Phase9 Entertainment

MIKE BASSETT: ENGLAND MANAGER - Q&A with director Steve Barron

Movie Interview by Kris Griffiths
PHASE9 talks to Steve Barron, the director of this British comedy

I suppose you must be a big football fan. What team do you support?

Well, I support Sky Sports F.C. I haven't actually been to a football match for years, but the teams that I've followed since I was a kid are Manchester United, Fulham and Wrexham.

But you were born in Ireland?

Yes, I was born in Dublin so I suppose you could add Shamrock Rovers to that but I've only been there a couple of times. Never really got into them - the Irish league really leaves a lot to be desired.

You must have found the timing of this film's release ironic considering what's been going on in the England camp recently?

I thought it was very nice, not just ironic. It was good timing because you were given a different platform to be able to look at the film from, which I think was positive for the film. The Sven Goran Eriksson thing distances everyone from it and makes it easier to laugh at it.

I thought that Ricky Tomlinson was perfect for the role he played. What was it like working with him?

Ricky's a great guy - a real natural - not like an actor actor. He's got great delivery and a great instinct for timing. He really gets the sense of a scene and just has it in him to become that character, immersing himself in it but keeping it real.

And what was it like working with Pele and Ronaldo?

It was brief but amazing (laughs). When Pele walked onto the set everybody was just gaga. All the strong, jack-the lads who were in the film suddenly went weak at the knees. He was fabulous. He just came up to me and said "I give myself to you. I've been directed by famous directors before and now I'm yours". Then he gave me a big hug - it was really sweet. I don't know how you felt, but I thought he pulled off what he had to do really well. He was a natural.

I agree totally - he was quality. So was Ronaldo.

Well, Ronaldo just happened to be in Rio when we were scouting so we contacted him and asked him if he minded doing a tiny little piece for the film. He was a bit tentative at first but when we told him we'd donate some money to a charity of his choice he ended up saying ok. A lot of the film was opportunist stuff. The drunken bar scene that was written for Pele had actually been initially written for Eric Cantona, who was going to come in and practice his ninja kicks. But we didn't end up getting through to Eric so we thought we'd try Pele and he said yes. On the day he came in we sort of quickly wrote another scene for him and he did that as well.

Have you had any feedback from members of the football world who might have seen it?

Well, last night Graham Taylor watched it. I wasn't there but people who were said he laughed all the way through it. I can't think of anyone more relevant to watch it - there must have been a fair amount of mirror gazing. Apparently he was doing a review for Film 2001 so it will be interesting to see what he has to say about it. I haven't heard anything from the rest of the footballing community. There should be a lot of them at the premiere next week.

Which past England manager do you see the most in the character of Mike Bassett?

He definitely flirts with Graham Taylor, Bobby Robson, Ron Greenwood, Kevin Keegan, in fact I don't think there was one of them we didn't touch upon.

Where were you the night England humiliated Germany?

I was actually in a place called the Cobden Club in Kensall Rise watching it on a big screen with about a hundred other people. Straight after the match we were driving around Ladbroke Grove screaming out of the sunroof. I couldn't speak for about three days afterwards.

England versus Ireland. Do you support England every day of the week?

Well I was brought up in England, so if they ever play each other its always England but I'm always a little bit divided. When we beat Germany in the European Championship two years ago, I was doing a film in Ireland and I was watching the game in a pub in South Dublin. Now there's always been this spirit within most of Ireland, especially in Dublin, that when England play you always support the other team. Its always been there and its always been done. Anyway, there must have been about five hundred people in this pub, and there was just me screaming at the top of my voice. When Shearer finally scored I just went off on one. Everyone else was completely silent but I'd had a few drinks in me so I didn't care.

So was there any trouble?

No, there was no trouble at all. A couple of them actually came up to me and started telling me how they love Liverpool and everything, but they just couldn't show it. I know what they're like, the Irish, its just the way they have to be. But they're great people.

There's generally that anti-England sentiment all over the British Isles when it comes to football, which I think is a shame. I am an England fan first and foremost but whenever Wales, Scotland or Ireland play I will always root for them too. It's a pity the feeling can't be reciprocated.

Well it's only because we are the dominant country and they are always feeling downtrodden. It's a natural instinct, but generally, deep down you know that they really do support us - especially because of the Premier League - but they just can't show it.

I mean, I was heartbroken over the way Celtic lost to Juventus last night. After coming back from two nil down they lost the game thanks to Amoruso taking a dive in the last few minutes. Did you see it?

Yeah, I saw the highlights. Now they should totally be able to hand out yellow cards and red cards posthumously after analysing what happened - it's the only way to stamp out this kind of cheating - by penalising players after the game.

Exactly. It's understandable that during the game the referee might not be able to distinguish between a foul and a dive.

Of Course. If he happens to be watching it from the wrong angle, or not even the wrong angle, if it just happens to be an unlucky one, how on earth will he ever know?! The only way to stamp it out is if players suddenly start getting two or three match bans because they've been caught on video then of course it will stop. I don't understand how they can't see that. When it's absolutely blatant...

Our interview continued with a chat about football. MIKE BASSETT: ENGLAND MANAGER is released in the UK on September 25, 2001.