Shropshire Everest victim's story to be told in new film

The tragic and inspirational story of how a Shrewsbury School pupil died attempting to conquer Mount Everest is to feature as part of a major motion picture.

Shropshire Everest victim's story to be told in new film

Legendary British mountaineer Andrew "Sandy" Irvine died aged 22 when taking part in explorer George Mallory's third and final attempt to become the first person to reach the mountain's summit.

Now the story of Mallory's three attempts – ultimately doomed to heroic failure – is being turned into a film with Frost/Nixon star Michael Sheen cast in the central role.

The film's producer Juliusz Kossakowski says the actor playing Irvine has not yet been chosen and is expected to be cast in June.

Michael Sheen will star in the film

He said: "Irvine is certainly part of the story and this is really a biopic so we will be covering all three attempts, including the last one.

"It is a piece that has many important characters with respect to the trajectory of Mallory, particularly the rivalry with Finch. It is not biased towards the first, second or third attempts, it is truly a biopic and in that sense seems to work dramatically very well and pays homage to this great character in mountaineering and British history."

The expedition took place in 1924 and Irvine and Mallory disappeared somewhere high on the mountain's northeast ridge, having been sighted only a few hundred metres from the summit.

Mallory's body was discovered in 1999, but Irvine's remains have never been found.

Nicola Bevan, of Shrewsbury School, said that Irvine's heroic efforts have always served as an inspiration to pupils.

She said: "Irvine's legacy lives on at the school and his story has inspired generations of Salopian's to try the unexpected and push the boundaries of any sphere they have an interest in.

"He is commemorated with a plaque in our chapel and a regular lecture in his name, most recently given by his great-niece and biographer Julie Summers.

"There is a room dedicated to his achievements in Severn Hill, one of the school's boarding houses. The room houses Irvine's famous ice axe, which was discovered at 27,000 feet by Wyn Harris during an expedition in 1933 and other Everest memorabilia collected or donated to the school. The boarding house also has a plaque on the external wall, dedicated to his memory."

Plaque commemorating Irvine's efforts

Irvine was a pupil at Shrewsbury School from 1916 to 1921. He was said to be a keen sportsmen who particularly excelled at rowing and athletics.

His prodigious ability as a rower made him a star of the 1919 'Peace Regatta' at Henley, and propelled him to Merton College, Oxford, to study engineering.

At Oxford he joined the Oxford University Mountaineering Club, and was also a member of the Oxford crew for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 1922 – and a member of the winning crew in 1923, the only occasion upon which Oxford did so between 1913 and 1937.

Shrewsbury School has a long-standing history of Salopian's climbing Everest. Sir Robert Charles Evans, an Old Salopian, was deputy leader of Hillary's successful expedition in 1953 and made it within 300m of the summit.

Guy Lovett, another former pupil, conceived the idea of honouring Irvine – a fellow elite oarsman – with a plaque at Everest Base Camp, which he hoped would help compensate for the weight of attention granted his more famous climbing partner Mallory.

Mr Lovett was in the throes of planning the expedition when he was tragically taken ill and died aged 27. His mother Val was determined his ambitions should be realised and enlisted the help of another ex-Shrewsbury First VIII oarsman, Dan Morris, to continue Guy's good work.

The ceremony to dedicate the plaque was followed by The Irvine Lovett Everest Expedition in 2004. A year later, Dr Julian Thompson was believed to be the first documented Old Salopian to summit Everest.

Dr Adam Booth, who climbed the summit on May 12, 2013, is the most recent ex-pupil to conquer Everest.

The film is expected to begin shooting this September.

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