Entertainment & Arts

Doctor Who star Matt Smith jokes at lack of 2012 ticket

Matt Smith and Sam Hoare during filming on the Thames
Image caption Matt Smith and Sam Hoare both fell in while learning how to row in a crash course

Filming a BBC drama about the 1948 Olympics has left Doctor Who star Matt Smith eager for 2012 rowing tickets.

Smith, who plays Bert Bushnell in Bert and Dickie, said he would "love to go to the rowing" at this year's Games.

"But the four guys we were training with, who were going to the Olympics, busting their balls off, even they could only get a ticket each for their families," he added.

The BBC One film tells the true tale of two men winning double sculls gold.

Smith stars with Sam Hoare, who takes the part of Richard Burnell in the drama. Smith said they were desperate to see the sport for real and joked: "If anybody's listening, if there's any opportunity..."

They were left with a taste for the sport after their crash course with elite rowers, learning how Bushnell and Burnell overcame the odds at the so-called "austerity Games".

Falling in

The pair filmed Bert and Dickie on the Thames near Henley - the site of the 1948 rowing contest - last year.

Their characters were accomplished oarsmen but had never sculled together and had only five weeks to train for the Games.

Hoare said he and Smith were also thrown in at the deep end with only a week to learn some semblance of sculling - rowing with two oars rather than one.

"I had rowed a very small bit at school, Matt I don't think had ever been in a boat ever before. We had this amazing coach who works for [the elite] Leander Club and also coaches the GB team."

He added: "I fell in three times, and we fell in once in front of the camera crew, which was mildly embarrassing."

Both Burnell and Bushnell were under immense pressure when they rowed together.

Bert Bushnell had been denied an Olympic spot in his normal discipline of single sculls, and was battling a chip on his shoulder about the difference in social status between himself and "rowing royalty" Burnell.

For Dickie Burnell, on the other hand, the Games were his last chance to equal his father's gold medal from the 1908 Olympics, which were also held in London.


The 1948 Olympics were the first since the war, the Treasury was bare and Britain still had rationing.

In the film, tripe and onion sandwiches are a special treat for Bert's training and the "double meat" on a Barnsley chop is almost unimaginable luxury.

Such was the state of the nation, politicians and press wondered if it the whole event should be cancelled.

Image caption The real Dickie Burnell (L) and Bert Bushnell overcame many obstacles to win gold

But when the Games began, they became a huge morale boost, which writer Billy Ivory said he thought may be replicated at London 2012.

"There are so many parallels really, the austerity of then and the austerity of now and - personally speaking - I'm hoping that there will be a similar coming together of people and a uniting of spirit.

"That was one of the things that was most interesting about the '48 Olympics was how much it was about nations rebuilding after the horrors of war.

"For many of the nations who came there was a real desire to put the past behind them."

Smith added: "I think the Olympics for Britain is brilliant.

"The build-up to it and seeing the city transform and uniting people, I think is wonderful.

"Some people say it's going to be really busy - so what?"

Making the film has not been Smith's only brush with the Olympic Games.

He carried the torch through Cardiff in the first week of the relay which he said was "a wonderful experience".

"I've bought it - I'm going to get it mounted on my wall," he said.

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