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‘The Ice King’: Documentary about first openly gay Olympian John Curry hits UK cinemas


By Joshua Haigh

The greatest ice skater of all time, John Curry transformed a dated sport into an art form and made history by becoming the first openly gay Olympian back in 1976, when homosexuality was not even fully legal. 

Toxic yet charming; rebellious yet elitist; emotionally aloof yet spectacularly needy; ferociously ambitious yet bent on self-destruction, this is a man forever on the run: from his father’s ghost, his country, and even his own self.

Above all, an artist and an athlete whose body time and time again –sometimes against his will– becomes a political battlefield.

New documentary The Ice King, in cinemas now, tells Curry’s story of art, sport, sexuality, and rebellion. It includes incredible unseen footage of some of his mort remarkable performances, with access to Curry’s letters, archive interviews, and interviews with his family, friends and collaborators. 

Director James Erskine said: “In setting out to make The Ice King, my primary goals were two-fold. To unearth the work of a truly magical artist, and to tell an emotional, heart-rendering story of ambition and broken dreams.

“As emotional as it is exciting and graceful, The Ice King will dance into audience’s hearts” – Jason Solomons, BBC London

“This was far from simple, first we needed to dig deep and conduct a global search for personal and lost archive. Some of Curry’s dances were talked about, but never-knowingly filmed – particularly his masterpiece ‘Moonskate’, which after several months we found a home recording of.

“It was a bit like finding a Van Gogh in the attic – it is far and away the most beautiful and moving piece of skating ever performed, and arguably one of the greatest and most powerful dances in history.

“I would defy any audience not to be moved by watching it. It was always my vision to put the performances at the centre of the film, to allow Curry to express himself on screen, as he did in life, through movement, his triumphs and tragedies as a gliding, ethereal autobiography sketched on the sheen of ice.”

He continues: “If two thirds of the narrative was to be the artistic and athletic struggle, the third part was to be the story of a man repressed by society and his family because of his sexuality.

“We were able to dig deep to find Curry’s own voice in archive, but then fell across some 1000 or more personal letters.Candid insights to lovers and friends of the real John Curry – not that captured in the media frame.

“We set to use these to drive the narrative, bringing in an uncanny vocal performance from actor Freddie Fox, who happily already had an obsession with Curry, to create the sense that the story was a living, breathing journey that would transfix and at times traumatise the audience [by] looking into a man’s art, his mind and his heart.” 

The Ice King is in cinemas now. Book your tickets at