In recent weeks we’ve been lucky enough to work with a fantastic cast and crew on this latest film project.
The film is about two people who meet for the first time in 25 years and discover they have very different recollections of the events that changed both their lives.
I talk about the experience on Pilar Alessandra’s “On The Page” podcast. Episode 480.
Four years ago Oscar Pistorius was about to compete against able-bodied athletes at the Olympic Games in London. He was the first amputee runner ever to do so. He carried his nation’s flag at the closing ceremony and he returned to the stadium several weeks later to compete, and win in the Paralympic Games. If he watches the Olympics in Rio at all it will be from inside the Khosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria. Odds are that he may still be there when the Games come around again in 2020. Rather than offer you those odds though, I’ll offer you this wager. By the time he is released from prison a film about his life will have been made, or will be in production. His story is so unbelievable that it is hard to see filmmakers not wanting to put it on screen. Disability, triumph, glory, tragedy and jeopardy. And that is just the last four years. To go from flag carrier to convict in a single Olympic cycle, trust me, someone will make that film. While they do, here are five films about sport or sporting figures that should be in any collection.
- Friday Night Lights – H.D. Bissinger, a journalist from The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a non-fiction book about the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team as they attempted to win the Texas state championship. The book was published as Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream. The book was turned into a film in 2004 starring Billy Bob Thornton and Connie Britton and then into a TV series on NBC in 2006. As portrayals of middle America and the critical role that football plays in holding small communities together all three are excellent.
- Any Given Sunday – Same sport, but this time given the Oliver Stone treatment and moved from High School to the big leagues. Stone’s 1999 film has a star-studded cast which includes Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, James Woods, Jamie Foxx and hell even Charlton Heston and is based on famed NFL player Pat Doonay’s book On Any Given Sunday. It is worth watching just for the soundtrack.
- Rocky – Possibly the one film on this list that transcends the genre and commands respect as a film, not just a sporting film. The franchise reached its 40th birthday this year. The first film won three Academy Awards and with the 2015 release of Creed the franchise is as good as ever with Stallone picking up a Golden Globe for his performance as veteran slugger Rocky Balboa. Students of storycraft would do well to breakdown the structure of the films. They match the tried and tested model of how story works almost exactly. But the model is so well disguised that you’d never know you were being given a masterclass.
- When We Were Kings – Sticking with Academy Award winning films about boxing we have Leon Gast’s 1996 documentary about the classic 1974 Rumble in the Jungle fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Legend has it that it took Gast over 20 years to complete the film and if true his patience was rewarded with the Best Documentary Feature award at the Oscars in 1996. Gast was joined on stage by Ali and Foreman. When Ali passed away earlier this year footage of this fight was screened all over the world, just as it was in 1974.
- Seabiscuit – Possibly the one shining light during the American Great Depression of the 1930s and 40s, Seabiscuit was a racehorse. Laura Hillenbrand wrote a non-fiction biography of the horse in 2001 titled Seabiscuit: An American Legend and Gary Ross used the book as the basis for his 2003 film version Seabiscuit starring Tobey Macguire and Jeff Bridges. As is so often the case in sporting stories the horse becomes the vehicle through which people, indeed the whole country, found sweet relief during a time of intense hardship. There is even a 1949 film version starring Shirley Temple which features actual race footage, although be warned. The footage is really the only reason to watch the film.
So let’s get one thing straight. I didn’t say the best five, I just said five. So fans of Jerry Maguire, Chariots of Fire, A League of Their Own, Moneyball, Escape To Victory, Bend it like Beckham, Invictus, Foxcatcher, Field of Dreams, White Men Can’t Jump and even The Mighty Ducks, please relax. There is nothing wrong with your films (even yours Emilio Estevez, although I am not sure we needed three outings for the Ducks). Fans of the UK film Mike Bassett: England Manager may be delighted to know that a sequel will hit the big screen later this year. Mike Bassett comes out of retirement to help England’s newly installed German manager. Oh and don’t worry Leicester City FC fans, they will make a film about last season. For more on both the identity of the next England manager and LCFC check out my friends.
Sport lends itself to the big screen easily. It contains all the raw ingredients for a great story. Winners, losers, cheers and tears. There have been plenty of all these things in Pistorius’ story. I met him once. It was at a golf event in October 2012, barely a month after the most glorious summer of his life. Somebody asked him what his golf handicap was. He smiled and said “I’ve got no legs.” Everyone laughed. He was the centre of attention. The man of the moment. A global superstar.
How very long ago that feels now.
A quick peek behind the scenes at what happened on set during the filming of Brunette Baby.
My latest short film has gone into pre-production with the excellent team at mini productions at the helm.
@brunette_baby is 14. She’s just started her period and she wants to be Taylor Swift. She doesn’t have a boyfriend and so when she chats online with John she gets a thrill. Sadly John isn’t her type. He’s in his 50’s and trying to groom her. What he doesn’t know is that she’s an undercover detective.
When you’re online, there’s always someone watching.