The legendary New York soccer team, the New York Cosmos, most famous as the team that “brought Pelé to America,” will be the subject of a feature film in development, with Caroline Rowland, director of the official London 2012 Olympics film First (which receives its world premiere in London tonight, Nov 6), in talks to direct.
The Cosmos have already been the subject of one successful documentary, Once In A Lifetime (2006), which looked at the team’s rise and fall in the 1970s and 1980s; this looks to be a scripted feature film, with the working title, Twice In A Lifetime.
It’ll be impossible to make a film about the Cosmos without Brazilian soccer superstar Pelé, who acquired by the team during the 1975 season, in a deal that was seen as a major coup for the ball club, acquiring a player whose worldwide popularity was compared to that of the Pope’s.
And they paid well for him – a salary of $1.4 million per year, which was certainly a large payout for any athlete at the time (in today’s dollars, that would be about the equivalent of $6 million a year).
His arrival turned the Cosmos from a motley crew of semi-professionals and students into a huge commercial enterprise. Pelé’s debut game with the Cosmos was reportedly broadcast in 22 countries and covered by more than 300 journalists from all over the world.
And his arrival followed by other European and South American international players, raised attendance significantly, the team’s competitive performance improved.
Pelé played his last professional match on October 1, 1977, in front of a capacity crowd at Giants Stadium. Of course The Cosmos won the game, a championship year for the team.
And after he retired, there was a noticeably decline of interest in the Cosmos and the overall soccer league, and it was said that, much of the progress that American soccer had made during his stay was lost, especially with no star at the same level to replace him as the league’s headline act.
I should note that there’s a Pelé biopic in the works as well, which we announced in August.
The scripted feature film is being backed by Ron Howard’s and Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment, based on a recommendation by Cosmos chairman Paul Kemsley, who owns the life story rights to Pelé.
Jeff and Michael Zimbalist were said to have been hired to pen the screenplay, with the possibility of directing the film as well. The brothers Zimbalist last helmed the acclaimed documentary The Two Escobars for ESPN Films in 2010.
According to Imagine Entertainment, the plan is to produce “more of a coming-of-age story that will trace Pele’s childhood until he won his first World Cup in Sweden at the age of 17.“
Principal photography is scheduled to start in Brazil next year, with the goal being to release the film prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
No word on casting; but I assume they’d go with an actor from the soccer legend’s neck of the woods.
The deal is being brokered by WME on behalf of Paul Kemsley and the Pele Estate.
And while we wait for either of these films to become reality… here’s a 2010 short film, directed by Luciano Moura and Nando Olival, and executive produced by Fernando Meirelles (director of City Of God, The Constant Gardener), which presents a fictionalized account of a then 69-year-old Pelé, returning to play for the Brazil national team, against the country’s long-time rivals, Argentina, as Pelé, who finished his career playing for the Cosmos, gets his opportunity to score his final career goal as a Brazilian team player.