Nancy Wake: The White Mouse
Wellington-born Nancy Wake (1912-20011) was a wartime agent, commander and famously blunt raconteur who led a life of extreme adventure in the French resistance. She earned the nickname White Mouse when she hit the top of the Gestapo's 'most wanted' list, but famously slipped through their net.
Featuring Shortland Street star Rachael Blampied as Nancy, this gripping 90 minute docu-drama was funded by NZ On Air's Platinum Fund and saw the production crew making the most of local and national locations to recreate WWII France.
"If you love a ripping yarn, with a fair bit of danger, and a bit of sexy love-story, it's perfect television really," describes producer Gary Scott.
"From the very beginning, people were asking, even though the character is a Kiwi, 'how are you going to manage a French look and feel, from the 40s?'" But Scott says the production was "blessed with really amazing locations in our own town [Wellington] and Central Otago in the autumn, to make that happen. It's pretty stunning."
Filming locations in the capital included Parliament buildings and the Wellesley Hotel, backdrops for European city scenes where Wake met her rich Marseilles husband and reported on Nazi rallies.
"I think the filming day that made me most nervous was whipping a Jewish man tied to a cart wheel in Parliament grounds, then hanging a huge Nazi flag from the front of the General Assembly Library. I expected a bit of negative feedback, to be honest, but it was a Sunday with not many people 'round so we got away with it."
As a hunted resistance courier, Wake was forced to flee from occupied France in 1943, leaving her husband Henri Fiocca behind. She embarked on a life of excitement and danger as an agent in Churchill's secret army, the Special Operations Executive.
"Meanwhile her husband is also risking his own life in Marseille to cover her trail" says Scott.
"So this is quite a dramatic real-life love story, combined with a personal documentary that includes candid stories told by some of Nancy's closest friends and confidants from her twilight years."
The programme includes an interview with her biographer, rugby commentator and former Wallaby, Peter Fitzsimons. As well as friend and ex-TV 3 reporter, Jonathan Kinsella.
"Jonathan befriended Nancy partly because of a short documentary episode we did on her for the 'Kiwis At War' series. He was living in London and we sent him to interview her in her retirement home. On the condition that he take a bottle of gin. He managed to be three hours late, not his fault, but then spilt tonic all over her. Good start to a freindship really."
"Her feminine charm is a pretty constant theme of how people describe her. She was bawdy and saucy, and utterly self assured. I wish I had met her myself."