The Dream Begins with the first of the soccer film trilogy.
Everyone has goals, everyone has dreams; for Santiago Munez, his dream was to grow up and play professional soccer. He got to live out that in the new Disney film, Goal! The Dream Begins starring Kuno Becker as Santiago.
Crossing over the US border from Mexico at age 7, Santiago worked his way up from nothing to playing soccer for one of the most recognizable clubs in the world - Newcastle United. In the first part of the trilogy of Goal!, you see Santiago's progression and migration from Los Angeles to England.
We had the chance to speak with Kuno about his role in this film; a Mexican actor, he was chosen out of hundreds - and to top that off, he's not a soccer player. So how did he live out his dreams? Check out the trials and tribulations that led him to star in one of this summer's uplifting films.
Here's what he had to say:
Since you're not a soccer player, are you at least a soccer fan?
Kuno Becker: I have to admit, I wasn't a huge soccer fan; I did play a little when I was in school. I like soccer, and that's why I really loved the script because when I read it, I realized it wasn't just about soccer, it was a good story. It was inspirational, I found many, many beautiful moments in the script and that's why I really loved it. And that's exactly what's happening with the audience now; the response of the audience has been great, even if they're not soccer fans they like it.
What about for those true soccer fans?
Kuno Becker: Now, for soccer fans, this is something that's never been done before, never seen before. We shot all the games at the real stadiums, with the real players; Danny Cannon did an amazing job with the soccer sequences. The soccer play is just out of this world; it's the first time I've seen anything like this.
How much training did you have to go through?
Kuno Becker: Oh man, if you like soccer then you know that. These guys have been training all their lives; my first time going up to Newcastle, I figured I'd be so good, and I'd be training for four months - yeah right, you know; I was so naïve. I knew they had to train a lot, but it's so difficult. And they're so strong; they've been training for 25 years. To get the part, I started training; they told me, 'soccer is very difficult, it's very complex.' And I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, I'll train; whatever.' And so I trained for the first two weeks, many hours a day, like 6 hours a day; I broke both my ankles. I had a stress fracture and I couldn't walk for like a month and a half; it was difficult, really difficult. I kept training with the ball, dribbling, strategy, but it was really, really tough. That was before we started, before I got the part.
And you still got the part?
Kuno Becker: Yeah, they figured 'we'll take a shot.'
When did you know you'd be working with the actual players from Newcastle United?
Kuno Becker: Well, I read the script and I read some of the lines, and I saw 'Beckham/Santiago, Santiago/Beckham, Santiago/Raul.' I was like, 'Yeah, right, this isn't going to happen;' these guys are superstars all over the world and they're not going to shoot a scene with us. I didn't think they would do that, but they did. The producers got FIFA involved and it's an amazing achievement.
How much do you think having FIFA involved helped?
Kuno Becker: Oh man, if it wasn't for FIFA, we wouldn't have been able to get the access to the real stadiums, we wouldn't be able to shoot film before the game. Real Madrid, in the second movie, this is a super famous club of the world and you're planning on shooting your movie before they go take the field? That's not going to happen; it's a distraction for the players, you don't get to go inside the stadium. But we did, and I was sitting there, just like all the other players, and they were filming there, they shot me walking in the tunnels walking out with the team. And that's why the first one is really, really, real, and the second one is amazing. The soccer sequences are an achievement from Danny.
Did you know they were going to make a trilogy?
Kuno Becker: Yeah, they told me from the beginning, so I knew that going in it was going to be three films. That could be a good thing or bad, cause we needed to make the first film interesting; the great thing is the movie is more actually a movie, and not just soccer cause that's going to get the audience excited. But I wanted to see the character change throughout the three films; in the second one, my main thing is to have him evolve. I wanted this character to be more than just a soccer player and have it more than just soccer; first of all, you can watch soccer on TV and it's going to be real players and it's going to be better soccer. The second one, there's no point, they don't have to pay and watch the film and make a film that people can relate to and interesting for the audience. The challenge in the second one is making him change once again and evolve when a guy, with a very simple background, when he gets all this money and fame what happens to him. It's like anything here, like a rock star or a football player, you name it.
Was the feel on the set different on the second film?
Kuno Becker: Yeah, it was very different; Danny Cannon was brilliant in the second one was he found beautiful moments, and produced those moments on the film and reacts to the audience with music which is very difficult to do from my point of view. You don't get moved by films anymore; people cry, the toughest guy cries on this movie, and that's great. The second one is even better; I just finished shooting that and challenge now is to put it all together and make it as good as the first one.
How did you and Alessandro bond off screen to get that relationship?
Kuno Becker: I was very lucky to have a great supporting cast; this is the first film where a lot of people are going to watch and it's great to be working with Alessandro, Stephen Dillane, and Anna (Friel). So many good actors around me, and it's so good for the story and they hit so many points which the audience likes. We had to have this 'friends' chemistry; we rehearsed a lot, talked, and he was so funny in the film. And you really like him, he's funny and the audience likes him. But he can really play soccer.
Did he teach you anything?
Kuno Becker: Oh yeah, but I had to train from the beginning with 'this is a ball;' I started with the basics, from the beginning. I had played as a kid, but I had to play as a professional for the film and he plays better than even before; but even for the second one, I had to train, because he's been playing more. I had a soccer coach, Andy Ansah, he's an English player, a real player, he was so helpful; I wouldn't have been able to do anything without his help.
What was your favorite scene from this movie?
Kuno Becker: My favorite scene are the ones with the dad, because I really believe the relationship with the dad really works with the audience. We somehow, Tony (Plana) and I, we managed to have people feel something; I didn't know if we were going to be able to do that, but we did. He does an amazing job so I think those are my favorite scenes.
What did you think when you saw your face on a poster?
Kuno Becker: I saw the first time here was on a bus; I almost crashed into it. That's great, but that's not why I do this job; I'm just glad people are going to pay attention to what I do. When you know you made a film that people are going to watch, that's just really awesome; you know you did it for something, you know you shot a film for people to watch it.
Goal! The Dream Begins kicks off in theaters on May 12th; it's rated PG.