Ahead of the release of British-comedy Swimming with Men this weekend, The Hollywood News caught up with one of the film’s leading men Thomas Turgoose at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival to chat about all things swimming, British humour and more.
I had the opportunity to sit down with This is England star Turgoose to discuss his forthcoming starring role in Oliver Parker’s upcoming film; we talked about synchronised swimming, on-set camaraderie, working with such an esteemed comic cast and so much more.
I just wanted to begin by asking how your involvement in the project came about and what it was about this screenplay that enticed you in, especially because it’s a very different role from what we’ve sort of seen you do before?
Yeah. I mean, that was one of the major things – it was totally different. But, I mean, it was the normal process; I got an email from my agent, went to London for a meeting with Oli Parker and we just chat about swimming in general, whether I can do it, whether I’ve ever been interested in synchronised swimming which, surprisingly not. But yeah, it was just the sort of, like, just the sheer randomness of the whole story that attracted me to it. And the heart as well, which is in the script. And obviously the characters, which are all brilliant, which are portrayed by some of the best actors in Britain, who I’m just honoured to be on the same poster as. For me as well, because of the nature of how I was brought into the industry, it was something that I never ever thought that I’d be on a set with Danny Mays or even be friends with him, we’re good friends now… So, yeah, just the whole heart, the characters, and the randomness of it yeah.
And something I particularly loved about this film is that, despite how far removed the whole synchronised swimming thing is from most of us, I loved that there was still this sense of relatability to it and the characters in it. Is that important as an actor, to kind of have that way in as an access point for you and your character Tom in this regard?
Yeah… Yeah. It was… I mean the heart of the story is this group of friends. And we all know – we’ve all got big groups of friends – we all know that we’ll all do anything for each other, we’re always there. And no matter whether you’re playing football or synchronised swimming or wakeboarding or anything, I think that’s definitely the… The premise of it is the friendships which is massively important. But going on to set as well and meeting Daniel Mays and Jim and Rupert and everybody, we just go on so well. Really quickly. Which was massively important. And we trained together and spent a lot of time off-set together. And you need to trust people as well. Especially with synchronised swimming, you need to trust people. And I think that’s a major factor of it as well, is the trust we all had with each other.
And, I mean, you mention the synchronised swimming and it’s a big part of the film. What sort of preparation did you undergo to get yourself ready for that?
So when I first met Oli, he asked me if I could swim and I said “of course”. It turns out I couldn’t swim as well as I thought. I had a big problem with my breaststroke. I had, what we call, a screw-kick so instead of my legs going out like a frog like they should, one of them went out and one of kicked normally so I wasn’t a very strong swimmer.
Ah, yeah. That’s one of the hardest strokes to do.
Yeah, exactly. To get a good rhythm. So I had to have some training lessons in Grimsby. So I was in my local swimming pool, whilst everyone else was doing their thing, sort of getting taught how to swim at 26 years old. So that was sort of… so from day 1, I sort of struggled- not struggled with the swimming because I enjoyed learning more. And then we went to London and we had two weeks of 4 to 5 hours a day working with, the people that taught us are a company called Aquabatics who just absolutely sorted us out. They worked really hard, above and beyond, they gave us homework so, yeah, we were sort of swimming for 5 hours a day for two weeks.
That sounds like it must have been quite intense then!
It was. It was difficult but, like, for me, it sent me to the peak of my physical fitness. Now I exercise a lot whereas I never did; I eat properly and I love swimming now, I go swimming a lot more now. I’ve got a pool at the gym so I’m always in there more, but I might just have a couple of weeks off when this comes out so I’ll probably get a bit of stick!
Well, that brings me on to my next question. Did you know much about synchronised swimming going into this?
What sort of research and preparation did you do, aside from the physical aspect of it?
I mean, I didn’t know anything about synchronised swimming. I mean, obviously I knew what it was. But I never really had an interest in synchronised swimming. The film is based on a documentary so we watched the documentary, met the guys, spoke to them about why they do it, and that was sort of the whole process from the beginning – based it off of the documentary.
And at the heart of this film is the friendship between everyone on this team and I was wondering what that camaraderie was like on-set and how quickly that chemistry came. Because there’s also a lot of British comedic giants on this film so what it was like working with them all and just, sort of, I suppose, being on that set.
Well, as I say, going back to working with Adeel and Danny, it was brilliant. For me, as an experience as Thomo the Kid from Grimsby, working with these people was like “jesus”. It was mind blowing for me. To work with these people, and get on with them so well, it was a win-win. And I think that’s such an important thing. I know when we do- when we worked on all of This is England, This is England 86, 88 and 90, we are so close off-screen and that’s so important, to have that when the cameras aren’t rolling. Because you can tell when something’s fake. And hopefully, I’ve not seen the film yet, tonight is the first time, so hopefully that sort of chemistry, the fact we bonded together, really shows on-screen and we are real friends, you know.
It definitely does. It’s a great film.
Oh, thank you so much.
And, of course, it’s a comedy so it’s a hilarious film. I was wondering, when you’re in that moment, acting that comedy, was it tough to keep it cool?
Yeah. I mean, with, again, I keep mentioning Adeel but he’s one of the funniest men I’ve ever met, he doesn’t have to anything and he’s funny, it’s hard to sort of, when you’ve got a bit of a serious scene… I know there was one where we were filming at the outside lido, and Danny Mays as well, there was one scene that sticks out in my head, when we’ve done the performance outside at the kids party, there’s a brilliant scene where Danny is talking about he used to play in the FA Cup, but trying to keep a straight face whilst Danny is doing that was difficult. We held it together but, yeah, I hope that on-set comedy shows on-screen.
Of course, the film is getting its UK premiere tonight and you’ve not seen it yourself. I imagine you’re quite excited to see it. But what are you sort of hoping audiences will takeaway from the experience not just tonight but when it releases later this month too.
Well, I was just saying in a previous interview there, when you go the cinema and watch something like Transformers or Jurassic World, you’re sort of taken aback by that and it blows your mind because of all the visual effects. That’s not what’s going to happen with this film. You’re going to go in and sit down with your Nana or your grandkids or your kids and you’ll watch it and walk out the cinema and go “do you know what? That was a lovely film”. Yeah, it’s not going to be a mind blowing film. But it’s going to be a nice, different British film, kind of like Full Monty and, at the end, you’re cheering the guys on and it’s sort of a sigh of relief at the end. But, as I’ve said, I’ve not seen it and neither has my fiancée so we’re excited to see it tonight.
And finally, I just wanted to ask you, in essence, there is sort of a sports movie feel to Swimming with and I was just wondering what some of your favourite sports film are?
It’s funny because I was talking about this yesterday actually. So, I’ve been filming at the moment in Hartlepool, so on the North East Coast, where Goal was filmed. Do you remember Goal?
Yeah, I loved those films!
Yeah, Goal 1 and 2 with Santiago Munez. So, that, growing up watching those films was amazing. Everyone wanted to play for Real Madrid. So that was a brilliant film. What other sports films are there?… God, none at the top of my head. Just Goal. That really sticks with me… And, again, that’s a feel-good film. You know at the end when he signs for Newcastle and he scores, it’s brilliant. And that’s uplifting towards the end. And hopefully that’s what Swimming with Men is going to do.
Well, that’ll do it. Thank you so much. I enjoyed the film and chatting to you. And I hope you enjoy watching the film tonight!
Cheers mate, I hope so too!