Norwich actor stars in BBC air crash film United
Up-and-coming Norwich-born actor Sam Clafin puts the skills he displayed in the Norfolk Christian Youth Football League to good use in the new BBC2 drama “United” this Sunday, which charts the tragic story of the Munich air crash involving Manchester United’s Busby Babes. Keith Morris reports.
Sam, aged 24, who played in the Norfolk Christian league for St Helens Costessey for a couple of years in the late 1990s, takes on the leading role of young Manchester United and England star Duncan Edwards.
The new 90-minute BBC2 film tells the true story of the 1958 plane crash in Munich that claimed the lives of eight players plus 15 other Manchester United staff, journalists and air crew.
At the time of the accident the team, the youngest side ever to win the Football League in 1958, were on their way home from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade. After a stop-off in Munich to refuel, the Ambassador prop-plane skidded off the snowy runway at its third attempt to get airborne for the onward flight. It remains the most tragic and emotive episode in the club's history.
Set to be show on BBC2 at 9pm on Sunday April 24, the drama also features Dougray Scott as manager Matt Busby and David Tennant as coach Jimmy Murphy.
Duncan Edwards was just 21 at the time of the crash and was the youngest England international since the Second World War.
Playing Duncan was an emotional experience for Sam, who had a private tour of the Old Trafford Museum before filming began.
“It was heartbreaking,” said Sam. “There was Duncan Edwards’ England and Manchester United shirts, the programme from his first ever game for England, his watch and cuff-links. It was overwhelming.”
Duncan died 15 days after the crash after succumbing to his fatal injuries. Manager Matt Busby was so seriously injured that he was read his Last Rites twice and took months to recover.
Sam, originally from Costessey, Norwich, is a former Costessey High School pupil who trained at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
He was also a key member of the Norwich Youth Theatre Company and played the lead in the company's 2006 production of Sinbad the Sailor and also took part in Robinson Crusoe in 2003.
His first big break was in a five-part historical mini-series The Pillars of the Earth with Donald Sutherland playing his father. This was followed by a lead role in sci-film The Lost Future with Sean Bean and Channel 4's adaptation of William Boyd's acclaimed novel Any Human Heart.
Sam is also set to star in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth in the blockbuster series of films, alongside Johnny Depp, and plays a young missionary called Philip.
Pictured above is Sam Clafin as Duncan Edwards in the film United. Pix by BBC.