A three-part horror film series starring the historic Queen Mary and its haunted history is set to begin filming in Long Beach and London in April.
The first movie, dubbed “The Queen Mary,” is slated to release at the end of 2021 or in early 2022, according to developer and producer Brett Tomberlin, co-founder of Imagination Design Works, one of the production companies involved with the project.
The series, which has been in development for about a decade, will examine the former ocean liner’s storied past—from its construction in the 1930s to its missions during World War II to the present day—with a focus on the myths and urban legends of it being one of the most haunted places on Earth.
Each of the three films will focus on specific time periods, Tomberlin said. Parts two and three will follow similar production schedules, meaning they will likely be released in early 2023 and 2024, respectively.
Dozens of deaths were reported aboard the ship during its 31 years in service, which have resulted in the formulation of an array ghost stories. Some include The White Lady, a specter seen by guests and workers alike floating at the end of the first-class lounge, John Pedder, a crewman crushed to death by the infamous door 13, and Little Jackie, one of numerous children who drowned in one of the ship’s swimming pools.
“What we really liked was the idea of the swimming pool being the [gateway] for crossing over into different time periods,” Tomberlin said. Utilizing the pool as a sort of portal, the film series will jump to different periods of the ship’s past, while remaining true to its history.
A driving force behind the story is the idea that the Queen Mary, not the Titanic, was the unsinkable ship, Tomberlin said. In 1942, while transporting over 16,000 U.S. troops across the Atlantic, the Queen was slammed by a rogue wave, tipping 52 degrees, only three degrees shy of capsizing. Additionally, all throughout the war Hitler’s various bounties and attempts to sink the ship proved futile.
“Throughout her whole history, this thing has been meant to go down and it keeps staying afloat,” Tomberlin said. “The horror aspect is that all the people that have died on the Queen Mary have stayed on the Queen Mary—almost like in purgatory—and that spiritual energy is what powers the ship through surviving all these incidents.
“When you encounter a bunch of people that have been stuck on a ship for a very long time looking for a way out, there’s a lot of desperation,” Tomberlin added.
While the film is being categorized as a horror movie, Tomberlin said it’s going to be an elevated, high-level film that does not rely on cheap thrills and is not reduced to a slasher flick. The film instead will explore the ship’s history through a suspenseful lens with some bloody accents.
“[The writers] really captured the essence of the Queen Mary, where it’s not just another haunted house tale,” Tomberlin said. “We have a good thriller component to it and approached the subject matter of this genre in a different way. It’s not just taking a tour … and one by one all the tour guests go missing, something we’ve seen over and over again.”
It took about five years of negotiations and “a fortune in legal fees” for the studios to acquire all the necessary agreements from various trademark holders, Tomberlin said, and another five years working with writers Stephen Oliver, Gary Shore and Tom Vaughan. Shore, who made his feature film debut with “Dracula Untold”—a box office success grossing over $217 million worldwide—is also directing the film.
But with all agreements in order, casting for the film is underway with the studio announcing Alice Eve (“Star Trek Into Darkness” and Marvel’s “Iron Fist”) Monday.
A portion of the filming will take place aboard the ship, with higher action scenes being filmed on a sound stage utilizing the same cutting-edge technology used to create “The Mandalorian.” The tech requires the Queen Mary to be fully scanned and digitally recreated to later be projected on screens behind and around the actors.
Tomberlin said mostly action sequences will be filmed on the soundstage to avoid damaging the historic ship. But establishing shots, deck shots and interiors for more docile scenes will be shot in Long Beach where the ship has been dry docked since 1967.
Dozens of TV shows and movies have filmed scenes aboard the ship, including “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Aviator” and “Pearl Harbor.”
Film entertainment company Rocket Science is financing the project, which has a budget that will likely land somewhere between $10.5 and $12.5 million, which is on the higher end for horror, Tomberlin said, noting many horror films come in right around the $6 million mark.
“We’ve seen the magic of what happened when James Cameron did ‘Titanic,’ and did ‘Titanic’ well,” Tomberlin said. “There’s another side of that with another majestic boat where we can tell a great haunted house horror story. It’s basically ‘The Shining’ on water.”