The movie project, which reached pre-production, was stalled for a number of years, as writer/director and Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor futilely searched for financial backing to start production. The proposed budget of the movie was around £11 million and filming would have been done in Australia and the United Kingdom, according to the official site.
The movie was originally planned to be shot in January 2005. Storyboards were made and the cast got together for a read through as early as 2001. At one point Naylor announced that he had found the necessary financial backing and the movie was ready to start shooting, but the financial offer turned out to be a hoax and production stalled again.
Naylor had intended to wrap up the television series in a one-off special entitled "Earth". However, when the funding fell through for the intended movie, Naylor changed his mind, and decided to continue the franchise with the return of the television series in the television special Back to Earth (2009) and later Series X (2012).
The movie got stalled in the pre-production phase. Some pre-production work was done, such as story-boarding as well as some model-making. According to Counting Down, Llewellyn stated that some ship models have been done and that he "has had a new Kryten mask created."
About the style of the movie, Naylor said in an interview in the official site:
- In terms of the directing style, it's certainly going to look like no Red Dwarf TV series. But to describe that is quite difficult, because the sets aren't built and the locations aren't agreed on yet. But if we get it right, it should look a lot more expensive than it actually cost - but it's not about going, "Wow, look at this great wide shot, isn't that amazing," because no-one's interested. You'll get better with Lucas and the Matrix guys. We can't compete with that on our budget and we're not going to try. We have to remember the core - and the core is about the character relations and the comedy.
The official site also had a preliminary cast and crew list:
- Arnold Rimmer - Chris Barrie
- Dave Lister - Craig Charles
- The Cat - Danny John-Jules
- Kryten - Robert Llewellyn
- Holly - Norman Lovett
- Kristine Kochanski - Chloë Annett
- Captain Hollister - Mac McDonald
- Writer/Director - Doug Naylor
- Executive Producer - Charles Armitage
- Producer - Joseph D'Morais
- Editor - Mark Wybourn
- Production Designer - Michael Rumpf
- Costume Designer - Howard Burden
- Visual Effects Supervisor - Mike Seymour
- Casting Director - Linda Glover
According to several sources, including The Red Dwarf Zone, at the beginning of the movie Lister and the crew of the Red Dwarf finally reach Earth and find that a new species of humans, the Homo sapienoids, a fearsome cyborg race, has taken over the Solar System and almost made Homo sapiens extinct. The only humans in the universe are the ones on freighters that left the solar system before the war began, freighters such as Red Dwarf. Now, the Sapenoids are set to finish the job of exterminating humankind.
Film Spot's description of the movie read:
- 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...
It was expected that the movie would resolve the cliffhanger ending of Series VIII finale episode "Only the Good...". In the end the series was continued with the Back to Earth mini-series, which many fans still believed did not fully answer their questions regarding the cliffhanger. Yet more information as to what happened was said to be stated in Series X, but its only appearance was in the finale, "The Beginning", and only proved to use the idea as a running gag.
There were some movie details that leaked out:
- The Red Dwarf ship would be the re-mastered version and not a model.
- Hologramatic Rimmer would make a comeback, probably with the death of the resurrected version of Rimmer.
- Starbug and the skutters would make an appearance.
Doug Naylor's Statement
During Dimension Jump 2004, Naylor sent a statement to the fans which summarized the movie's status up to that point. The statement reads:
July 2004 Here is a statement from Doug Naylor made at the recent Dimension Jump conference, which best summarises the latest position regarding the movie.
- Hi everyone,
- I'd really like to say how truly sorry I am not to be with you this weekend but sadly I can't. The truth is I'm absolutely thrilled, I couldn't be happier - and not because I won't have to eat the Moat House fried breakfast, but because American funders are flying into the UK today to continue discussions we began at the Cannes Film Festival to fund the Red Dwarf movie. I fully expect that in a matter of a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, Red Dwarf the Movie finally will be green lit, and by early August I expect to be deep into pre-production in Australia.
- It's taken an age, I know, but I'm sure in the end, the struggle will be worth it. When I first embarked on this little adventure I was assured that a film company had guaranteed to put £10 million pounds into the movie which was then budgeted at £15 million. It's now a bit under that. Within seconds of me finishing the script, something that took nine months, the company's share price went through the floor and so did their money.
- We started again. A tax incentive EIS scheme was drawn up, something which took almost a year and cost legal fees into six figures. Contracts were signed, and then at the last minute the founders got cold feet and the scheme never happened. Our production team - which included Pat Carr who worked on Empire Strikes Back and two Indiana Jones movies and Alan Cameron, production designer of both Mummy movies and most recently Van Helsing - had to be disbanded.
- We started again. I visited Germany, Austria, Spain, I talked to people in Canada, France, Italy and New Zealand in the search for a home for the movie because the UK studios were full of American films and we could no longer afford to shoot there. Three years ago, two weeks before Christmas, I shook hands with a man who promised we would be in pre-production two weeks into the New Year. He was the Managing Director of the company and there seemed to be no stopping us. A few weeks into the New Year he called and said he'd spoken to his number two and they'd decided not to invest in the film. 'But I thought you were the Boss?' I said. 'I am but I have to do what my number two says,' he replied.
- A while after this we found a distributor - the guys who sell the movie around the world. They loved the project, they put the budget up, sold the film to Russia, Thailand, Australia, and Japan. Then their CEO left and the new guys came in. One of the new guys was the guy who'd had to do what his number two said. 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. We started again.
- We joined a UK funding body that was going to fund a whole slate of UK films - there was lots of press coverage, we were to be first out of the traps - a year later, despite representing most of the top UK Film Producers, they hadn't raised a cent. 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. They didn't think it would make any difference!
- Then one day we got a call from a guy who represented WETA, the guys who made Lord of the Rings, they wondered if they could do the special effects for the Red Dwarf movie. I said I doubted we could afford them. They said they were fans and would love to work on the project and could cut us a deal. For a time we talked about shooting in New Zealand in the Weta studios, because Peter Jackson was planning on taking a break after Return of the King. For a few short days it all looked good, then Peter decided not to take his sabbatical and go straight onto King Kong and another plan hit the dust.
- The Weta guys wished us well and recommended I check out Australia. I did - for almost two months, checking out locations, VFX houses, putting together yet another production team. Everything looked good apart from the fact we still didn't have the money in place. But it was coming. Another funder had shown us he had money and was happy to invest.
- Then I got a call from the UK. 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.
- He asked if we could meet. I said, 'Sure, how about tomorrow?' He said he was based in Melbourne and would fly up to see me in Queensland. Everything was set. Just before he put down the phone he asked if I could I pay his airfare and could he sleep in my apartment and incidentally he was the Duke of Manchester.
- Now, I come from Manchester, and I've never heard of the Duke of Manchester.
- Especially one who lives in Melbourne. I sarcastically called the GNP office and thanked them profusely for putting me in touch with his Dukeness. 'Thanks, guys,' I said, 'thank you so much. Incidentally, if Napoleon Boneparte calls put him straight through to my mobile.' Ten minutes later they called back. 'There is a Duke of Manchester and his family moved to Melbourne at the start of the 20th century.'
- We called the Duke back and asked for proof of his money in a very respectful way, of course. We asked if, maybe, we could speak to his bank manager. He said his bank manager was a really busy guy and he wasn't sure if he'd have time. We said, 'If you've got 60 million we reckon you're probably one of his favourite customers, aren't you? Certainly in the top five. We're sure he'll do anything to help you.' The Duke didn't sound so sure. Instead he suggested he send us a statement of his bank account. He faxed it through to us.
- Slowly, it came out of the fax machine, inch by agonising inch. 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.'
- Older and wiser we started again.
- Six months later once again it looked like we were funded using a tax incentive scheme but then overnight the Government changed the law. People have come and gone. At one point I got a rejection letter from Film on Four - then they went bust and all the Film on Four people lost their jobs. Then almost a year later, the person who had sent the rejection letter was put forward by our Australian co-partners, as a possible co-producer. Suddenly, she loved the script! Go figure.
- Now she's gone too, so have our original Australian contacts. The film has been rejected by many, many people, they usually say they think it's really funny but isn't what they're looking for right now, or ask us to recast the leads. BBC Films, the same BBC who rejected the original TV script three times, have rejected the film script twice, two versions - how much money has Red Dwarf made them? They said it wasn't what they were looking for. Don't they like hit movies?
- It's been rejected three times by the British Film Council. My favourite reason was when they told one of the Producers that they thought Red Dwarf the Movie was 'too commercial.' Let me repeat that - they rejected it because they thought it was too commercial. 'You'll get it made anyway you don't need our help,' they said. This from the people who brought you Sex Lives of the Potato Men, which they put nearly a million quid into, and that movie where the kid farts his way to the moon. Why did they put money into that? Maybe the readers' remarks simply said 'Fart Film' and they misread it and thought it said 'Art' Film.
- 'We're not in the business', they said, 'of helping people turn highly successful TV series into successful feature films.' And on and on it's gone. Countless rewrites, countless storyboards and screen tests, countless meetings with distributors and VFX companies and banks. Only last month I found myself negotiating with the Australian government to work out the qualifying Australian expenditure on the budget's tax offset to help raise ten percent of the budget and then a week later explaining the deal to a group of bankers. That isn't a typo.
- But now we're closer than we've ever been, ever. We really, really are.
- Now, I'd like to answer a list of fiendishly difficult questions that Andrew Ellard has compiled from emails he claims have been sent in to the website but quite honestly I think he's just made them up himself.
- Question No. 1 - When is Andrew Ellard going to get his own office with a really nice leather swivelly chair and personal masseuse - surely this is the least you can get him after yet another awesome year from his smoking computer? Did you guys really send that in? It's hard to believe.
- AE: We get these all the time he never believes me. Same with all the fan letters asking that I get a pay-rise. He thinks I write them.
- Question No. 2 - Is there going to be a film?
- You bet your ass there will.
- Question No. 3 - Red Dwarf's a big hit and makes loads of money, so how come you're not just using the millions in the Grant Naylor bank account to make the film?
- Only a relatively small percentage of what Red Dwarf generates goes to the production company. Take a DVD. WH Smiths or whoever the shop is gets about half, then there's manufacturing costs and distribution costs and marketing. And then there's the BBC, they take a massive chunk, and then there's the cast, who get too much, and the writers, who don't get enough, and the director, producer, etc. etc. If Grant Naylor had £14 million lying around in its bank account, believe me the movie would have been made by now and I'd be drinking a pina colada in the Bedford Moat House with you guys talking about plans for movie number two.
- Question No. 4 - Who's starring in the film if there is one?
- The British cast, smeghead!
- Five years ago a huge American film company, who are a household name, wanted to make the Red Dwarf movie and were prepared to put the money up so long as I agreed to an all-star American cast. For some insane reason I said, 'No.' 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.
- Question No 5 - What's the film going to show me that I haven't seen before in the TV series?
- Well, if it takes much longer Craig Charles in William Shatner's old corset and a Kryten with a zimmer frame! The truth is it will be a combination of the character comedy that is Red Dwarf's main strength and some big set pieces that will be funny and spectacular.
- Question No 6 - How come you're filming in Australia?
- We can't afford to shoot the movie in the UK and get the same production values that we will be able to get in Oz. Remember both The Matrix and the last Star Wars were made in Oz. Most Brit movies are shot on location in the UK and can't afford the expense of months of studio hire. Movies like Harry Potter aren't British movies, they're American movies, funded by American studios, with Brit actors in them, so they can afford to shoot in the UK studios because they're funded by the US. Red Dwarf is science fiction, so we need to build many of the sets, and therefore need several studios. That is much more affordable in Australia, plus they have locations out there which are very spectacular.
- Question No 7 - We hate CGI, sort of. Well, except Gollum, obviously. So will you be doing the special effects with good old wobbly models instead?
- We will be using both miniatures and CGI as most feature films do these days. Models for close-up and CG for backgrounds and less detailed stuff.
- Question No 8 - The film's taking forever - have you considered going back to the TV series?
- I'd love to go back to the TV series, but the movie wouldn't have got to the stage it has without my fulltime, or nearly-fulltime, commitment. Also, we can't accept a commission to do a TV series if we're on the brink of getting the movie off the ground any moment and that's how it's appeared for some time now.
- Question No 9 - Why won't you do DVD commentaries?
- I didn't know anyone wanted me to!
- Question No 10 - Why does Rob Grant refuse to be involved in the DVDs?
- He always says he might do them, but then it never happens. I don't really know why.
- Question No 11 - Why don't you come to conventions anymore?
- Last year I was in Australia trying to get the film off the ground, and this weekend I've told you about.
- Well, that's about it. Have a great convention - and I hope I won't see you next year either, because I hope I'll be in Australia in the middle of post-production on Red Dwarf the Movie. But the year after that I'll be there as sure as eggs is hen periods.
- Thanks for all your support. Keep smegging.
- Best wishes, Doug Naylor.
In February 2018, Doug Naylor, in an interview with WhatCulture, suggested production of a movie was being considered once more. "The order will probably be another TV series, a stage show and possibly a movie, and I think the guys agree on that."
He added, "The film is a long shot at this point just because it can take so long to get funding. While people are happy for us to make TV series and stage shows, and the money is there for us to do it, obviously we'll do those things since they're guaranteed."
- According to the BBC documentary series Comedy Connections, when Doug Naylor was still trying to sell the movie idea to studios, he rejected one studio's offer because they wanted to re-cast the movie with British film stars. To quote Doug, the studio asked him "Why not have Hugh Grant as Lister? And what's Emma Thompson doing these days?" According to Doug, he then walked out of the meeting.
- A man claiming to be the "Duke of Manchester" phoned Naylor and offered to help fund the movie, claiming he had £60 million available to give Naylor to help fund the film's production. Naylor asked to speak with the "Duke's" bank manager, the "Duke" declined. Eventually, the "Duke" faxed Naylor a bank statement showing an account holding 100 million U.S. dollars; Naylor didn't buy it and described it as “completely faked of course." The "Duke" later attempted to convince Naylor by having a "famous Australian actress" phone him, but the gig was up and Naylor cut-off communication.