Best Of Men: Acting in a Paralympic drama

Thursday 16 August 2012, 10:37

David Proud David Proud Actor

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As an actor there are some auditions you are invited to where you want the part so much it's hard to control your excitement and nerves. For me The Best Of Men was one of those.

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Dr Guttmann (Eddie Marsan) begins to introduce changes at the hospital

I had known of Dr Guttmann ever since playing wheelchair basketball at the Guttmann Centre (now Stoke Mandeville Stadium) as a child.

The Best Of Men tells the story of how Dr Guttmann's work rehabilitating World War II soldiers led to the creation of the Paralympics.

I received the phone call to say I had got the part on my birthday and remember thinking it was like a little present from my Nan who I know is my guardian angel.

Jeremy is so far removed from any other character I have played. He has suffered a spinal injury in the war and is in a pretty bad way.

With the help of Dr Guttmann he recovers and we see him go from strength to strength. He develops a strong bond with Neil (Ben Owen Jones), the wounded soldier in the bed next to him.

As a disabled actor I rarely get a chance to do period dramas so this was a very special project for me.

Looking at the cast list of Eddie Marsan, Rob Brydon and Naimh Cusack I was just honoured to be part of it.

Private William Heath (George MacKay) and Corporal Wynne Bowen (Rob Brydon) playing wheelchair hockey

William (George MacKay) and Wynne (Rob Brydon) playing wheelchair hockey

We filmed for three weeks in Bristol and were all staying at the hotel together.

Strangely Nina Toussaint-White and Lacey Turner who I had filmed EastEnders with were also in our hotel for another production, along with all the contestants of Deal or No Deal, it was a really happening party hotel.

We all developed a very special bond having dinner together every night. Rob making us laugh, Eddie and Naimh telling us amazing anecdotes and my fellow actors George MacKay, Ben Owen Jones and I loving every moment.

On set our bond created a lovely atmosphere and that helped as some scenes were emotionally very hard to get through.

Tim Whitby's one of the coolest directors I have ever worked with and he smiled all the way through, his enthusiasm was infectious.

Jeremy is a quiet character and he is pretty out of it for the first part of the film, slowly he comes round.

Dr Guttmann (Eddie Marsan, 2nd left), Jeremy (David Proud), Sister Edwards (Naimh Cusack) and Will

Dr Guttmann, Jeremy (David Proud), Sister Edwards (Naimh Cusack) and Will

For a few scenes I had to pretend to be asleep and did actually fall asleep during one take, Tim woke me up and complimented me on being a method actor.

I thought that was bad until in the next scene Ben did exactly the same but started to snore, I was trying to nudge him and quietly say "Dude, wake up!" but it didn't work.

Of all the things I have worked on I am most proud of this, I've made some lifelong friends and helped to tell the story of a man whose legacy allowed me to be born into a world where being an actor is possible.

Eddie Marsan plays Dr Guttmann and he's mesmerising to watch and so down to earth, he has such respect for other actors and such a passion for his craft.

His speech about "I will not shield you from the realities of life" made me cry when we filmed it and makes me cry when I watch it.

That's all disabled people want, it's all I have ever wanted, the chance to face the same struggles as everyone else, to be equal, to be The Best Of Men.

More on The Best Of Men
Lucy Gannon on writing The Best Of Men on the BBC Writersroom blog.
Ludwig Guttmann, the doctor who invented the Paralympics on the BBC Ouch blog.


David Proud is an actor in The Best Of Men.

The Best Of Men is on Thursday, 16 August at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC HD. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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