By Brendan Swift

Peter Weir’s war epic The Way Back will have its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival tomorrow ahead of its January 21 release in the US.

The legendary Australian director, who has been nominated for six Academy Awards, will be honoured with a tribute at the festival ahead of the premiere.

The Way Back, partly inspired by Slavomir Rawicz's acclaimed novel The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom, chronicles the escape of a small group of multi-national prisoners from a Siberian gulag in 1940 and their epic journey over thousands of miles across five hostile countries. It stars Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong and Colin Farrell.

While the film was shot overseas, Weir brought the film back to Australia where several local companies have been involved in post-production including Deluxe, Soundfirm and RSP.

Weir first came to prominence in 1981 when he won an Australian Film Institute award for the war classic Gallipoli. Two years later he directed The Year of Living Dangerously, which was screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and grossed more than $US10.2 million at the North American box office.

His first US film was Witness, starring Harrison Ford, about a cop recovering from his injuries in an Amish community. It delivered Weir his first Academy Award nomination.

He re-teamed with Ford for Mosquito Coast before directing the Robin Williams-hit Dead Poets Society, which earned him his second Oscar nomination.

Weir subsequently went on to write and direct the romantic comedy Green Card, starring Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell, which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Comedy and received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

He then directed Fearless, starring Jeff Bridges, before overseeing the Jim Carrey-hit The Truman Show, which earned Weir his third Best Director Oscar nomination and a Best Picture nod.

It was five years before Weir directed his next film, the Russell Crowe naval epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World in 2003, which received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director for Weir. 

The Way Back is the first Exclusive Films’ production to be distributed through the independent film studio’s subsidiary Newmarket Films. (National Geographic Entertainment and Imagenation Abu Dhabi are co-producers.)

Newmarket Films was created to theatrically release Christopher Nolan’s Memento – Newmarket’s first production – in 2000. The business was acquired by Exclusive Media Group in December 2009.

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