English Boatbuilders are Building Boats for “The Boys” Movie

Boatbuilder Mark Edwards and his team working on the Leviathan at the Richmond Boathouse. This vessel and others will be featured in the movie The Boys in the Boat. Photo: Peter Williams

15 January 2022

By Göran R Buckhorn

HTBS has some news related to the upcoming movie, The Boys in the Boat. Boatbuilders at Richmond Boathouse in Richmond upon Thames, England, are working on wooden vessels for the movie.

For some time now, newspapers and magazines have written about the coming movie The Boys in the Boat, which is based on Daniel James Brown’s bestseller book with the same title. Brown was lucky to sell the film rights even before his book was released in 2013.

There has been a lot of back and forth about when the film is going to hit the big screen. This writer is eagerly awaiting the film together with other fans of Brown’s book – and there are many of us.

However, the articles published earlier this year have only rehashed old news, e.g. that British actor and director Kenneth Branagh was going to direct the movie, and then he was not; George Clooney had signed up to direct the film; and British actor Callum Turner was to play Joe Rantz, the “boy” in the 7-seat. All this and more, HTBS has written about on several occasions.

Seattle Times published another one of those “not-much-new-about-The-Boys-in-the-Boat-movie” articles on Wednesday, 12 January. Though, there was a little “news” as the article writer, Moira Macdonald, the newspaper’s arts critic, wrote that the shooting “may begin in England as early as this spring.”

Macdonald wrote that George Clooney is currently in Australia filming a comedy with Julia Roberts, Ticket to Paradise. That shoot is scheduled to end later this month. According to the piece in Seattle Times, Clooney said that the filming of The Boys in the Boat starts “right away” after that.

In the Seattle Times article, author Daniel James Brown, who is interviewed by Macdonald, said that he had heard from his agent that the shooting will start in April and most of it will be filmed in the UK.

This will of course be a great disappointment in the USA, especially for the many fans of “The Boys” on the west coast. The film crew “are not planning to do principal photography in Washington,” Murphy Gilson, creative director of University of Washington’s marketing and communications department, told Macdonald. Gilson was not even aware if there was going to be a second-unit filming in the Seattle area. “They don’t tell us much,” he said.

Boatbuilder Bill Colley in 2016. Photo: Tim Koch

However, HTBS is happy to give some exciting news about what is going on in England, in Richmond upon Thames to be exact, which is related to the making of the movie.

Peter Williams, who published a three-piece article with Sandy Nairne about Lord Desborough and the 1908 Olympic Games on HTBS last year (Part I, Part II, Part III), sent some photographs he took at Richmond Boathouse last week. There, boatbuilders Bill Colley and Mark Edwards and their colleagues are building wooden racing eights and the Leviathan, a training punt, for The Boys in the Boat movie. “Bill, aged 85, is probably Britain’s last builder of wooden racing boats,” Williams wrote to HTBS in an email. Williams continued: “This, of course, has echoes of George Pocock, who was born in Kingston upon Thames and started life as a boatbuilder in the UK before emigrating to Canada in 1911 – subsequently finding fame in the USA.”

Bill Colley and his team are working on building wooden eights for the movie The Boys in the Boat, which hopefully will begin shooting this spring. Photo: Peter Williams

While Bill Colley and his co-workers are building the eights with their skin in a beautiful red cedar in the Boathouse, Mark Edwards, the proprietor of the Boathouse, and his team are working outside on the Leviathan.

Mark Edwards and his crew of boatbuilders are working on the coaching punt the Leviathan. Photo: Peter Williams

Edwards is a well-known boatbuilder who, in 2004, built two replicas of the two boats used by Oxford and Cambridge in the first Boat Race in 1829. Former Oxbridge oarsmen where racing in these boats prior to the 2004 Boat Race. Edwards also built the beautiful 94-foot-long, 18-oared rowing barge Gloriana in 2011-2012. Gloriana led the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012 on the River Thames in London in celebration of Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

HTBS promises to come back with more articles as the watercraft progress at Richmond Boathouse.

13 comments

  1. More photographs of the eights being built,this may be the last chance to record this type of boat being constructed, soon this skill will be long forgotten.

    • Yes I did alert the local history office in Richmond but no reply!

      As to the other comment I used the term probably because I cant know who might still be building wooden racing eights . Be wonderful if there are active builders of such craft and perhaps HTBS readers know. Do tell

  2. I think that Carl Douglas would dispute the assertion by Peter Williams that Bill Colley is “probably Britain’s last builder of wooden racing boats”

  3. From Tim Koch:
    Bill Colley is the last British builder of traditional wooden racing boats made using the tortured ply process. Carl Douglas makes composite boats, Kevlar with an external wooden veneer. To quote my interview with Bill in 2016: “(Carl) is a good friend of mine… He cannot custom-build a boat to the same extent (as me) as his are made in a mould and are partially Kevlar reinforced. I mean no disrespect…”

  4. With all due respect, master boatbuilder Steve Chapin still manufactures Pocock wooden singles after Stan Pocock donated to Steve all of the parts and jigs as well as the building stocks and molds. He also repairs Pocock wooden quads and eights and is known worldwide. Steve was slated to work as a consultant on the film, I believe. But now that it’s all been moved to the UK, I don’t know what if any part he will play. https://www.facebook.com/groups/138324489528780

  5. If they’re building a replica UW barge it’s called “Old Nero”, not “Leviathan”. Go Huskies!

  6. If they’re building a replica UW barge it’s called “Old Nero”, not “Leviathan”. Go Huskies!

  7. Not filmed in Seattle? An undercurrent of the book is the tall strong sons of lumberjacks residing behind the Cascade mountains….

  8. The book was written to tell an incredible real story. I can’t wait to see it on film. Everyone will be engulphed in interest in the feat. How about some real scenes in Seattle, though.

  9. Thanks for the story about the building program, the book and movie, and the comments. I have been a sporadic follower of HTBS for some time now. I am a Naval Architect living in Perth, Western Australia, and am looking forward to further developments on these replica.

    My performance boat rowing was restricted to some exposure to the 8s while at school here (around 1950), and later delighting in the performance of single sculls some years ago here. However, most of my activity and and enthusiasm has been in the world of sail.

    I am currently developing both /materials and techniques for building flat pack boats from hemp fibre reinforced resin, The range will include 14 and 17 foot versions of the Herreshoff Rowboat – see my website http://www.hempfibreboats.com.au. Alas, boats are is still some way off release for production. I want to develop boats in the Venetian forward facing rowing (as the Sandolo) as I develop my techniques

    Peter Edmonds
    Perth Western Australia

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