Considering how hard it is to make a decent sports movie at all (boxing and baseball seem to fare best, but even then there’s plenty of dross focusing on both pastimes), it’s not surprising, considering the general American apathy towards the game, that soccer, or football as the rest of us call it, hasn’t had much success on the big-screen, bar Ken Loach‘s “Looking for Eric” and Tom Hooper‘s mostly strong “The Damned United” a couple of years back. “Escape to Victory?” No. “Kicking and Screaming?” Not so much. “When Saturday Comes?” Definitely not.
But with Team U.S.A.’s success in last summer’s World Cup bringing new fans to the game, people are going to keep trying: Gerard Butler is starring in the “Shampoo“-esque sex comedy “Playing the Field,” and now news has come from the U.K. of a new project focusing on a famous, pathos-filled incident within the game, and it’s got some fairly big-name actors attached.
The Observer reports that Rupert Grint, who’s just finishing up his ‘Harry Potter‘ duties in this summer’s ‘Deathly Hallows Part 2,‘ and the great Jonathan Pryce are on board “Wartime Wanderers,” which tells the story of the 1939 Bolton Wanderers F.C. team, who, inspired by a speech by captain Harry Goslin, enlisted to active duty en masse: a rarity among professional footballers of the time. The 53rd Field Regiment of the Bolton Artillery, as they became, saw action in France (including the Battle of Dunkirk), North Africa and Italy, and remarkably, only one of the 15 team members who enlisted was killed in action — Goslin himself.
Pryce, last seen on screen in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” will play the team’s manager, while Grint will play Ernie Forrest, the joker of the team. Also on board are Sean Maguire (“Meet the Spartans“) as Goslin, Matthew McNulty (“Looking For Eric,” “The Arbor“) as star player Ray Westwood, and Bradley Walsh (“Law & Order: UK“) as the Sergeant Major who looks after the players on their enlistment. David Whitney, who helmed Afghanistan-set actioner “Kandahar Break,” is directing, and the script comes from TV veteran Tim Purcell and Jack Seddon, based on Purcell’s book of the same name.
Inevitably, the film’s website draws comparisons with “The King’s Speech,” which is certainly ambitious, but then, if you’d told us two years ago that that film would become the critical and commercial behemoth that it did, we’d have laughed right in your face. The project’s currently seeking final investment, and you can get involved on the website, if you’ve ever wanted to be a movie producer, and have a few grand lying around. If that money comes through, and all the cast remain on board, the film is intended to go before cameras in the fall, with a summer 2012 release being targeted.