Ahead of the release of British-comedy Swimming with Men this weekend, The Hollywood News caught up with the film’s leading man Rob Brydon 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 Brydon to discuss his upcoming leading role in Oliver Parker’s upcoming film; we talked about synchronised swimming, on-set camaraderie, Brydon’s upcoming role in Holmes and Watson and so much more.
I just wanted to begin by asking how your involvement in this project came about and what it was about this script that enticed you in?
Rob: Well, I was sent the script and I liked it instantly. I read it all the way to the end which is quite odd for me. And I was in theatre at the time and Stuart and Anna, the producers, came to see the play that I was in and came back afterward and we chat about it and I said yeah, I like it. I think they were still looking for finance then or finishing the financing, I forget now, and, you know, then it was the usual rickety-road of is it happening, is it not happening and then it happened and off we went. And I just, I thought it was a charming script and a lovely idea, a little bit different because of the synchronised swimming and I was up for it straight away.
And you talk about the synchronised swimming. It’s something that’s, sort of, very removed from our normal lives but what I loved about the film was this sense of relatability to the story and the characters. Is that important as an actor, to kind of have that way in, despite, again, the whole synchronised swimming element?
Yeah, you know, I thought the characters were all very clearly defined and believable and- because, of course, it’s a real thing which surprises people that, this middle-aged men synchronised swimming, it’s a real thing and there really is a World Championship. The reason I think a lot of them do it, certainly the reason our guys do it, is they’re looking for something; they’re looking for that communal, team thing and they’re supporting each other and they come to get away. As they say, very clearly in the film, we do it to get away from the world and everything that’s going on. They say, with a nod to Fight Club, the first rule of swim club is no one mentions, or talks about, swim club and their private lives remain private. They don’t ask questions about each other’s lives. They just come there. And there’s something quite touching, about seeing these men, with less than perfect physiques, reaching out and supporting each other physically, you know, holding on to ankles and necks and things; I’ve been surprised at the reaction, so many people have said to me “well, I knew it would be funny but I didn’t expect to cry as well” and it is, it’s rather moving.
Yeah, and I mean, you mention that. Again, another thing that I loved about this was its heart and the chemistry between these characters and I was wondering what it was like on-set, working with everyone and if that chemistry came quite quickly?
Yes! We all got on. I mean, some of us… I perhaps knew Jim a little bit but not much and Danny I met once. So, actually, we didn’t know each other. I had done a voice-over with Rupert about 20 years ago. Umm, but… Well, we bonded quite quickly because we had a 2-week training process for 3 hours a day in a pool. And that’ll bond you because you really are, if you’ll forgive the phrase, thrown in at the deep-end and we got to know each other because we were like the guys in the film, tasked with a physical challenge that involved us having to think as a team. So we really did. And we went straight from that into the first two weeks of filming which were all in the pool so we went straight into doing 12-hour days in the water. Which is hard-going.
Related: Swimming With Men review
That sounds quite intense!
Yes, and so cold!… So the camaraderie and the joshing was developing in the real world as well as the characters.
I was chatting to Thomas [Turngoose] earlier and he said he didn’t know much about synchronised swimming going into this. Did you know a lot about synchronised swimming? And what sort of research did you do to, I suppose, understand that world?
I didn’t know much about it and, did I do research? I don’t-I watched the documentary. The idea for this came from a fantastic documentary called ‘Men Who Swim’, set in Sweden, and then, in fact, the team from that feature in Swimming with Men. They are the Swedes in the film. But no, I didn’t beyond watching the documentary. It’s all there in the script really.
It’s a good script.
It definitely is.
And it’s a funny one too and there were a lot of big laughs in our screening and I was wondering, an actor, when you’re in that moment, is it sometimes hard to keep composed and keep cool?
Not for me, no. I’m not a big corpser. I-I… No. I tend to sort of do the work, you know? Sometimes if people… You do get actors who are “ahahahaha” but I can’t really relate to that. I mean, I do it occasionally. There are some Gavin and Stacey outtakes where I’m laughing a lot and I’ve looked at them and thought “well I didn’t think I was like that” but no, not really because, you know, the reality of it is that you are-they’re long days and you do a take then another take and another take and certainly if you’re in the water, you sort of want to get it right and get out the water. There’s a real incentive not to break up and start chuckling.
And, I mean, the film is screening tonight at Edinburgh Film Festival for its UK premiere and I was wondering what you’re wanting audiences to takeaway from this story?
Well, I suppose, I want them to have a GREAT night at the cinema! That’s what I hope we’ve made. That’s the feedback I’m getting; it’s that people are loving a classic underdog story with a twist in an unusual setting in the world of synchronised swimming that is funny and sharp but that has a real heart and that touches people. That’s really what I-That’s what we tried to make and that’s what I’m hoping we’re giving people.
And I just wanted to quickly ask you about Holmes and Watson which I know you’re working on and I was just wondering what it was like being on set with John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell who are both big comedic personalities.
Oh! It was wonderful! That job, I can honestly say was a joy from start to finish. It really was! I was a fan of John C. Reilly, of course, one of the most prolific film careers of any actor around and then Will, because comedy is my thing, was and is a comic hero and he’s an iconic comic actor. And he didn’t disappoint. He’s funny as hell and one of the nicest people, you know? He’s a lesson in how to behave on set and the best thing about Will is that he likes to make people laugh. So, a lot of comic actors you’ll find, when they’re not working, they don’t like to give anything away. But Will was the opposite and he did so many funny things, little things like, you’d get into a lift with him and a bunch of people and he’d stand too close to somebody. Because he’s a big guy. Or, umm, he would do all sorts of things… All sorts just to make you laugh. He was lovely.
He seems like it. He’s one of my favourite comedians.
And finally, I just wanted to ask, Swimming with Men is, essentially, a sports film and I was wondering what your favourite sports film is, if any?
My favourite sports film? Well… Probably Rocky. Specifically Rocky 3, I think. Field of Dreams is not really a sports film, is it? Although it has the background of baseball. That was a film that, when I saw it, moved me immeasurably and I’ve not watched it again for fear that it would disappoint. I think I watched it at the right age, when I was maybe even your age. And I- Oh, I was in floods in tears… I might watch it again, I think…. Sea Biscuit was a great film, if you think of horse racing as a sport. Is it a sport? Sea Biscuit was a terrific film. I’m suddenly remembering all of these sports films…. Yeah, those ones. I can’t think of any others.
Thank you so much. I enjoyed chatting to you. And enjoy the premiere tonight!
No, thank you. The pleasure was all mine.
Swimming With Men is released in UK cinemas from Friday 6th July 2018.