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By Matt Cooper on 29.4.2023

Interview with Brogan West from "United"

United, a BBC2, 90-minute drama about the 1958 Munich air disaster and the events surrounding it, was aired on Easter Sunday. It is a powerful story that follows Manchester United from 1956 to the end of the 1957-58 season and shows how the disaster almost shut down the club. Dougray Scott plays Sir Matt Busby and David Tennant plays his assistant, Jimmy Murphy. Murphy was key in keeping the club together after the plane crash. Inquire spoke to Brogan West who plays the part of David Pegg. Pegg died aged 22 in the plane crash. He was a left-winger in the Manchester United and England team at the time.

How did you get involved with the film United?

I read the script, thought it was brilliant and instantly wanted to be part of it. I wasn’t the only one who was in tears the first time we read it. I had a good audition and then went to meet Andy Prior, who cast the show and James Strong, the director. We had a chat about the part and we got on well. A week later they rang me and offered me the part.

What was it like working with stars such as David Tennant and Dougray Scott?

You’re working with David Tennant’s version of Jimmy Murphy or Dougray Scott’s version of Matt Busby. Of course, when the camera stops rolling we all go out and have a beer and a talk but it’s nice to be around people who have spent years developing and honing their craft, to see how they do it and to see if the way you do it is on a par. David was really benevolent with his information and his guidance. He was always there to talk to.

How did you prepare? Did you have to train for the football scenes?

I knew about the crash and the story. I knew about Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards. But I hadn’t heard of David Pegg. I researched a lot on the internet and watched footage of the games. I read about David Pegg and about what his family and friends said of him. He was always smiling and doing his hair and you see me doing that quite a bit in the film.
We got to go behind the scenes at Tottenham Hotspur FC. We watched them train and how the club was run. Obviously, it is a bit different now compared to the 1950s. We met Harry Redknapp who saw Manchester United play in 1958 before they went out to play Red Star Belgrade. He told us some of the things that have changed over the years. After that we got a few training sessions together and worked together as a team. We all had different backgrounds in football but football was the perfect context to come together as a team. We were given that opportunity and I think it came across in United.

Did you meet any of the survivors from the crash or any of David Pegg’s family?

Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet any of the survivors or the team’s families. They did do a special showing of United for the families and they loved it. David Pegg’s sister watched it and she said some really positive things. That’s your job as an actor, to justify the character you’re playing. It’s harder when your character is a person who really existed but hopefully you justify it and a positive response is a job done.

Had you heard of Jimmy Murphy before you became involved in the film?

I hadn’t. Matt Busby has such an aura and such a place in history, what he did with the George Best team that later won in Europe was great. It wasn’t that Murphy was so much forgotten, but his heroism in 1958 got overshadowed by the later success of Manchester United. But he was the unsung hero of the piece and he was happy being Busby’s number two. Manchester Untied wouldn’t be the same without what he did after the crash.

Have you got a favourite moment from the film?

My favourite moment from filming was the day after the Red Star Belgrade match. They all had a big ceremonial dinner and we all got to sing and drink and have fun. When we were filming that day it was brilliant. We got to sing for hours, we had an amazing set, and we were all wearing amazing suits.
In the finished film, my favourite moment is the last scene where Jimmy Murphy turns round to the new team about to play Bolton in the FA cup final. He turns round and he sees us; the Old Busby Babes. After the crash, Manchester United changed in such a way and had so much success that it would be almost easy to forget where it all started. That glimpse brings it all back to what it started with which is that line up before Charlton in the first match of the 1956-57 season. When backed up by Clint Mansell’s soundtrack, I think that part is really powerfully done in the film.

How many times did you have to film the bit where you get flattened by the keeper during a training session?

That wasn’t actually in the script. We were playing around and the keeper flattened Sam Claflin’s character, Duncan Edwards. I had the line, ‘goalies, they’re all the same’, and we thought it would be nice, given that Pegg is a bit cheeky, to have that line backed up with the keeper retaliating, and then I get flattened. It took about 12 takes, which when your freezing cold and covered in mud is a lot.

What is your next project?

I’ve just finished writing my first feature film script, so I’m getting that together to send off.

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