The Boys in the Boat is the uplifting true story of the University of Washington men’s rowing team, who won gold at the 1936 Munich Summer Olympics. Adapted from the bestselling novel by Daniel James Brown, George Clooney directs an old-fashioned Hollywood film with classic inspirational themes. The boys, poverty-stricken students in the wake of The Great Depression, stunned elite competition and the world with their indomitable spirit and athletic prowess.
Callum Turner stars as Joe Rantz. Abandoned by his father at age 13, he raised himself, struggled to pay tuition, and lived in an old car. Joe joins the team because it came with employment and a room in student housing. He reconnects with Joyce Simdars (Hadley Robinson), an old friend from grade school. They begin a sweet romance that blossoms into a lifelong love affair.
Turner jokes that working with George Clooney “was a nightmare.” He treasured the experience, where “every day was just the nicest I’ve ever had.” Turner continues that Clooney “actually ruined the experience of making movies with anyone else because this one was so much fun.” It’s a sentiment echoed by Robinson: “It’s true. We had a great time.” The film’s rowing scenes were physically demanding. Turner calls them “excruciating” and “rowing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.” He “realized how special the experience was” when they achieved “the target of reaching 46 rows per minute at the beginning of our training.” Callum proudly remembers “euphoria in the bowl” and “being part of a team. I’m very blessed for that.”
The Boys in the Boat will make hearts flutter with their beautiful first kiss at a train station. Robinson comments, “It feels pretty old school Hollywood, very big and romantic, a true love story of these two people who met in a really dark time in history. I think that’s why victory feels so good.” But the actual shoot was quite difficult according to Turner: “That day was wild because that was the beginning of our COVID outbreak. We saw one part of that kiss one day, and then we had to go back to finish the kiss. We had like a three-week break between the wide and the close up.” Read on for our complete interview with Callum Turner and Hadley Robinson, and watch our exclusive video above.
A Good Time On Set with George Clooney
MovieWeb: What was it like being directed by George Clooney?
Callum Turner: It was a nightmare man. Every day was just the nicest I’ve ever had. He’s actually ruined the experience of making movies with anyone else because this one was so much fun.
Hadley Robinson: It’s true.
Callum Turner: People warned me, they were like, listen, if you’re going to work with him, you’re going to have a good time.
Hadley Robinson: We had a great time.
MW: This is such a physical role, Callum. Talk about those epic rowing scenes. How difficult were they?
Callum Turner: Yeah, excruciating actually. Rowing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Not only was it me learning how to row, it was eight other guys too. I’m rereading the book now. I realized how special the experience was. What we achieved. We set out the target of reaching 46 rows per minute at the beginning of our training, which we did for five months, [and] went up and down, and round and round. That target seemed elusive. It felt like we were never going to get there. The closer we got to finishing the film, the further it fell.
Callum Turner: Then, the second to last day of shooting, we did the Berlin race, the final, and we got to 46. There was this euphoria in the boat, and also this shock, because we actually achieved the things we wanted to achieve. That brings this bond created between us ‘boys in the boat’ forever. They talk about that in the book. I really felt like I understood it. I felt teamwork, being part of a team, and making friends. We have something that I’ve never really had before. I’m very blessed for that.
A Beautiful Love Story
MW: Hadley, you have this scene on the train. My girlfriend wept watching because it gives Joe something to fight for besides rowing victory. Talk about shooting that specifically. It’s a beautiful old-fashioned love story, something you never really see in Hollywood anymore.
Hadley Robinson: It feels pretty old school Hollywood, very big and romantic. I think that’s why victory feels so good, when we’re doing it for someone or something, and the fact that they have this really special bond. It’s just another reason to go win. It’s a beautiful love story. And it’s based on a true love story of these two people who met in a really dark time in history, when they were just kids. They’re both going through struggles on their own, in their personal lives, and they come together and build something really beautiful. They build this foundation of trust. We get to just watch them grow. I love that scene.
Callum Turner: That day was wild because that was the beginning of our COVID outbreak. It was right at the beginning of the shoot. We saw one part of that kiss one day, and then we had to go back, you remember, to finish the kiss. We had like a three-week break between the wide and the close up. I love that because it’s leaning into the idea of old school Hollywood nostalgia we don’t see anymore. That was a clear intention from George. It’s how he designed it, how Mark [L. Smith, screenwriter] wrote it, and Alexander [Desplat] scored. I just love that.
MW: What were the best and worst days making The Boys in the Boat?
Hadley Robinson: I say no bad days. I don’t know, maybe when some people got COVID, but even then, spirits were high. I think the best day was probably when I got to be in the boat for one day of shooting. It was really fun being on the water and getting to sort of experience just a little bit what all the other guys are doing every day.
Callum Turner: By the way, that experience she’s talking about is 12 at night, with the storm coming in, wind coming up, and light rain as we try and be super romantic with each other. And George, on a speedboat, drifting away, coming close to the camera, and going off into the darkness. We didn’t really know what was going on for a couple of hours.
The Boys in the Boat is currently in theaters from Amazon MGM Studios.
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