Skip to content

How Norfolk offshore boat grabbed a slice of the seafaring action in new Tenet blockbuster

The crew of a windfarm boat have told of their globe-trotting exploits and mingling with stars on the set of the new Tenet summer blockbuster during three months of filming.
Richard Thurlow twice turned down the chance to work on the Warner Brothers film but after finally being strong-armed into the deal faced a three day dash - some 1,200 miles from Lowestoft to Tallinn in Estonia - to meet the movie schedule.
Having arrived at the location, movie moguls were immediately captivated by the Iceni Revenge, which is part of a 12-strong fleet working out of Lowestoft as a windfarm service vessel, and recently underwent a plush £1m renovation.
They cast it as the ‘hero boat’ at the hub of the action, instead of the camera boat role it had been originally hired for. It meant the craft, part of Iceni Marine Services, became a base for director Christopher Nolan as they zipped along at speed, a helicopter whirring overhead, capturing the action with skipper Aaron Thurlow at the helm.
With all the logistics handled by James Lucas it was left to former Caister lifeboat coxswain Dick Thurlow and his son Aaron to man the vessel, welcoming the film’s star John David Washington aboard on a daily basis.
Meanwhile Richard Thurlow, who stayed in the UK, was called upon to organise another seafaring section at a secret location doubling for the Amalfi Coast, where he worked with Kenneth Branagh, even lending the feted actor his coat.
Instead of being starstuck Richard said all the Turner-Iceni staff were “very Norfolk” about the whole episode, getting on with their work and treating the cast as they would anyone else - “I mean the Queen lives just up the road,” he added.
Filming in Estonia involved Mr Washington stepping on the boat in a sequence that took some six hours to film, but will likely amount to seconds on screen.
They stayed in Tallinn, which had been completely commandeered by the film making machine, for around 10 days before heading to the German port of Sassnitz while they waited to be called up again.
A second more intensive stint involved scenes around a windfarm in Denmark where the Iceni was both a cast member and a workboat, carrying out hundreds of transfers to and from the industrial site.
Here they faced long days in often difficult conditions, undertaking some night work involving manoeuvring alongside large vessels after dark that were tricky and beyond the capabilities of some of the vessels.
For the filming, the ‘Revenge’ element of the boat’s name was covered and the crew were taken to wardrobe where they were kitted out with standard boiler suits.
They mostly worked with the marine team, led by Neil Andrea, known for his work on the Pirates of the Caribbean series. A lot of the filming was shrouded in secrecy and most of the time the crew had no idea what was going on or an inkling of the plot. However, seeing first hand what went into a big-budget film was fascinating, they said, with no expense spared on food and accommodation for everyone involved.
Mr Washington was on the boat everyday for around 10 days and Nolan for about five. The lead actor was by all accounts “a top bloke” shaking everyone’s hand every day, they said. Nolan was a man of few words but a “deep thinker” who was completely immersed in his craft, Dick said, adding that he shook Aaron’s hand and thanked him for his efforts on the last day of filming.
Although some days were quite boring, being involved in such a big box office blockbuster - the first post Covid-release tasked with saving cinema - had been a real thrill.
“I just think its marvellous that a little Norfolk company is involved in something like this. It was a job, an experience, and a holiday,” he added.
Iceni Marine Services was set up by Richard Thurlow and a friend in 2009 and later sold to the Glasgow-based Turner Group with Richard now a director. Richard and Aaron also volunteer as crew for Caister Independent Lifeboat.