Monday, 18 June 2012

"Bert and Dickie" - Matt Smith: The Rowing Gets Tough

More from this morning's press launch as Vicky Frost from The Guardian posts another article about the Olympic drama:

Spam salad, homemade shorts and billeted spare rooms – the BBC's tale of British Olympic rowers Bert Bushnell and Richard "Dickie" Burnell is a far cry from the branded tracksuits, athletes' village and nutritionally balanced diets of London 2012.

The story of how a mismatched pair brought together at the last moment triumphed against the odds to win gold in the double scull at the 1948 London "austerity Games" is a reminder of what the event is really about, said the drama's writer, William Ivory.

"It's interesting that there are so many parallels really; the austerity of then and the austerity of now. Personally I'm hoping [the 2012 Games] will do a similar job – there will be a similar coming together of people and a uniting of spirit," he said.

The BBC1 drama stars Doctor Who's Matt Smith and Sam Hoare as the titular Bert and Dickie, with the pair almost literally thrown in the deep end as they tried to conquer the basics of sculling in just one week.

"It was a crash course really. I think I fell in three times at least – and we definitely fell in once in front of the camera crew, which was mildly embarrassing," said Hoare at a screening of the show on Monday.

Smith added: "Just even to stay in the boat is a very hard skill because it's all about balance, which is what the film is about – if you're not a team then you're dead.

"The moment one of you tips you're dead and buried, or the moment one of you breaks the rhythm of the stroke then you've lost a length, two lengths. Me and Sam had to really develop on all of those ideas."

The Doctor Who star, who recently served as a torch bearer for the 2012 Games, said that training was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process, but it did require determination. "Even to get halfway down the course is terribly hard," he said.

And having trained alongside some of this summer's Team GB rowing hopefuls, the pair are now desperate to watch them. "If ever there was an opportunity, me and Sam would love to go to the rowing!" said Smith, ruing his lack of tickets for the event.

The film paints a fascinating picture of a ruined postwar Britain in which London was still peppered with bomb sites and the population – and athletes – were still rationed to one egg a week, desperately trying to put on an event it could ill afford.

With no money to kit out the British team, athletes' mothers and wives sewed their shorts by hand, competitors cycled home after competitions and etching and poetry were introduced as cheap Olympic categories to replace more costly events.

The drama was filmed last summer, in a break in filming for Doctor Who, which takes up Smith's time for nine months a year. And this Doctor says he has no intentions of regenerating just yet.

"I am loving making it, I think we have one of the strongest seasons yet coming up, I really do. We go into the 50th year all guns blazing and I'll be around," said Smith, joking that he wanted to continue in the role "Forever! For 50 years!"

Bert & Dickie will broadcast on BBC1 in mid-July