The Dream Begins with the first of the soccer film trilogy.
Growing up, you never realize Americans don't really appreciate the game of soccer the way the rest of the world does. It truly is 'worlds game' in every sense of the phrase; it's the number one sport on Earth, except for the US.
That has kind of changed over the last few years with the success of the US' success in the past few World Cup tournaments, women's and men's; but, the sport has never taken off.
Well, that should all change with the release of the new Disney film, Goal! The Dream Begins. The movie is the first part of the trilogy about a man living out his dream and playing professional soccer, starring Mexican actor, Kuno Becker as the lead. It's already been released in 90% of the world and now it's coming to the US.
I had the opportunity to speak with the writer and producer, Mike Jefferies, about the sports film. The Liverpool, England native and Aussie partner, Matt Barrelle, formed the company Milkshake Films and will be releasing the trilogy with Disney and with the generous support of Coke and Adidas.
As a former soccer player myself, I was honored to talk to someone who really feels strongly about the sport and wants to promote it in a positive way. Here's how our chat went:
Are you a soccer player yourself?
Mike Jefferies: Fabulous soccer player!
So is the concept of this film based on a little bit of your past?
Mike Jefferies: Not really; when Matt and I started our film company five years ago, we were basically looking around at projects and looking to get a score in the door in terms of producing a successful movie. And it seemed to us that football, or soccer as you call it here, has never had a movie made about it and celebrated the way other sports films have like boxing, golf, baseball, American football, and horse racing. And we sat down with Oliver Stone and picked his brain about Any Given Sunday and his main council to us was if you can work with the football industry, get them on your side and get them excited about the movie, rather than despite working with the NFL like he did, and have to conger up the Miami Sharks rather than the Miami Dolphins, then you'd kind of have a head start. And it was with that council ringing in our ears, and getting the audience to buy a fictitious football team we felt that would be a hard sell.
And that's how FIFA came into the mix?
Mike Jefferies: Yeah, we sat down with FIFA, the president of FIFA, Joseph Blatter, and told him, 'We might be crazy here, but we'd like to make a trilogy of three movies about a young man wanting to achieve his dreams in the walls of football. And we feel we can help if we make the film successfully, generate millions of new fans, particularly in the USA and Asia. All we would need would be the access to feature real teams, real venues, real players, and real competition to give it that authenticity.' The only think we had to do was donate to the FIFA goal program which sees money go into third-world countries. We found two main sponsors, Coca-Cola and Adidas and basically closed the two biggest deals between a motion picture and a brand which has meant that around the world as countries have been releasing Goal!, Coca-Cola and Adidas have been weaving Goal! into their marketing program. They gave us the hundred million dollars we needed to make the trilogy.
When did you know Disney was behind the films?
Mike Jefferies: We shot the first one and Disney came along and loved the fact that ABC had the rights to the World Cup; the US is competing in four weeks and they've got a great shot, the sport has seen a rise in kids playing in America. That coupled with the fact that we're all about inspiring children, Disney picked up the distribution. And that's also thanks to Dick Cook, who's behind the movie. We've tested 92 on the tests, and word of mouth could make this a break-out hit of the summer and Disney is going to look like the champions of the world as they are!
What were your reasoning's for picking Kuno, who's an actor and not a soccer player?
Mike Jefferies: We wanted to make a proper movie and have a proper actor. Taking a footballer and expecting him to play football, in the 10 minutes that you see play, and then struggle to deliver a good performance, it would have been a tremendous task. And Kuno is an absolute star in the making and what's funny is we're testing higher with girls then with boys.
Why wasn't this film released in the US at first?
Mike Jefferies: It was by design, we wanted to release the film in soccer-friendly nations and learn in terms of how the movie played and marketed. The movie was written for America, tapping into the US psyche that you can achieve anything you want in this country. He follows the most unbelievable dream across all three films, especially in the first one; there's never been a movie that celebrates soccer like this. With the backing of FIFA, Coke, Adidas, and Disney, we felt they knew 'these boys are on to something here.' It's all about positive values; I've heard the Pope has seen Goal! and absolutely loved it. It just says we made a movie that soccer moms are going to love to take their children; it's a very simple tale. FIFA, Coke, Adidas, Disney, all the partners - we're all very excited. But we wanted to learn in the different markets and then bring it to the US last, or next to last; we open last in Japan.
With the support of Adidas, are you ever going to have to buy a pair of shoes again?
Mike Jefferies: I'm sure Kuno's never going to have to buy a new pair of shoes again, but unfortunately the producers are always the guys in the background and people forget to send us the free samples. One thing we are fortunate about, is we never have to buy tickets to another soccer match again. We have very privileged access to games at the World Cup, the European Champions Finals in Paris, MLS has given open doors to everyone associated with Goal!. And the football industry, they all get it; any way you can promote the game in a positive way, is good for everyone.
What's your biggest dream or goal that has come true?
Mike Jefferies: Being a football player; I would have loved to have grown up and become a professional football player. I wanted to marry Michelle Pheiffer growing up and I didn't achieve that either. We built up an entertainment group and sold that; we were at a fortunate position in that I've always loved film and now I have the material needs to investigate that possibility of making movies and start a film company and produce motion pictures. So from a very personal perspective, my dream has come true. And I promise you, there was someone or something that was stopping us every day from completing these movies, but that didn't stop us. That really applies to Kuno in the movie that all these marbles came under his feet, but he was able to achieve his dream.
If you and Matt paired up, which other two international soccer players could you take on and beat?
Mike Jefferies: In terms of just playing them, we've done it - David Beckham and Ronaldo; we absolutely ran rings around them. We were filming at the Bernabeu (stadium where the Real Madrid soccer team plays) for weeks and weeks and weeks, and Matt's a terrific footballer and I still have a few tricks from my youth. You know, I'm joking, but we did get into some very fortunate situations playing 'keepy uppy' with footballers of the highest quality; it is absolutely incredible how brilliant these guys are. I was standing on the pitch (field) and watching David Beckham run past me and cross the ball, while he's running; kicking the ball in the same spot take after take, it was just mind boggling how fast and nimble. These guys are like g-d's of the field and we've got cameras all over the pitch, audiences are just going, 'wow!'
I want to say good luck with this film and then the second and third one.
Mike Jefferies: Well, I'm happy to say the second one is just massive; it's really exciting for us. And whether people don't see the first one, or see it on DVD, they will be amazed.
You can check out Kuno in Goal! The Dream Begins when it kicks into theaters May 12th; it's rated PG. Goal! 2: Living the Dream will be released this winter.