A Film Script by Robin Hawdon
The epic story of the greatest sea battle ever fought, which brought about the eventual defeat of Napoleon at the cost of the death of England’s most beloved war hero. Originally commissioned by the James Bond producers, Salzman and Broccoli, then toyed with by the BBC for its celebration of the bicentenary of the battle, it was ultimately abandoned because of the cost of staging the battle itself. Now however far more feasible with the advent of the digital revolution.
The Battle of Trafalgar (1805) was arguably the greatest sea battle ever fought, and was certainly the one with the most radical long-term effect on the world’s balance of power. And perhaps more than any other the victory was that of one man, Lord Viscount Horatio Nelson. His fleet was outnumbered, out-sailed and out-gunned by the combined French and Spanish fleets, and yet the battle’s outcome was scarcely in doubt by either himself or his opponents. This was thanks to the towering reputation he had created for himself during previous sea battles, and to the overwhelming superiority of seamanship amongst his crews.
Nelson’s own extraordinary story was inextricably bound up with the outcome of the battle itself. The fact that, to the man in the street, he was quite simply Britain’s greatest ever naval hero, has to be seen in the context of a sometimes tumultuous personality, a brilliant but controversial career, and a decidedly colourful love life (which features strongly in the movie).
Trafalgar itself ended for ever Napoleon’s despotic ambitions to invade England and so dominate the civilised world, and it paved the way for his eventual defeat at Waterloo. It also established a permanent British supremacy at sea which was to last a hundred years, and lead to the creation of the largest empire ever seen.
The task of bringing the spectacular story of Trafalgar to the screen (the sight of a two hundred feet high, three-decker man-of-war under full sail with all guns blazing must have been one of the most magnificent ever created by human design), and of illuminating the unique personality of Nelson, is simplified by the circumstances. During the brief six weeks period leading up to the battle all the personal, political and military issues which had been simmering in Europe for months, came to a head, and brought the focus of the world’s major players - Napoleon Bonaparte, William Pitt, President Thomas Jefferson, and all of Europe’s leaders - to bear on the fragile figure of a one-armed sailor with a controversial reputation, stationed in his beloved ship the Victory, on a storm-tossed stretch of water near the Straits of Gibraltar.
The sea location and battle scenes are so constructed that only two ships are required to be in camera at any one time - although those used will have to double as English, French, Spanish, two or three-decker, frigate or ship-of-the-line, through the use of different flags, paintwork, and external adornments. It is presumed that the panoramic fleet and battle scenes will be achieved with digital effects.