American Underdogs for the Holiday Season – ‘The Boys in the Boat’ Press Conference


HNS is thrilled to share that we attended a press conference for George Clooney’s new film, “The Boys in the Boat”. During this discussion, we heard from director George Clooney, producer Grant Heslov, and cast members Joel Edgerton, Callum Turner, and Hadley Robinson. 

Clooney decided to tell a new kind of story, one that highlights the sport of rowing. Clooney informed us that, “…We had to come up with a math to make the rowing energetic and exciting…”, which could be tricky combining the entertainment value of cinema with the true story of the rowers. 

Another important aspect of the story was the time period. The depression era was hitting hard, political tensions were rising around the world, and the Olympics were on the horizon. For the young men’s dynamic, Clooney and his team crafted a story that, “…out of necessity, out of hunger, out of having nothing else…put together a group of men who actually could be good enough to win the Olympics.” Each person on this team relied on the man next to them to do their job. 

Training for the film was a grueling experience. Callum Turner revealed that “we had to…learn a new skill…but then, also be in unison”, where Clooney added, “…they trained all together for almost, every single day for five months.” The cast members also had to endure frigid conditions during their preparations, requiring regular check ups from George and Grant. Turner explained that Joe Rantz’ character is what drew him to the role. “I just think it’s remarkable what he was able to achieve with his life. And I…wanted to represent him,” Turner revealed. 

Hadley Robinson acted adjacent to Turner, playing his wife. Robinson, who has performed in a lot of sports movies recently, explains how she, “…loves a period piece…this (being) a really interesting time in history.” She adds that, “…it’s like finding…the hope and the light within these people, even though they’re going through so much.” Joe and Joyce’s relationship helped anchor the emotional strength in the film. 

Joel Edgerton is the largest name in the cast, playing the coach who constructed this miracle. He explains how his character seemed to garner no pleasure out of his job. The character complexity is what drew him to the role. “I started to realize that behind the…angry, blustery, red faces, they’re often…just guys who care too much”, in reference to coaches like Al Ulbrickson. He emphasized the father figuredness of Ulbrickson, adding that he, “had so many coaches in (his life), who were just like tough dads.” Edgerton referenced the strong men he’s encountered in his life where, “they just put their hand on your shoulder…in a look or just one or two words can make you feel incredibly valued and…loved”. 

Production was also highlighted in the discussion. Producer Grant Heslov explained that all of the boats were built for the film. He explained that, “…these boats were made out of fiberglass to look like wood”. Clooney also shared that the crew was given, “an Olympic gold medal-winning coach” to assist with dieting and training for the actors. Keeping everyone in the right mindset and regiment was imperative to maintain detail in the film. 

But most of all, the film is meant to be one of inspiration and unity. An American underdog story that everyone can enjoy is something wonderful to experience, especially during the holidays. Heslov emphasized that it’s, “…a great message for right now in a very divided world we’re in, that we can all work together and…be one”. Maybe we can all look at the underdogs from The University of Washington and come together with friends and family this season. 

The Boys in the Boat opens worldwide in cinemas Christmas day.