Most Influential

Most Influential, Arts: Daniel James Brown


By Heidi Mills January 16, 2024

Daniel James Brown. Styling by Angie Maria Hansen. Grooming by Kaija Mistral Towner. Shirt by Uniqlo and Jacket by Express Men.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

His book saved a boathouse, inspired a Hollywood movie, and brought worldwide attention to University of Washington rowing and Seattle.

Daniel James Brown wrote The Boys in the Boat a decade ago, but this year marked a new chapter for his beloved book. On Christmas Day, MGM released The Boys in the Boat movie, which was directed by George Clooney. This year also brings the final sprint to the finish line of a lengthy campaign to raise $18.5 million to preserve the old ASUW Shell House on the UW campus. Once renovated, the Shell House will serve as a museum, gathering space, and event center.

The ASUW Shell House was the true-life setting for The Boys in the Boat, where a group of hard-working, Depression-era young men learned to row. The inspirational team traveled to Nazi Germany in 1936 to capture an Olympic gold medal in a thrilling, come-from-behind victory in the men’s eight race. Clooney and the rest of the film team created a full-size replica of the ASUW Shell House to film The Boys in the Boat on the River Thames in England.

Brown never expected the enormous success of The Boys in the Boat, but believes his book has fostered deserved recognition for the sport of rowing, the Husky crew team, and the Seattle area. Already, Boys in the Boat fans journey to the Montlake Cut from across the world to see the spot a group of scrappy, unlikely athletes trained and rose to Olympic gold.

When the film hits theaters, Brown and UW rowing backers expect a new wave of fans to visit the old Shell House. Brown believes the attention his book and the film have brought Seattle and UW rowing can only be a good thing. “It’s teaching people the history and values of rowing,” Brown says. “It’s keeping the story alive.”

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