Staff and students at a Buckinghamshire school played a crucial role in George Clooney’s new blockbuster film, which is released in the UK this week.

It may only be January, but 2024 is already shaping up to be a great year for film if George Clooney’s sports drama about an underdog university rowing team making it to the 1936 Olympic Games against all odds is anything to go by.

The Boys in the Boat, based on a true story that was documented in Daniel James Brown’s New York Times bestselling novel of the same name, will be released in the UK on Friday, January 12, and has already grossed over $33 million across the pond.

The relationship between Marlow, Buckinghamshire, and the Warner Brothers-distributed film, which stars Callum Turner and Joel Edgerton in leading roles, is thanks to former Californian screenwriter turned rowing coach at Great Marlow School, Nick Harding, who, alongside his wife, helped organise an early screening of the film at the Marlow Everyman Cinema yesterday evening (January 7) alongside a reception to raise funds for a new school boathouse.

An avid rower growing up in Marlow, Nick was known in Hollywood as something of an authority on the sport, so it was no surprise when a friend referred the executive producer of The Boys in the Boat to him, from which point he quickly became involved as rowing coach to the stars on the Clooney-helmed project.

Working alongside Olympic rowing coach Terry O’Neill, Nick helped to put the cast of the film through their paces – something that proved more easily said than done due to the physically strenuous nature of the sport.

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“Terry is used to coaching top athletes, and it’s pretty tough at that level, while I’m very experienced at teaching the basics, so we brought different approaches. A lot can be done with camera work and tricks of the trade, but (George) Clooney was very insistent that it be as authentic as possible.”

Whilst working on The Boys In The Boat, which was filmed at locations including Winnersh Film Studios and Molesey Boat Club, Nick also managed to nab roles for a team of Great Marlow School rowing alumni, who can be seen competing against the main cast members in a neck-and-neck race on the big screen.

It was a rewarding piece of work to be a part of in more sense than one, not least because the weekend's fundraising event raised thousands towards the construction of a new school boathouse in Nick's hometown – bolstering youngsters to embrace the self-fulfilling challenge of the sport, attested to during Sunday night's reception by five-time-Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave.

Nick said: “The actors were all amazing by the end of shooting, and I’m still in touch with some of them now. On the very last day, we finished filming and they started to paddle back to put the boats away. I remember everyone being really quiet and a bit teary-eyed, thinking: ‘We did this, we’re a crew and we did it together’. I was really proud of them.”