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Shekhar Kapur at Cannes in May 2010. (Lionel Cironneau/AP Images)

George Mallory, the British mountain climber who died in 1924 under mysterious circumstances while trying to conquer Everest, is to be the subject of a new film with a British cast.

Acclaimed filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, who directed two Queen Elizabeth I biopics, both starring Cate Blanchett, confirmed the Mallory film is still going ahead despite delays.

Speaking in New York, where he attended the South Asian International Film Festival, the director gave no details on the cast — but mentioned he hopes to start shooting next year.

The remains of Mallory’s well-preserved frozen body were discovered close to the summit of Everest in 1999.

Some believe he died on his way down from a victorious climb to the peak.

If that were true, then Mallory, not Sir Edmund Hillary, should be in the history books as the first man to have conquered Everest.

The director sees the framing of the tale presented in the new movie as a triangular love story between Mallory, Mount Everest and the famed climber’s family.


“He became one with the mountain, and the mountain represented to him a search for his own self,” Kapur told me. “So it’s a spiritual love story slant.”

The film seems quite different from the historical dramas the director has made.  But he sees the Mallory project as having something in common with his previous Elizabeth films.

“It’s still a story of the conquest of the spirit,” Kapur says.

The director concedes it’s proving to be quite a challenge to get the project off the ground. “It’s a big film,” he says of the movie he’s aiming to make, while he acknowledges that he’s working in the realm of independent cinema.

If the backing falls into place, he maintains he won’t be able to shoot the Everest section of the film in the winter, so the location work would take place during the warmer months from May to September.

The Mallory project is one of two films he’s working on. The other is a sci-fi picture called Paani, co-produced by Danny Boyle, about a world in which there’s an extreme water shortage.

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By Tom Brook