On August 6, 1926, Gertrude "Trudy" Ederle made history as the first woman to successfully swim the English Channel. She swam the 35 miles from England to France in 14 hours and 31 minutes — breaking the men's record by almost two hours. The ticker-tape parade that was thrown for her when she returned home was the largest parade for an athlete, man or woman, in the history of New York City. Yet her story was largely lost to history — until one screenwriter rediscovered Trudy.

"Jeff Nathanson was looking for something for his young daughters to watch and he couldn't find anything," Oscar-nominated producer Jerry Bruckheimer recounts. "He went to a used bookstore and found this book, Young Woman and the Sea. He started researching it, and when he discovered the parade she had down Fifth Avenue, he said, 'This is a story that we have to make people aware of.'"

Bruckheimer optioned the book — Glenn Stout's Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World — in 2015. The project changed studios multiple times before Disney eventually acquired it. Norwegian director Joachim Rønning, who previously helmed the biopics Max Manus: Man of War (2008) and Kon-Tiki (2012), signed on to direct, with Daisy Ridley set play Trudy. The movie they've made sees Trudy overcome insurmountable odds — not to mention the garden variety sexism of her time — to achieve greatness.

"For some reason, the industry feels sports stories don't travel well. But I think this story is so emotional and it's something that captivates the heart and soul," says Bruckheimer. "When I see something that I really love, I want to bring it to an audience. And this is the highest testing movie I've ever made, and I've made some pretty big films.”

It's true: Bruckheimer is the mega-producer behind such beloved blockbuster franchises as Pirates of the Caribbean and Top Gun: Maverick, as well as Oscar-winning films including Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. It was the overwhelmingly positive response from early test screenings that convinced Disney to release Young Woman and the Sea in theaters, instead of a straight-to-streaming release on Disney+.

In conversation with A.frame, the director, producer and stars — alongside Ridley, Tilda Cobham-Hervey co-stars as Trudy's supportive older sister Meg — open up about bringing the inspiring true story of Young Woman and the Sea to the big screen.


Despite making history nearly a century ago, Trudy Ederle and her accomplishments have largely been forgotten to time. Even the people who would ultimately turn her life's story into a movie didn't know who she was — or what she had done — until they read it in Jeff Nathanson's screenplay.

Joachim Rønning: Like a lot of people, I didn't know this story. And it's baffling, because it was such a huge event when it occurred a hundred years ago, and it changed women's sports forever. That's what made it even more important for me to tell it. Jeff Nathanson's script was one of the best scripts I've ever read — if not the best script I ever read — and it just had everything I'm looking for in a story: It's dramatic, it's very emotional, it's funny, it's scary, it's inspirational. It's a true underdog story about someone that were willing to risk their own life to prove a point.

Daisy Ridley: I still remember where I was when I read it. It was the beginning of lockdown, and reading something that felt so wonderfully together when all of us were isolated at the time felt particularly poignant. I've also never had a sister on-screen, and Trudy has two sisters! I loved the script anyway, but I loved the relationship between Trudy and Meg.

Tilda Cobham-Hervey: I remember exactly where I was, as well. I read it and was so moved. I auditioned for it assuming I would never hear back from anyone, and then was very lucky to get a call back and was able to Zoom with Daisy. For me, it was the relationship between two women who were really supporting each other through a time of immense change, as much as it is so important to tell stories of women in history that have not been celebrated in the way that they should have in their time.

Daisy Ridley: It seems now so strange that anyone could want to derail a woman who's determined and has a joy and a passion and wants to do this thing. I think that's what I loved most about playing Trudy, is there's so much joy. There's so much joy in her, and I also wanted to make sure that we were telling a story about someone that simply wanted to do something! She wasn't thinking about her impact on the world; she just loved swimming. I didn't want to give that any other reasoning except for her own want. That joy was great, because I haven't played that as much in the roles that I've done before.

Joachim Rønning: When it came to casting Trudy, it was important to find someone who could stay true to the physicality of the role. It was very important for me to shoot the movie as real as possible. I wanted to be in the elements and in the ocean with the actors, and I told Daisy that.


Joachim Rønning and Jerry Bruckheimer previously worked together on 2017's 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,' but 'Young Woman and the Sea' posed an entirely unique challenge when it came to shooting in the sea. The real Trudy swam 35 miles from England to France, and Daisy Ridley needed audiences to believe that she could too. Ahead of the shoot in Bulgaria, the actress called in an Olympic medalist, Siobhan O'Connor, to help her train.

Joachim Rønning: I told Daisy that I didn't want to do blue screens or green screens or things like that. I wanted to at least try and film this for real. I told her, "You're not going to have to cross the English Channel, but we're at least going to be in the real ocean." And she said, "Yes, yes, yes!" She was very up for that. Obviously, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, "No way she's going to follow through with that!" But she started training.

Daisy Ridley: I trained for three months before filming and then I kept training during filming. I learned period swimming and open water swimming. So, there was a lot of physical work. Something I think was really helpful is Tilda and I met and we trained together.

Tilda Cobham-Hervey: I did a lot of swimming. I didn't know really how to swim before this, so I learned how to swim. I mean, I could keep myself afloat, but I could not swim.

Joachim Rønning: When we started our open water production, Daisy went in the ocean every day, in 60-degrees water. She swam till her lips were blue and never complained. I had stunt swimmers and doubles standing by, but there was something in the way Daisy swam it. There was a physicality of the force in her strokes that none of the others could do. So, I ended up using Daisy for even the wide shots, where there's no chance you'd see her face. The way she swam was just so forceful. In a small way, we got a feeling of how it was for Trudy out there in the water. Of course, we were not risking our lives for a cause, but I think it informed us how it was, and I hope the audience are able to feel in some way that this is real.


The team behind 'Young Woman and the Sea' made the movie for Trudy. They also made it with the hope that audiences — no matter their sex, their age, or their abilities — would be able to go see a movie at the theater and leave feeling inspired.

Joachim Rønning: I made this movie for my teenage daughters. I wanted to find a story that can inspire them, because they inspire me so much. So, this is a movie dedicated to the daughters of the world.

Jerry Bruckheimer: We want to get people to go out and be the best they can be. Trudy had a lot of things going against her. She was partially deaf. She was an immigrant. All of these obstacles that she had to overcome, and I wanted to tell a story for people around the world to see, Look at what she did. Look how difficult it was. It just shows you, if you have the will, you can do it.

Tilda Cobham-Hervey: I just hope people can have the feeling I had when I first read the script. I was just so inspired and so moved. And I hope it makes people look up other women in history that have been left behind. But mainly, I just want people to be inspired and hopeful, because I think we all need a bit of that.

Daisy Ridley: What's been beautiful for me is I've now spoken to quite a few people who have seen it. I have heard from people that have taken their kids. I spoke to someone that took their mother. Particularly now, to have a film that is joyful and hopeful and is real and really talks about triumphing over adversity, but centers on this family who love each other and support each other and want the best for each other, it feels like we could all do with that right now. And to be part of something that feels sincere and good is wonderful. I'm really proud of this movie.

Jerry Bruckheimer: Everybody's looking for good entertainment. Everybody's looking for something that takes them away from their lives for two hours and puts them in another world that they can be inspired by. You walk out, and you feel better than when you walked in. That's what we do when we make movies, and that's why we go to theaters — to have that group experience, and to be with other people who are laughing and crying along with us. That's what we do. And look, we did it with Top Gun: Maverick, and hopefully we'll do it again with this.

By Sara Tardiff


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