Olympic Gold medal winners Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are national treasures, thanks to their enduring Bolero routine from the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics and a more recent star turn in ITV reality series Dancing on Ice.
The pair may seem cool, calm and collected at all times, but behind their success is the story of their passionate struggle to become champions of their sport.
Now, ITV has commissioned a new one-off drama that will show their early lives and the sacrifices they made to go down in ice dancing history.
What is Torvill and Dean about?
Whether you remember watching Torvill and Dean skate to glory in 1984 or you’re one of their younger fans who got to know them through their coaching and judging on Dancing on Ice, it’s impossible to have missed the pair’s glittering careers.
But whilst we might be familiar with their Bolero routine, which they still often perform now, the fascinating story about how they came to be on the ice at the Winter Olympics is less well known.
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean worked closely with the programme makers, telling them about “our passion for skating, the life-long friendship that came through our sport and everything that it took to achieve our eventual goal of becoming Olympic champions.”
Will Tudor, who plays Christopher, said: “Their relationship was tempestuous but also threaded through with this intense love for each other. Jayne and Chris told us that when they first started skating together they didn’t have this moment of a spark where they thought, ‘This is the person I’m going to achieve all these amazing things with.’ That developed over time and their personalities gelled.”
Viewers will get the chance to see the pair’s story as they see it, dramatised into a film that begins with their humble beginnings in Nottingham and how they got into skating – Chris, to channel the anger from his parents’ split and Jayne, to express her creative nature outside of her reserved personality.
Although Jayne and Chris are the best of friends, the story of their early career shows how they clashed over their views on how to bring a new energy to ice dancing that would express their relationship as well as win them gold medals.
Poppy Lee Friar, who plays Jayne, said: “I think ice skating was Jayne’s chance of an escape. Her mother thought stability was the way forward. At the time it was about not working in a factory and going to secretarial college. Chris and the ice skating offered that romantic, magical escape for her.”
Writer William Ivory said: “It’s been such a privilege to work on this piece. Chris and Jayne are such fascinating characters: sports people and athletes with all the grit and determination that entails, but real artists, too, engaging in deeply-felt creative and emotional battles.”
Executive producer Emily Dalton added: “24 million people in Britain watched Chris and Jayne win gold with Bolero in 1984. They are iconic but also enigmatic - we've all speculated about their relationship off the ice. I think viewers will be moved and surprised by the heartbreaking and backbreaking journey they've been on together.”
Who stars in it?
Poppy is known for her roles in Ackley Bridge, Eve, and In the Club, and Will is recognisable from his work on Game of Thrones, Humans, and Mr Selfridge.
The pair will be supported by a stellar cast including Anita Dobson (The Rebel, Call the Midwife, EastEnders) as Miss Perry, Jayne’s first coach at the Nottingham Ice Stadium, with Stephen Tompkinson (The Split, Trollied, DCI Banks) as Jayne’s father, George.
Jo Hartley (Bliss, Access All Areas, This Is England ’90) plays Jayne’s mum Betty and Christopher’s parents Colin and Mavis are played by Dean Andrews (The Moorside, Last Tango in Halifax, Silent Witness) and Christine Bottomley (Fearless, In the Club, Cucumber).
Jaime Winstone (Babs, Ellen, After Hours) stars as Janet Sawbridge, the ice dancing instructor who pairs Chris and Jayne together for the first time, and Susan Earl (So Awkward, I Want My Wife Back, Reggie Perrin) is Christopher’s stepmother Betty Dean.
The starring roles obviously involved some intensive ice dancing training, and Poppy said: "After the audition they asked me to send over a video of myself ice skating, so I headed to an ice rink and got someone to film some footage of me skating.
"My standard was very basic at that stage but, at their request, I tried to add some balletic arm movements, because not only are Torvill and Dean great skaters, they are great dancers. It’s very much about that posture, poise and elegance of the dancing.
"Ideally, I’d have liked a year to train for the ice skating after getting the role, but we only had two weeks. We were obviously never going to match Torvill and Dean’s standard in that time! Even so, we got the basics down. I really enjoyed skating and still do."
Will added: “I’d only been ice skating twice before. Once was for a birthday party and I remember thinking, ‘This is great fun’ but I wasn’t able to corner in any capacity. There was a lot of bumping into the sides! The second time was on a date, which is probably not the best idea for someone who has only been skating once before!
"“There were a few hairy moments. The skates have these toe picks on which are for jumps, spins and things like that, to get a bit of purchase on the ice. And every so often you might clip one on the ice, meaning you would end up running down the ice with arms flailing. Then you would recover and feel a bit like a rock star before realising you probably didn’t look cool at all."
Speaking about the impressive cast, Poppy said: “I watched Wild At Heart religiously when it was on, so when it was announced Stephen would be playing my dad it was so strange. All I could think of was wanting to be in South Africa with him!
“Both Jo Hartley and Stephen were lovely to work with and played the characters really well.
“It was also great working with Anita Dobson, who plays an ice skating coach called Miss Perry. Anita is lovely - she is so sweet and gave such lovely advice. She has had such a long career and was a joy to work with.”
Where is Torvill and Dean filmed?
"We filmed at Dundonald International Ice Bowl in Belfast," said Poppy Lee Friar. "We were filming in 2018, and most of the ice rinks, including the one in Nottingham, now look very modern. That’s why we had to use one ice rink to double as quite a few all over the world. Some CGI helps make it look of the time.
"Most of the work, however, went into creating the ice skating costumes from scratch, particularly the costumes for the likes of Mack and Mabel and the iconic purple Bolero costumes for Will and I to wear. It was also great fun to be able to wear those seventies and eighties’ clothes – the funky trousers and polo neck jumpers.
"Aside from them winning Olympic gold, what is magical about it is the story first and foremost. Bolero is a doomed love story. A Romeo and Juliet ill-fated journey of two lovers up to a volcano and at the very end they throw themselves in. It’s very dramatic.
"The costumes are bellowing in the wind and Jayne and Chris are so in sync with each other. It’s flawless. Technically, from the small amounts I’ve learned recently, their leg lines are completely identical and they are completely in their own emotional zone with each other. It’s so graceful and very emotional."
Will Tudor added: "We filmed at the Dundonald Ice Bowl in Belfast. We were very lucky to have the use of the rink and it was a very versatile space. The difficulty with shooting at Nottingham Ice Rink was that because of the work of Chris and Jayne and the funding they managed to get for that area, it’s now too ‘2018’, so would not have worked for our drama. The staff at Dundonald were wonderful and it was a nice place to be for two weeks of night shoots.
"We also had fantastic costume designers. Walking around in these very tight numbers was quite extraordinary but we were so lucky because the costumes really did give us a sense of the era. The material used to make the Bolero costumes came from the same fabric the originals were made with giving a real sense of authenticity running through the production.
"The very first time we put the Bolero costumes on was in a scene where we are walking to the performance surrounded by all these supporting artists. The air completely changed in the room because everyone knows these costumes. They are so iconic, and there we are as Torvill and Dean with all of our hair and make-up done. It was a really nice moment. We got a real sense of what that must have felt like and been like for them just before that performance with the whole world watching."
What did writer William Ivory say?
"Jayne and Chris fell in love many years ago. They bonded over a shared belief, and a shared need, to refract all of life’s vicissitudes through dance – on ice! But they never became an ‘item’. They have found happiness with husbands and wives and family of their own and yet the bond between them remains as strong as ever – as passionate, as bloody minded, as committed and as beautiful as it was almost fifty years ago when they first started dancing together.
"That they never took their partnership, their love, beyond the world of ice dance is the other question the film explores – and the answer to that is tied up with the first point I was trying to make: that they are artists. They are artists who chose ice dance as the means to express their creative view. And the British, the European, the World crowns – even the Olympic gold medals and the MBEs, the vast and impressive array of titles which garland their achievements, they don’t intrinsically speak of what Jayne and Chris are about, what they are, to every last atom of their beings, attempting to do when they dance – and that is to deliver the sublime, through their art. This is what matters to them – more than anything. And that is why Torvill and Dean isn’t a sports movie."
When can I see it on TV?
Torvill and Dean has bagged the most coveted spot in festive programming for 2018.
It will air on Christmas Day, in ITV’s primetime slot of 9pm, as a one-off feature-length drama.
Torvill and Dean will air on Christmas Day at 9pm on ITV.
Look out for it via BT TV on the ITV Hub app.