For the period sports drama The Boys in the Boat, based on the true story of an underdog rowing team that went on to compete in the 1936 Olympics, star Callum Turner and his castmates got in “incredible shape,” as Turner tells Consequence. In fact, the production schedule allowed for the races featured in the George Clooney-directed film to be shot chronologically — meaning that for the final sequence, Turner and the other actors could actually come close to mimicking the Olympic-level achievement of the University of Washington crew.
“The idea which was great, from George and [producer Grant Heslov],” Turner says, “was that at the beginning, we weren’t going to be that good. But give us an extra two months, and we can race — obviously not as well as the professional rowers, but we could give it a go, and at least look like we knew what we were doing.”
Turner, alongside the other seven actors playing the rowing team, trained hard throughout production, and by the time they shot the climatic Olympic race, they were able to actually match the reported rhythm of the original team… for at least a little bit. “The actual boat got to 46 strokes per minute, which was unprecedented in those old wooden boats — and they did it for like five minutes straight,” Turner says. “We did it for probably about a minute or 90 seconds.”
The Boys in the Boat cast might not have been able to beat the original rowing team in a head-to-head race, but even reaching that level is still a remarkable achievement — especially when you consider that, as Turner says, “none of us had ever stepped foot in a boat before in our lives.”
Adds Turner, “It was an up-and-down process. We’re all individuals, but we’re a boat. So sometimes I would learn certain things quicker than the others and vice versa, but really we were going in this direction and then somehow… We don’t even know how it happened. We were just like, wow, we can do this. Reaching 46 strokes per minute in a way that was sustainable — not just in short bursts, but for a sustained period of time — there was this feeling of euphoria, from knowing where we came from. It was a beautiful moment.”
Turner’s preparation for The Boys in the Boat extended well beyond just rowing, as he was playing a real-life figure with a complex backstory. What helped Turner unlock his understanding of Joe Rantz was “the pain that Joe had to go through as a young boy.” Rantz’s entire childhood was a traumatic one, as Turner recounts, from “being put into the workhouse to earn his keep at eight years old” to being abandoned by his father and stepmother at the age of 13.