The Story Of Revlis - Picturehouse Spotlight

The Story Of Revlis

Colin Alexander, general manager of Picturehouse at FACT, was surprised to learn his family boat was to star in the new Christopher Nolan epic. Michael Fowler describes his story.

After a three year wait between films, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk finally landed on Friday 21 July much to the delight of critics and audiences alike. One Picturehouse Manager in particular was waiting more impatiently for its arrival than many when he discovered a boat his family had owned when he was a boy would be the main vessel featured in the film.

Revlis in all her glory
The vessel Revlis which is depicted in Dunkirk

Watching the Dunkirk trailer earlier this year, Colin Alexander, the General Manager of Picturehouse at FACT in Liverpool, noticed that Mark Rylance’s character was captaining a small ship that looked the spitting image of Revlis, the boat his Grandpa had owned when he was a young boy. Built on the Clyde in 1939 by Silver and bought by his Grandpa in 1958, Colin had spent many summers on the deck with his family and even caught his first mackerel on board. The family always believed Revlis, whose name spells silver in reverse, to be unique and owned it until 1988 when Colin’s Grandpa passed away, there was very little doubt in his mind that this was the very same boat featured in Nolan’s tenth feature film and so he set to work determined to find out if the Dunkirk craft was Revlis.

Colin's grandpa Charles Chapman
Colin's grandpa Charles Chapman

After some serious digging, Colin managed to get in contact with the film’s production designer, Nathan Crowley who emailed back just before the release of the film, confirming that Revlis was indeed the boat featured, going under her new screen name, Moonstone. Crowley also took the time to tell him why they bought her and how well she performed.

According to the email, Crowley had been given instructions to find a very specific layout that would make filming practical at sea and after months of searching they found the vessel in Inverness, he told Colin, “The back deck and relationship to the wheel house and cabin was perfect. She was a tough sea worthy boat that we put though her paces. Amazing that it is the same boat.”

Colin was overjoyed by Crowley’s response telling us “Revlis was very much a family boat for our family and we spent so many happy times on deck. It was amazing to have our hunch confirmed and really kind of Nathan to to tell us all about where they found her and how she handled. Watching her in the film was an absolute joy and also one of the most intense cinema experiences of my life!”

A much, much younger Colin fishing for mackerel in short shorts!
Colin fishing for mackerel

In the film, the 43ft long boat is Captained by Mark Rylance’s character Mr. Dawson, a civilian whose boat is commandeered by the Royal Navy to participate in the evacuation of Dunkirk, but rather than let the Navy crew take the vessel he, his son Peter and his teenage hand George take her out into war themselves. In research for his character, Rylance is said to have sailed Revlis everyday and listened to audio recordings at the Imperial War Museum.

Cinema audiences can now experience the visceral and unrelenting brilliance of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk now. Starring Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh, many critics are calling Dunkirk Nolan’s best film to date, which we at Picturehouse can only imagine has been helped in droves by the undoubted star quality of Colin’s Grandpa’s boat.

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