What with all this cold weather about, it's about time to start looking forward to the summer and the London 2012 Olympics, even if the English summer can often be difficult to distinguish from the English winter. My enthusiasm for sports in general is roughly congruous with my enthusiasm for cabbage that has been left in the vegetable drawer for too long and has started to stick to the sides, but even if I can't tell the difference between rugby and American football I can at least profess a love for sports movies. You don't have to know the rules of the game that's being played, because the thousands of extras in the crowd will usually give you an indication of whether you should be elated or saddened by the latest development.
Fast Girls is the feature film debut from veteran commercial director Regan Hall, and follows the hardships and drama of four girls preparing for the Women's 4×100 Relay. It's set for release on June 8th 2012, to coincide with the Olympics, yet rather bizarrely the script and press materials for the film were not permitted to use the words "London 2012" since they have been trademarked by the organising committee.
Last month I was invited down for a set visit to meet the cast and crew, which includes Noel Clarke, Bradley James, Lily James and Lenora Crichlow. Last night's climactic season opener for Being Human cemented Crichlow as a major player in the latest series of the show, and in Fast Girls she plays one of the lead characters: female athlete Shania Andrews.
Bleeding Cool: How would you describe your character?
Lenora Crichlow: Shania is kind of the underdog of the story. She's a girl who's not had the best start in life, and it's been quite tough for her growing up, but she has found running. She has a coach who kind of took her under his wing quite early on in her life, and I think he's been a huge support both in running and in life in general, and she's running her way to the top of the athletic world. That's not much about her character, that's more about the story! [Laughs] She's quite feisty, she's very strong-willed and quite opinionated. She's quite fiery and a bit of a loose cannon, but at the same time I think she's incredibly good at what she does and she cares a lot, she's a real trier.
BC: How much experience did you have with running before you were cast in the film?
LC: Um … I mean, I was familiar with the art form of running. [Laughs] I'd watched many people do it. I jog … sort of, occasionally, in my downtime, but nothing like an athletic sort of pace or style, so it was like learning to walk again, running like an athlete. The whole way you hold yourself, kind of engaging muscles which I basically didn't have. So it was like starting all over again.
BC: How were the athletes that you trained with?
LC: Hideously toned, incredibly strong and seriously fast! When we're running flat-out, they're all kind of hopping on one leg next to us, trying to make us look good. We've literally been in cars and they keep up, they've been amazing. Hugely inspiring, very helpful, so supportive of the film and what we're trying to achieve. All of them have given us tips and they're a pretty impressive bunch, the athletes, from a completely different world and I have a huge amount of respect for each one who's lent themselves to the film because it's not their kind of bag, but they've given 100% every take, every time, and they've been brilliant.
BC: What have you enjoyed filming the most?
LC: Yeah, there's this scene which I fell in love with really early on, even on the page, which is with Phil David who plays my coach. They're sitting in the car and she's just qualified to go to the World Championship, and that's definitely my favourite scene in the film.
BC: The prospect of hosting the Olympics has put a lot of pressure on Britain as a whole. How does it affect the characters in the film, to be representing their country?
LC: Talking to real athletes, you really understand the pressure they're under. The track, or whatever event you're doing, is like your stage and the world is watching, it's a massive pressure. Although to a certain degree you have to put it out of your mind, it's like when you're shooting a film, I never think about how many people are going to watch it or the fact that it'll be in cinemas or on billboards, I try not to think about any of that, because I think you just wouldn't be able to get on with it. So I suppose for them it must just be each race, each event at a time.
BC: You've already made a strong start in TV, are you looking to move more into film now?
LC: I think it would be really nice to say, "Oh, I'm very selective, I have a serious plan here!" But to be honest with you … What attracted me to the role? The offer! [Laughs] I think you've kind of got to just got with it. I would love to do more films, but I'd also love to do great TV projects, I'd love to do some theatre. Am I thinking about Hollywood? Listen, if I have time, and they want me, I'm not going to say no! I think you've just got to be open. I'd rather be doing a brilliant play than terrible TV and vice versa.
BC: Who's the fastest runner out of you and the other actresses?
LC: I'm not sure. Honestly it would probably be a toss-up between Dominique [Tipper] and Lorraine [Burroughs]. Lorraine is seriously fast, she plays Trix in the movie, but it's really hard because so are Dominique and Lashana [Lynch]. We've all cut our times down … I definitely wouldn't win!
BC: What has it been like working with Regan?
LC: Good, yeah, it's been an experience. This is his first feature so it's all quite exciting, there's a lot of really fresh energy. He comes from a commercial/stills background so he's got quite a stylistic eye. He likes his film to look very beautiful and very stylised with the lighting and stuff, and it's amazing because it's freezing. We're shooting in the middle of December, but it's shot like it's in summer.