On the Beach (2000 film)

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On the Beach
On The Beach (2000).jpg
DVD cover
Format Science fiction
Distributed by Showtime Networks
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Produced by John Edwards
Written by John Paxton (1959 screenplay)
David Williamson and Bill Kerby (teleplay)
Starring Armand Assante
Bryan Brown
Rachel Ward
Grant Bowler
Jacqueline McKenzie
Steve Bastoni
Music by Christopher Gordon
Cinematography Martin McGrath
Editing by Mark Perry
Production company Australian Film Commission
Coote Hayes Productions
Edwards/Sullivan Productions
Southern Star Entertainment
Country United States
Language English
Release date
  • May 28, 2000 (2000-05-28)
Running time 195 minutes

On the Beach is a 2000 apocalyptic made-for-television film directed by Russell Mulcahy and starring Armand Assante, Bryan Brown and Rachel Ward.[1] It was originally aired on Showtime.[2]

The remake of the 1959 film, was also based on the 1957 novel by Nevil Shute [Note 1] but updates the setting of the story to the film's then-future of 2006, starting with placing the crew on the fictional Los Angeles-class USS Charleston (SSN-704) submarine.[4][Note 2])


The USS Charleston (SSN-704), a 688i variant of the Los Angeles-class, is equipped with a caterpillar drive and is on station following a nuclear exchange. The nuclear war was preceded by a standoff between the United States and China, after the latter blockaded and later invaded Taiwan. The submarine crew finds refuge in Melbourne, Australia where the radioactive fallout has not yet reached the area.

When Commander Dwight Towers (Armand Assante), Australian scientist Julian Osborne (Bryan Brown) and Australian liaison officer Peter Holmes (Grant Bowler) find out there is an automated digital broadcast coming from Alaska in the Northern Hemisphere, the submarine is sent to investigate. The submarine surfaces in San Francisco, where the Golden Gate Bridge has collapsed and the city shoreline is in ruins.

No trace of survivors is found on their mission, and after the unsuccessful attempt to trace the messages, Towers returns to Melbourne where Moira Davidson (Rachel Ward) is waiting for him. Realizing the inevitable nuclear cloud will reach Australia, their impending doom begins to unravel the social fabric of the survivors in Australia and anarchy and chaos erupt. Some choose to live their final weeks recklessly in a deadly car race, while others seek a more peaceful means. Holmes and his wife (Jacqueline McKenzie) seek solace in their love for each other as Towers and Moira decide to remain together till the end.


  • Armand Assante as Commander Dwight Towers
  • Rachel Ward as Moira Davidson
  • Bryan Brown as Dr. Julian Osborne
  • Jacqueline McKenzie as Mary Davidson Holmes
  • Grant Bowler as Lt. Peter Holmes
  • Allison Webber as Jenny Holmes
  • Tieghan Webber as Jenny Holmes
  • Steve Bastoni as First Officer Neil Hirsch
  • David Ross Paterson as Chief Wawrzeniak (credited as David Paterson)
  • Kevin Copeland as Sonarman Bobby Swain
  • Todd MacDonald as Radioman Giles
  • Joe Petruzzi as Lt. Tony Garcia
  • Craig Beamer as Crewman Reid
  • Jonathan Oldham as Crewman Parsons
  • Trent Huen as Crewman Samuel Huynh
  • Donni Frizzell as Crewman Rossi
  • Jonathan Stuart as Crewman Burns
  • Sam Loy as Seaman Sulman
  • Charlie Clausen as Seaman Byers
  • Robert Rabiah as Cook Gratino
  • Marc Carra as Cook Walmsey
  • Rod Mullinar as Admiral Jack Cunningham
  • Felicity Boyd as Lt. Ashton
  • Bill Hunter as Prime Minister Seaton
  • Charles "Bud" Tingwell as Professor Alan Nordstrum (credited as Charles Tingwell)


In On the Beach (2000), the Morse code signal picked up by the submarine crew in the original novel and film was updated to an automated digital broadcast powered by a solar-powered laptop computer. The film's picture of human behavior is darker and more pessimistic than in the original 1959 adaptation, where social order and manners do not collapse.[5]

A number of alterations from the book and original film adaptation are made, including a different ending differing from both the novel and film in that the submarine Commander chooses to die with his newfound love instead of scuttling the submarine beyond Australian territorial waters (as in the novel), or attempting to return with his crew to the United States (as in the earlier film). In On the Beach (2000), the Golden Gate Bridge has collapsed and the city shoreline is in ruins, indicating an adjacent nuclear detonation, as in the book, but not the first film version. The film ends with the reunion of Towers and Moira, while their implied suicides occurring offscreen, as did the original version of Moira in the first film. Unlike the first film, there is no final postmortem scene of deserted Melbourne streets and the absence of human life depicted.[4]

The film ends with a quote from a Walt Whitman's poem "On The Beach at Night", describing how frightening an approaching cloud bank seemed at night to the poet's child, blotting the stars out one by one, as the father and child stood on the beach on Massachusetts' North Shore.[6] [Note 3] As much as it resembles the plot of the movie and of Shute's novel, however, the book gives only an incidental reference to the Whitman poem,[3] and the phrase "on the beach" is a Royal Navy term that means "retired from the Service."[7]


On the Beach (2000) had mixed reviews because with its three-hour account of impending doom, reviewers considered it "slow going".[8] While some film reviewershave called the film one of the worst remakes ever, other reviewers, however, found some positives.[9] Richard Scheib, the Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review critic saw the film as benefiting from the lengthier timeline, "The mini-series certainly has the luxury to pad the story out and tell it with more length than the film did. As a result there is a greater degree of emotional resonance to the characters than the 1959 film had ... Mostly the mini-series works satisfyingly as a romantic drama, which it does reasonably depending on the extent to which one enjoys these things. Crucially though the mini-series does manage to work as science-fiction and Russell Mulcahy delivers some impressive images of the aftermath of the nuclear holocaust. There are some fine scenes with Armand Assante and the submarine crew walking through the ruins of Anchorage discovering how the people there committed suicide en masse, and some excellent digital effects during the periscope tour of the ruins of San Francisco."[10]

On the Beach (2000) received two Golden Globe award nominations and itself was nominated as Best Miniseries or Television Film. Rachel Ward was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television category for her role as Moira Davidson.[11]



  1. ^ The novel took its title from a fragment of T. S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men.[3]
  2. ^ There has never been a submarine named USS Charleston, and SSN-704 is named Baltimore.
  3. ^ "On the Beach at Night" states it is an 1871 poem; not to be confused with another Whitman poem "On the Beach at Night Alone".


  1. ^ King, Susan. "Together Again for Apocalypse 'On the Beach'; Rachel Ward and Bryan Brown team on screen for just the second time since marrying 17 years ago."Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2000, p. F1. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  2. ^ Moliltorisz, Sacha. "TV & Radio: On the Beach." The Sydney Morning Herald , April 19, 2007. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Shute 1957, p. verso.
  4. ^ a b Kronke, David. "'Beach': It's the End of the World As We Know It." Los Angeles Daily News, May 28, 2000. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  5. ^ Turegano, Preston. "Beach's passion doesn't run deep, as radioactive love boat founders." The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 28, 2000, p. TV3. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  6. ^ Whitman, Walt. "On the Beach at Night." portablepoetry.com. Retrieved: May 11, 2012. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  7. ^ "Royal Navy Diction & Slang." Hmsrichmond.org. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  8. ^ "'On the Beach' Revival is Slow Going Until the End." Akron Beacon Journal, May 28, 2000, p. F1. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  9. ^ Held, Richard. "Bad remakes." klat.com, March 11, 2013. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  10. ^ Scheib, Richard."On the Beach." moria.co. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.
  11. ^ "Golden Globes announce TV, film award nominees." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Associated Press), December 22, 2000, p. 8B. Retrieved: January 11, 2015.


  • Shute, Nevil. On The Beach. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1989, First edition 1957. ISBN 978-0-34531-148-1.

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