain amount from shares and if they failed to do that then they had to refund everyone. They failed to reach the target by some margin but continued regardless leaving all investors without legal recourse to get back our cash.

  4. I am sitting here reading your interesting article in my (now) tight fitting Legionnaires t-shirt. Yesterday I was out in my Legionnaires baseball cap. I lost over a grand in my desire to be in a movie. My Dad never forgave me! All I have to show for it are 2 items of clothing that haven’t aged too badly!
    I never lost the pursuit of my dream though…For the last five years I’ve been in commercials, tv & yes, film.
    I can’t talk about recent work, because of NDA’S but I’ve worked in Skyfall, The World’s End, even Midsomer Murders lol
    Don’t ever stop chasing your dreams

  5. Hi Drew.
    I was anothee of those shareholders & I did attend the filming in Radlett. We were dressed up like black overalls & placed on s raised walkway with green screen behind us (I think there were 30+ extras). We were mesnt to march as if trudging through a snow storm on an alien planet. I never saw the footage so I’d love yo know if it still exists. Like Xtra, I’ve got the baseball cap, A3 poster & the contract / shares we all got. I only found about the partial refunds in 2003, after the deadline had passed. Oh well, I’ve got memories of a film that cost md a grand & is worth the resale value of the cap! Put me off investing again.

  6. I also bought a share, as did my Brother. SFX magazine had a thing about it (possibly an insert) and it convinced us to go for it. I still have my cap and poster, and we went down to the filming.
    I remember thinking it was a bit odd that we were dressed up against a blue or green screen, but the lighting seemed quite bad and didn’t even light up our bug furry boots. I have some photos somewhere.
    I found out about the partial refund about 20 mins ago. That’s a bit annoying. We should have been told about that.

  7. Glad to see I’m not the only one who remembers this (attempted) film. I remember reading on another site many years ago that the company squandered a lot of funds on plush offices at Elstree(?) studios, before moving out to cheaper premesis, before eventually being wound up by the DTI, following complaints from investors.

    Seem to recall they were touting for buisiness at a couple of Birmingham Memoribilia Shows at the NEC (which have since evolved into Comic cons), trying to attract investors during the mid-late 90s and even had a couple of guys in the armoured space suit costumes they were going to use in the film to try and drum up interest. I did pick up a couple of flyers (which I have long since thrown out) and remember seeing an advert (I forget in which magazine) saying the offer for investment had been extended but that was the last I heard.

  8. Count me as another conned shareholder – after Wolf 359 – where the producers had had “talks” with Walter Koenig (he himself mentioned this in one of his panels).

    The reason I’ve just found this site is because in clearing the attic I found the Legionnaires Limited Edition Poster still rolled up in the tube in came in through the post and decided to do some online hunting down memory lane!

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