Interview with Goal 2’s writer Mike Jefferies and cast members includes Kuno Becker and Steve Mcmanaman
What does being an associate producer entail?
Steve McManaman: “I tried to help out really, in the broadest possible sense. My relationship was to help out with the film crew if they needed any help from Real Madrid. But saying that, Real Madrid were very accessible to be very honest. Then down to the dressing room, advice on what people wore, if anybody needed any help.
“Really because I’ve been in that situation before, walking out onto the pitch, what the interaction is like in the dressing room before games, what kind of things people will be shouting, what the manager would be wearing, what clothes. Would the manager have a tracksuit on in Spain, or would he be dressed in a suit? So I just tried to help out as much as possible in that respect really.
Were there no problems you had to quickly resolve?
Steve McManaman: “No, Real Madrid were very good. I wasn’t involved in the first Goal but the football scenes at Newcastle were very limited. But in Goal 2, as you’ll see, we were in the dressing room, we were on the pitch, we were at the training ground. Some teams, especially in England, are very precious about their football pitches and rightly so. But most nights we’d be out there [at the Bernabeu] at 3 or 4 in the morning for hours on the pitch. So as I’ve said, a lot of credit goes to Real Madrid in that respect.
“Liverpool didn’t want to do Goal 1, whereas Newcastle jumped in and seized the opportunity very passionately. At the premiere last night, I just explained to the audience that I was driving down Sunset Boulevard last week and there were two landscape gardeners pushing lawnmowers and wearing Newcastle United shirts. I pulled over and asked them why on earth they were wearing them – and no disrespect to Newcastle – and it was because of the movie. They’d loved Kuno Becker and Santiago’s character.
“So, in that respect I think Newcastle had a vision that this would do a huge amount of incremental marketing support for their brand in emerging markets such as America and Asia, and that was FIFA’s vision as well. Real Madrid are as savvy as they get in marketing terms.
“I went across to meet them, there were three clubs that we were planning to talk to for Goal 2, but literally within half an hour of them hearing what we were doing we shook hands on it, that we could have Real Madrid and all the access that you could possibly want. Aladdin’s Cave opened up in that regard, and we made the deal.
In Goal 3 will David Beckham get to speak?
Mike Jefferies: “David was amazing. He had a small cameo in Goal 1 and in Goal 2 – without giving too much away – he’s featured very extensively. I think the entire crew and cast owe him an enormous debt for bringing such a degree of authenticity. And as Steve says coming back to the stadium in the wee hours in the freezing cold and enthusiastically doing take after take. And allowing us to represent football in such an authentic way because he was so involved. We’re very grateful to him.
Harder this time for Kuno, getting the football right?
Kuno Becker: “It was even more difficult. For me, it’s been very, very difficult because I really didn’t play much football at the beginning, and I don’t play much now either. I did improve but it’s a little bit crazy to actually get to a professional level in months. I did play in school when I was a kid.
“And I did train a great deal for the film, for a couple of months before I started the first one. I had many injuries, which was pretty tough. And for the second one I trained again with Andy Ansah and we were lucky to have him because without him, I honestly wouldn’t have made it. It was as tough as the first one, that was the toughest part for me, the physical part.
How many takes did it take to do the overhead kick?
Kuno Becker: “Oh, that was just one take. I think that was the rehearsal. I did a little bit more of the football in the second one than in the first one but, man, it was hard for me. Really hard. I tried to do as much as I could but it was tough. The physical part was tough for me, about this project, just becoming this character physically has been the challenge for me.
Being nude in the hotel lobby – challenging?
Kuno Becker: “No, that was just funny, a funny moment that we had with Rutger who did a fantastic job in the film. He has this amazing presence. It’s one of the funny moments that we have in this second film.
Steve, will your acting career continue?
Steve McManaman: “No, definitely not. I enjoyed it but that’s as far as it goes. I’ll leave it to the experts. For me, in between takes and lighting changes, there was a lot of hanging around for me to be honest. Footballers lives are very dynamic, you’re out there for 90 minutes and it’s concentration for about two hours, you do your job and then leave. Whereas the actors, you know, certain nights we were there for 12 hours... I’ve never worked for 12 hours on the run in my life. I certainly don’t want to start doing it now.
Mike Jefferies: “I think he’s being a bit modest. Jaume would tell you if he was here today that he’s never shot anybody that sits down as well as Steve. Standing up is pretty good, but sitting down is fantastic.
How difficult is it making a film with a lot of non-actors?
Mike Jefferies: “We played to their strengths where we could. Most of the representation of the footballers is on the training pitch or on the football pitch playing football. Quite often in that situation, particularly on the training ground scenes, we just let the cameras roll. We gave nobody gave anyone any brief.
“We just asked Kuno and Alessandro to get in there and just become part of the team. And because the players loved Kuno and Alessandro so much they were just very happy to embrace them very warmly and include them. Some of the footage we have of Kuno in the locker room kicking the ball around with Zidane and Roberto Carlos and David is just mind blowingly incredible to me on a production value level, inasmuch as we managed to pull it off.
“But there’s a few scenes where Salgado’s on the phone and Guti and Helguera are in the bath with Casillas. Then we have Gravesen in the lift, but again I guess the main trick when they’re doing lines is to do them in a responsive, driven fashion so they’re waiting for a cue which is basically a question. They were all tremendous.
Your friendship with a lot of Real Madrid players presumably helped facilitate things?
Steve McManaman: “Working with the players was great. I went back to Madrid, saw them for a couple of months. When David came down, or Casillas came down, I was always looking to see them. We all went to see numerous games while we were over there so I caught up with them after the games and went out with them later on for meals and drinks and stuff. So that was fantastic to do.
Got the taste to produce movies?
Steve McManaman: “I don’t think so. I’m still only a baby in this game and if I wanted to get involved I’d certainly bend Mike’s ear for advice. But at the moment this was just a one off.
Not going to become a movie mogul?
Steve McManaman: “The new Harvey Weinstein? I don’t think so.
Do you ever think you stopped playing too early?
Steve McManaman: “No, because to be honest I stopped of my own accord. I could have carried on and had plenty of offers to carry on but I wanted to stop. I had a recurring injury which was a problem. But I only wanted to play at the highest level really. I got offers from here, there and everywhere and I decided to stop of my own accord.
“I think it’s easier to come to terms with when you stop like that rather than when you’re told to stop. I was never the typical footballer where football was the be all and end all. It wasn’t for me. I’ve got lots of other interests and lots of other business interests I can now get fully involved with.
It seemed like the ink was barely dry on David Beckham’s new contract when a press release came round informing us that Santiago was going to be following in his footsteps... How fluid was that of the situation? And how easy was it to secure that deal?
Mike Jefferies: “We were very lucky. The plan was to have Goal 3 begin – certainly the first act – in the US, set against the backdrop of the MLS, and LA Galaxy was the team that we decided to go with because the landscape upon which the drama of Goal 3 flows is basically moving from Los Angeles to the World Cup in Germany.
“So it was like manna from heaven when we found out that David was going to be joining the LA Galaxy and he was going to be there playing for the LA Galaxy when we’d be filming. I’m trying to not give too much away of the plotline for Goal 3, it was just very fortuitous, great timing and a lots of luck.
Didn’t influence his decision at all?
Mike Jefferies: “No, not at all. I think his reasons for going there are on record, and the main thing is to make a difference in Los Angeles and in America. To really help promote the game and to inspire kids continue playing soccer – as they call it – as they get into college, and not migrate to the other sports that are more traditionally popular.
You presumably got a lot of tips from the players while you were filming. Did any of them ask you for any tips on acting?
Kuno Becker: “Well, first of all I’m not an acting coach and I wouldn’t be the right person to say anything about that. I would just say enjoy the ride and be relaxed. But they seemed to be pretty used to the cameras, which was great. I think what’s wonderful about having them in the film, the first, the second and hopefully the third, is that it gives the audience this sense of realism that has never been done before.
You were a musician before becoming an actor and that you don’t have a sporting background but aren’t you playing a boxer next?
Kuno Becker: Yeah. Why can’t I play an attorney or an accountant or a producer. Or a rock star? I just finished a movie in Texas about a Latino boxer. It’s a lot of sport.
Was boxing any easier than playing football?
Kuno Becker: “You know what, it was a little bit because I did a little bit of kick boxing too. Soccer was just hard for me because of the injuries that I had in the beginning, when I broke my ankles. I couldn’t walk for about a month and a half, so that was the toughest part. But at the end of the day, the challenge of becoming something else is what interests me. It’s what I want to do.
Was there anything you saw being filmed that took you right back to your debut, or first steps in the Bernabeu?
Steve McManaman: “I think so. When you join a club like Real Madrid, and you’re stuck in a hotel room at first, so of course. The whole plot of the highs and the lows of football and the path you can go, the path you can’t go and the temptations you have... as much as it’s condensed in a feature film, that certainly goes round for a football player.
“There’s times when you’re injured and it’s depressing; there’s times when you’re coming back and you’re on the bench and you have stiff competition with teammates, but you also have to be friends with these people even though you’re rivals at certain times. It brings it all right back, without a doubt.
But you learned Spanish very quickly unlike Gavin [Alessandro Nivola] in the film?
Steve McManaman: “I think it’s well documented that sometimes the language is an excuse for an English player not to succeed. But I think it’s important, like foreign players do when they come and play in England, they get right into it. You see foreign players interviewed on the television and their English is nigh on perfect.
“So I think it’s up to the English players when they do go abroad to really buckle down, learn the language and try and integrate themselves as do, it’s important then to try and speak to the local press. It’s alright after six months to say that you can’t learn the language but after six years you can’t have that excuse.
When is the third film going into production? And will there be some more new faces?
Mike Jefferies: “There’s definitely some new faces. One or two that are pretty integral to driving the plot, so I’d best not say too much. We’re just in the process of finishing off the script for Goal 3. In terms of production we’ll be hoping to get shooting around July, August and September, and it’ll be split between Los Angeles and the UK, rather like we shot Goal 1.
“We’ve obviously shot a huge amount of footage already. We were very privileged to get unprecedented access to the World Cup Finals. I think we had nine cameras at 24 games, so we’ve got a huge amount of footage that Michael managed to get for us, thanks again to the FIFA president Joseph Blatter. But there’s a couple of really exciting new characters that emerge in Goal 3 to keep the story fresh and driving forward. But that’s all I’m going to say about it.
What makes you think the scenes in this film are as good, or better, than any other football film?
Steve McManaman: “They are because of the accessibility to Real Madrid and the fact that we’re in the dressing room. I think if you go on the club tour you’re not allowed in the dressing room, but we could do whatever we wanted in there for most nights. On the pitch, the interaction between the players on the pitch is, think, unprecedented.
“And Kuno running out with the team and the fact that him and Alessandro trained with the team, there’s lots of interaction between the players, wishing each other good luck before games and things like that. And the football scenes as well, because a lot of the time with those specific cameos, I think they’ve never had this access before.
“There was some limited access at Newcastle for the first film. And of course, hark back to the great film Escape To Victory and it’s much better than that!
Mike Jefferies: “The thing about this film though, it really is a film worthy of watching on the big screen. The DVD for Goal did terrifically well. But Kuno’s character only really plays for Newcastle United in the last 10 minutes of that film, so the action was fairly limited. And the access was limited too.
“But in Goal 2 he’s involved in the Real Madrid first team from the beginning and consequently because of the access that we got and because of the participation of the Real players, Jaume [Collet-Serra, director] and the DP did the most incredible job in terms of the football action. I think as a sports movie it’ll stand up to any sports film made, from Raging Bull to Ali.
“So rather than waiting to see it on the small screen, on television, actually going along to the movie theatre – I saw it for the 300 th time last night with an audience in Newcastle of about 400 people and they were just mesmerised by feeling that they were part of an experience that takes place on the pitch and in the stands of the Bernabeu.
How do you think Arsenal fans will react to the final scenes?
Mike Jefferies: “Well I think Arsenal were fantastic. Even though what happens happens in the film, they’re represented in a very, very positive way. Very honest, exciting with a commitment to attacking football which is what Arsenal are known for. So we were really delighted and privileged to have them participate in the way they did.
People remember Escape To Victory for all the wrong reasons. Have things like that made it difficult for people to get into the idea of a football movie?
Mike Jefferies: “I think maybe we suffered theatrically on Goal 1 because there was an inherent suspicion that football doesn’t translate to the big screen. So, the theatrical performance of Goal 1 was okay. But we’ve been absolutely blown away by what’s happened in terms of DVDs because it’s sold coming up towards two million.
“Goal is one of only 20 films a year that was released in China and it’s done tremendously well on many, many levels. I think what it’s done through the DVD and television screenings and even airline screenings, it’s built an audience for Goal 2 theatrically that we expect to capitalise on.
You have a good friend that’s a Real Madrid fan, is he fully supportive or deeply envious?
Kuno Becker: “Deeply envious. I have a couple of friends who are really, really passionate football fans and it’s really amazing to know that we’re so privileged to be doing this. That we’re making history doing this movie, somehow, doing something that nobody’s done before.
“Having all these amazing players in the film, shooting the film in real stadiums with real players and having this mix of players and characters for the first time in a film, I really think we’re making history here. Just to feel that energy, walking onto that pitch, with 80,000 people cheering you, makes you understand why they change and makes you understand them.”