When a film is plagued by floods, car crashes and Maori curses, any other Director would abandon the project. However, New Zealand Director, Vincent Ward held steadfast to the purpose of completing the film. River Queen is the result of Vincent Ward's return to the New Zealand film industry after fifteen years.
Inspired by his own experience of living with a Maori community and the legendary "Doctor Annie" (Ann Evans, a real-life healer during the Crimean war), River Queen's central protagonist is an Irish medic, Sarah O'Brien (SAMANTHA MORTON).
Her son, aptly named "Boy" (RAWIRI PENE), is kidnapped by his Maori grandfather. Once confronted, the kidnappers promise to reunite Sarah O'Brien with her son, provided she first heals one of their chiefs, Te Kai Po (TEMUERA MORRISON).
O'Brien complies and is reunited with Boy. However, Boy has lived with the Maori tribe for several years. Sarah is shocked to discover that he has grown hostile to the European advance in New Zealand. And to further compromise their position in the growing conflicts, the tribal leader whose life she saved, is now about to declare war on the British.
- In late-October 2004, 2/3rds of the way through filming, Vincent Ward was removed from directing the film by the Producers and replaced by his Cinematographer, Alun Bollinger. Ward returned to the project when filming was completed, to edit the project.
- Production on the film was halted for several weeks after the leading actress, Samantha Morton, became sick.
- Sam Neill was originally favoured by Vincent Ward to be cast in a leading role, but Neill declined the offer.
- Wetsuits were specifically designed to fit under the actors' costumes because weather conditions were so cold while filming in the river.
- The opening and closing scenes of River Queen were filmed as "pickup" shots during editing in London. Vincent Ward filmed the shots by himself in the River Thames.