Imagine having a movie made about your life, and knowing a huge chunk of the population will be sitting down to watch it with the family on Christmas Day.
We can’t imagine, but then we aren’t two of the most successful British sports people of all time. And as 24 million Brits watched their iconic Bolero Winter Olympics routine live in 1984 – 34 years ago – the small matter of a film charting their route to success won’t faze them.
Jayne Torvill, 61, and Christopher Dean, 60, are of course ice skating royalty, and now their rags to riches tale is being played out by actors Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor in a feature-length drama.
We meet the real Torvill and Dean at ITV’s offices (the pair look far younger than their years) and chat about what it’s like to have a film made about you, the worst argument they ever had, and what gets on their nerves about the other.
Jayne (who has two children Kieran, 16, and Jessica, 12, with husband Phil) and Chris (who has two grown-up sons, Jack and Sam, and lives in Colorado with partner Karen Barber) also talk about their unique relationship – heck, they still chat every day, even after 45 years…
What did you first think about the idea for a film of your lives?
Jayne: Really excited. We never had doubts, we were honoured.
Christopher: We haven’t got our heads around the fact it’s going to be part of people’s Christmas Day. But we’re not worried. We were there. No surprises. We know how it ends.
Your story has a touch of Billy Elliot about it, especially your part, Chris
C: When I saw Billy Elliot, I said, ‘This is my life story.’ Working class background, Northern, mining community… The only difference is that I was on the picket line as a policeman, against my dad’s workers. The striking miners and the police clashed and I was in a real quandary about where my loyalties lay.
(Image: Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
Not everyone knows you had ‘proper’ jobs before…
C: I was a policeman, Jayne worked in an office. We had to finance what we were doing. Kids today – oh, I sound so old – but now they’re doing sport full time, we still had to work full time.
J: Even as national champions we weren’t allowed sponsorship or to promote brands. We were amateurs.
How is it seeing your did-they-didn’t-they relationship dramatised?
C: It shows what a unique relationship it is. It’s not brother and sister, it’s not husband and wife. There’s nothing else like it.
J: You get people in entertainment, like Ant and Dec, they have a special relationship, but they’re two guys, I can’t think of anyone else like us.
How much input did you have?
J: We talked with the writer for hours and hours, then it was down to the producers, directors and casting crew. We had a look at the script and off they went. We had some input with the skating side, because they’re actors, not skaters, so we gave advice on coaches to teach Will and Poppy.
C: I, Tonya coming out gave them the confidence to do this – it showed you can overcome putting actors who are non-skaters into a drama.
What’s it like seeing younger versions of yourself on screen?
C: A little surreal. It’s odd putting yourself back into those places. You have your own recollection of things and then you see them as a piece of film, and it actually is the recreation of what is in your head.
Did you meet Will and Poppy?
J: We had a Facetime call with them. They’d never played a living person before, so it was as weird for them as us. We talked a lot about accent.
C: It was funny seeing all the old clothes too.
J: We probably thought we looked really cool at the time.
C: I don’t think we were ever cool.
Do you still see each other when you’re not working together?
J: Chris has lived in America for 10 years, so in the Dancing On Ice years we see each other for six months, then we’re apart for six months. But even then we talk most days.
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Do you ever argue?
J We’ve had our moments. Not recently, though. Once there was a documentary being made about us and the director said, ‘There’s no drama in this, you’re just too nice.’ Too boring. We just trained, left, came back the next day and trained again.
C: Then we did have an argument.
J: Well, you had an argument with me. I can’t remember what it was about, but I know I went off in tears.
C: The F word was said. And after that I was the baddie.
J: But our trainer Betty once said, ‘While you’re arguing, someone else is practising.’
C: If there was any difference of opinion, it wouldn’t affect the training. We’d always finish the session.
J: We sound like little angels. There were moments of exasperation, but you get more frustrated with yourself than the other person.
What do you do when you’re not working? Anything surprising?
J: Chris reads a lot of history books.
C: I talk to my son about everything. Life, love and the universe… we discuss the big picture. I do like an intelligent conversation.
J: Which he can’t have with me…
C: We love watching Coronation Street too. It’s comfort telly.
Describe each other in three words…
C: Jayne is sens…
J: He was going to say sensible, wasn’t he?
C: Very solid, very reliable. That’s a good thing, right?
J: How about talented? Intelligent? Step too far?
C: Clearly talented. Intelligent in her own way.
J: Chris is gifted. And reliable, too. And driven, and respectful.
The other’s most annoying traits?
C: I’m always early, she’s always late. If we have to be somewhere I tell her half an hour before the actual time.
How does it feel to be in your 60s?
J: I don’t mind, it’s a number.
C: I feel a little more mellow. A little wiser, things that used to be important aren’t as important. We strive to do the best we can. But in the sense of conquering a new mountain, we are content.
J: He says that, but how did you celebrate turning 60?
C: I walked up a mountain – 14,000 feet, it took six and a half hours.
Do you still keep as fit as ever?
J: I still do all the things I did between 50 and 60. We were still doing crazy opening numbers on Dancing On Ice, I jumped off a desk, we were flying. We even did panto on inline skates, that was a new thing.
C: Our lives have been an evolution, and when you think something is closing, something else opens. We’d love to think there are a few more series in Dancing On Ice. And then, who knows? Maybe we’ll go to the Moon. Dancing On Ice on the Moon.
How hard is it being judges on DOI, when you’re such nice people?
C: We like to give a critique like, ‘You do this really well, but you need to focus on this.’
Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield with Jayne and Chris
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Who would be your dream contestants?
C: Anne Hathaway. Because she’s beautiful.
J: I’d have liked to have seen Fred Astaire. He might not have been as great a dancer on the ice. My son wants me to get Steven Gerrard on. I said I think he’s alright. Probably doesn’t need it that much.
What’s the strangest place you’ve been recognised?
C: Picking out underwear in M&S. Everybody wants a selfie. And they’ve got to set it up and then the mum doesn’t know how the camera works…
What will you be doing on Christmas Day?
C: I go back to Colorado. Fire on, the TV going, snow outside. There’s this huge big build-up, I like that more. Best not to put pressure on the big day itself.
J: I’ll be at home where I never get to sit down. I have the pinny on doing the dinner and my mum helps.
Best and worst gifts you’ve given each other?
J: Last year, he took me to dinner up the Shard.
C: And I bought you those earrings you’re wearing today 30 years ago…
J: I bought you a coat years ago, and I kept saying, ‘I’ve not seen you wear that coat…’ I don’t think you liked it. It’s a long process.
Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor talk about being Torvill and Dean…
Poppy: I was asked for a video of myself ice skating. My standard was very basic, but I tried to add some balletic arm movements, because not only are Torvill and Dean great skaters, they are great dancers. I’d have liked a year to train for the ice skating, but we had two weeks. We were obviously never going to match Torvill and Dean’s standard in that time! We do have stunt doubles in place for some scenes – if I could have squeezed in a triple axel I would have tried, though!
Will: I’d only been ice skating twice before: once was for a birthday party; the second was on a date, which is probably not the best idea! Stopping is such a basic thing and yet it is very hard. There were a few hairy moments. The skates have toe picks on, to get a bit of purchase on the ice, and every so often I’d clip one on the ice, meaning I’d end up running down the ice with arms flailing. Then I’d recover and feel a bit like a rock star before realising I probably didn’t look cool at all.
Torvill & Dean is on Christmas Day, ITV, 9.15pm
Dancing On Ice begins on 6th January, ITV, 6pm
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