Chadwick actor makes surprise appearance in Swanage

A special preview showing of the film One Life starring Sir Anthony Hopkins in Swanage in Dorset was made even more special when a surprise guest dropped by.

The actor Alex Sharp who plays Swanage hero Trevor Chadwick in the film about the rescue of children from the Nazis on the eve of World War Two, was able to fly back from filming in the US just in time to catch the end of the screening at The Mowlem on Monday 18th December 2023.

One Life preview showing with Alex Sharp

Alex Sharp flew in from the US and headed down to Swanage, along with his dogs Teal (left) and Hento (right)

One Life
See Saw Films

In One Life, Alex Sharp (centre) as Trevor Chadwick, with Johnny Flynn as the young Nicholas Winton (left) and Helena Bonham Carter as Nicholas Winton’s mother (right)

Real relevance to today

The dramatically charged and powerful film played to a packed audience, with demand for tickets so high that the circle of the theatre was opened to accommodate everyone – quite a thing for a Monday afternoon.

The film One Life tells the true story of British humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton who helped rescue 669 children from Prague in Czechoslovakia in 1939, along with Trevor Chadwick, a Swanage teacher and lifeboat volunteer. The majority of those rescued were Jewish but others were the sons or daughters of Czech and Slovak anti-Nazis.

While based on real historical events, the story still has real relevance to today, tackling the issue of child refugees fleeing war, the reluctance of the UK government to issue visas to the children, and the heroism and human compassion of individuals who break through bureaucracy to save them from mass genocide.

Trevor Chadwick

Trevor Chadwick moved to Swanage at the age of 21 in 1928, when his father set up Forres School in Northbrook Road

“Bring more of Trevor into the film”

Trevor Chadwick stayed in Czechoslovakia from January 1939 until the summer of 1939 when he had to leave as the approaching war became too dangerous for him to continue helping the children.

Alex Sharp who plays the part of Trevor in the film was invited to The Mowlem premiere but it was thought unlikely that he would be able to attend as he was filming in California.

However much to the delight of those attending, he arrived at the end and stayed chatting in The Showbar after the performance. Speaking to Swanage.News he said:

“While One Life focuses on Sir Nicholas Winton, I did fight to bring more of Trevor into the film. I really researched his life, meeting his relatives Sam and Charles Chadwick and also reading Trevor’s personal journal which he kept when he travelled to Africa.

“The journal is kept in the archives of the Oxford library and I had to get special permission to read it. I took photos of the pages, which I’m not sure I was meant to do, but I figured that Trevor was quite a rule breaker and he wouldn’t mind. It meant that I was able to give a copy to his family.”

One Life preview showing with Alex Sharp

Alex Sharp with some of the Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust trustees. Left to right: Caroline Finch, Bill Trite, Mike Bonfield, Alex Sharp, Annie Bridger (member of the Chadwick family), John Corben and Avril Harris

“It was so heartbreaking”

In the film, there’s a scene where Trevor bribes the Gestapo to stamp paperwork in order to get three children on the next train out of Prague. He has to run from the office to the train station in a last minute dash.

Alex added:

“In that scene I was wearing traditional 1930s men’s shoes and the soles were quite slippery as I ran on the cobbles in Prague, so it was quite difficult to film.

“The other aspect that was challenging was filming the scenes with the children at the train station when they have to leave their parents or relatives.

“It was so heartbreaking. It felt so real, I was covered in goosebumps. And of course the children that didn’t make it and were hauled off the train by the Nazis.”

The Trevor Chadwick statue created by sculptor Moira Purver, overlooking the Chadwick playground in Swanage

One Life preview showing with Alex Sharp

Moira Purver with the actor Alex Sharp, who have both immersed themselves in the lives of Trevor Chadwick for their work

“Hang out with Helena Bonham Carter”

While Alex didn’t get to meet Sir Anthony Hopkins, as he only filmed with the younger version of Nicholas Winton played by Johnny Flynn, he did work with Romola Garai who plays Doreen Warriner, who helps Trevor evacuate the children and also actor Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Nicholas Winton’s mother.

Alex said:

“I did get to hang out with Helena Bonham Carter in Prague, staying in the same hotel, which was really cool. She is so lovely!”

Alex’s next role is as a scientist for a Netflix series The Three Body Problem based on a sci fi trilogy by Chinese author Cixin Liu, which is due to be broadcast in March 2024

One Life preview showing with Alex Sharp

Alex Sharp was invited to The Mowlem by John Corben but it was a surprise when Alex flew back from the US just in time

John Corben and Samuel Chadwick

John Corben meets Samuel Chadwick, grandson of Trevor at the unveiling of the statue in August 2022

Statue of Trevor Chadwick in Swanage

In August 2022, a bronze statue of Trevor Chadwick was unveiled on the Swanage Recreation Ground next to the Chadwick playground, following an impressive fundraising effort by the Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust to honour the town’s hero.

It was Swanage’s links with the Chadwick family which persuaded the film’s distributors to allow the local community to be some of the first to watch One Life, as the film doesn’t go on general release in the UK until Monday 1st January 2024.

Speaking after seeing the film, chair of the Trevor Chadwick Memorial Trust John Corben said:

“It was fantastic that Alex was able to make it to The Mowlem. There’s been so much work to get proper recognition for Trevor Chadwick. Now we have an impressive bronze statue in Swanage and the film. The special screening and Alex’s surprise arrival has been the icing on the cake!

“I do think the film was great but it leaves plenty of room to perhaps film a sequel telling Trevor’s story as he was the one who stayed in Prague and really risked his life.”

Exterior of the Mowlem lit up in orange and purple

A coup for The Mowlem in Swanage

Second chance

For those who were unable to make it to the special preview showing of One Life, the film will be returning to The Mowlem. General manager Thomas Curtis said:

“It’s been a great coup to be able to be one of the first cinemas in the UK to show the film, and it’s coming back to The Mowlem in January, so anyone unfortunate enough to miss the preview, will get a second chance!”

Watch the trailer

Further information

  • One Life will be showing at The Mowlem in Swanage between Friday 5th January to Thursday 18th January 2024 on selected dates with both evening and matinee performances. Tickets go on sale from Friday 22nd December 2023 at the ticket office or via The Mowlem website

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