The Red Rose Crew is Hitting the Big Screen

16 May 2020

By Göran R Buckhorn

The biography The Red Rose Crew is going to be a movie. Göran R Buckhorn caught up with the author of the book, Dan Boyne.

Good news from the movie world. Sports Illustrated Studios, which was founded on 5 May this year, will make a movie based on Dan Boyne’s book The Red Rose Crew: A True Story of Women, Winning, and the Water, which was published in 2000 (in paperback in 2005), as its first feature film project.

The book is set in 1975, when a group of women tried to find international glory in Nottingham at the World Championships, which had opened up the year before for women. The crew was coached by the legendary Harry Parker, of Harvard University, who in the beginning had doubts that the tough training for rowers was anything for women. However, the women proved him wrong and went to the final in the eights where they took the silver medal. In the crew were: Anne Warner, Lynn Silliman, Nancy Storrs, Carie Graves, Claudia Schneider, Carol Brown, Wiki Royden, Chris Ernest and Gail Pierson. Four of them later took a bronze medal in the eights at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

Carie Graves stroked The Red Rose Crew.

HTBS asked Dan Boyne if he could remind our readers of how he came to write The Red Rose Crew.

‘To a large degree, I was recruited by the women in the boat. I was an aspiring writer, doing a profile of 7 seat Gail Pierson for the Head of the Charles program. Gail is an extremely accomplished former athlete and academic, but she is also very modest. She encouraged me to pursue the Red Rose Crew narrative as a bigger story/book, so I started interviewing everyone else in the boat,’ Boyne said. ‘With each personal story that the women shared, I started to get that tingling feeling you have when you hear something really special. At the same time, I also felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and responsibility to tell the story “right”.’

Boyne continued, ‘I still feel that way, which is why I’m glad to be involved with the film. It’s a sensational tale of nine amazing women, and I want the movie to be equally inspiring and true to life.’

The Red Rose Crew – left to right: Anne Warner, Lynn Silliman, Nancy Storrs, Carie Graves, Claudia Schneider, Carol Brown, Wiki Royden, Chris Ernest and Gail Pierson. Courtesy of Dan Boyne/Photo: Arthur Grace.

Sports Illustrated Studios is a joint venture between 101 Studios and Authentic Brands Group. It is David Glasser, of 101 Studios, who will produce, finance and distribute the film. Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and Lindsay Williams from Gotham Group and Alexis Ostrander and Zoë Kent of A to Z Productions will be executive producers. Ostrander, who is to direct the film, has directed episodes of Supergirl, American Horror Story and Servant. Laura Hansen will be adapting the story.

Director Alexis Ostrander

It was Ostrander and Hansen who brought The Red Rose Crew to 101 Studios. ‘There aren’t nearly enough stories celebrating women in sports and, for so many reasons, this feels like the perfect time to be inspired by the Red Rose Crew and everything they overcame,’ Hansen told media. ‘I’m so honored to help bring this pioneering, unconventional sisterhood to life with Alexis and the rest of our amazing team.’

‘I’m excited to be working with 101 Studios and have a partner that is championing such an empowering story,’ Ostrander told media. ‘I was drawn to this group of unsung heroes and how their struggles and triumphs still hold water today. Their camaraderie, perseverance and steadfast belief in themselves inspire me, and I can’t wait for the world to fall in love with them.’

‘We are thrilled to be able to tell this story. We chose for this film to be Sports Illustrated Studios’ inaugural release because at Sports Illustrated Studios, we are proud to bring to life the most compelling sports stories in history in ways that haven’t been seen before, and that’s exactly our mission with Red Rose Crew,’ said David Glasser, CEO of 101 Studios. ‘The Red Rose Crew’s journey is a remarkable one that many are unfamiliar with, and with a team of dynamic filmmakers, we look forward to allow audiences to see their tenacity and determination firsthand in theaters worldwide.’

Dan Boyne

HTBS caught up with Dan Boyne to ask him some questions about the film adaptation of The Red Rose Crew.

HTBS: Where did ‘The Red Rose Crew’ come from?

DB: Yes, the origins of the name, ‘The Red Rose Crew’, and the tradition of putting flowers in the women’s shoes before the race: it was actually not Harry who first did this but the coach of the women’s quad that year, Tom McKibbon, who in turn had adopted the custom from one of his athletes, Karen McClosky. She wrote to me about a year ago to set the record straight. She wrote:

‘It was me at the trials for the Pan Am Games in Syracuse in 1971. My coach, Tom McKibbon was racing in a double and I was at the boat staging area. There were many wild flowers and I picked two bunches and put them in the shoes before Tom went out to race. Tom then translated that to putting flowers (which became roses for important races) in our shoes. I don’t know who actually put the roses in the shoes of the women in The Red Rose Crew. But I was the one who started the tradition.’

Harry Parker coaching the crew. Courtesy of Dan Boyne/Photo: Arthur Grace.

HTBS: You were the rowing consultant for the movie The Social Network. How does it feel to now have one of your books adapted to a movie?

DB: I’ve been waiting awhile for this one, so naturally I’m quite excited. What’s more important is the great team that they’ve assembled to produce the film.

HTBS: Will you have an input when it comes to the script?

DB: Yes, but I’m not writing it. Screenplays are different than books, and I’ve never had much interest in trying to tackle the form. Plus, so much of it relies on the actresses and how they interpret the text, based on their roles.

HTBS: When will the shooting start?

DB: It was supposed to happen this summer, but then COVID-19 hit. Next summer is realistic, but I’m not the one who decides.

HTBS: Where will it be filmed?

DB: Excellent question. Hopefully Boston, Henley and Lake Dorney, where The Social Network was filmed. That would be the most authentic.

HTBS: Do you have a favourite actor whom you think should play Harry Parker? Or any female actors to play the women in the Red Rose Crew?

DB: They were talking about asking Kevin Costner for Parker. He did a good job in Hidden Figures, the recent film about the African American female mathematicians who worked for NASA during the space race. I think he might be a good choice, although Harry Parker was in his 40s during this story and Costner is now 65.

Gal Gadot too old to play Carie Graves?

On the women’s side of things, Gal Gadot could be very cool as Carie Graves, but again the age difference might be bit of stretch. Way back when, I know Gail [nee Pierson] Cromwell was hoping that Meryl Streep could take up her oars again and play her character. That won’t work now, but she did a wonderful job sculling in The River Wild.

You also have to teach the actresses how to row, as I did with Armie Hammer. That’s not easy to do well.

In a way, I think it might be more interesting to have a bunch of fresh faces who aren’t established stars yet try on these roles. They would be much like the women in the 1975 crew, when recruiting wasn’t in play and no one was really a ‘star’ in that boat.

HTBS: Will you make an appearance in the film, à la Alfred Hitchcock (where you will have a three-second scene)? After all, you have experience at this, after being an extra in the film Rowing Through (1996).

DB: Ha, ha. Sure, I’ll be a stake boat person.

HTBS: The film rights for your book about Jack Kelly has also been sold. Do you have any news to share when this film will be up on the big screen?

DB: No word on that one yet, which is also a fantastic rowing/sculling story about Philly in the old days. The Kelly book completely flew under the radar, and many rowers out there don’t even know it exists! Anyone that liked The Boys in the Boat should read it.

HTBS wishes Dan Boyne and The Red Rose Crew film team success with the movie!

3 comments

  1. I was curious to know who won the other medals in 1975, and found that the East Germans won Gold and Romania got Bronze. The secretive East German doping programme is now a matter of public record and so I wonder if the American ladies came second under unfair competition.

  2. Dear Teresa, I don’t know the answer to your question if the American crew lost because the East Germans had taken performance-enhancing drugs. However, if you are interested in this matter, you should read Hugh Matheson and Chris Dodd’s book “More Power” about the DDR coach Jurgen Grobler, who is now GB national coach. Read Tim Koch’s review of the book at: https://heartheboatsing.com/2018/07/31/schweinsdick-grobler/

    All the best, Göran

    • Thank you Göran for the link which I have read with interest. I guess we will not know the answer for sure.

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