“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.”
Recognise that? Of course you do. It’s the genuinely inspiring, touching final verse from the Rudyard Kipling poem ‘If’ that Ricky Tomlinson recites when times are low in the England camp, in director Steve Barron’s Mike Bassett: England Manager. It sums up everything that is so endearing about this remarkable comedy – because in any other situation, reciting a lengthy poem would be cliched and nauseating. But it wasn’t – such is the brilliance of the production, how it could stir your emotions one minute, and have you rolling around the in laughter the next.
A TV series followed, and now, 14 years on, comes the eagerly anticipated sequel. Barron is back in the director’s chair, Tomlinson is back as the eponymous lead and even Doddsy, played by Bradley Walsh returns. We had the pleasure of discussing the project with both Barron and Tomlinson, and why they’ve opted to go through Kickstarter and Indiegogo to get this off the ground, and onto the big screen.
“I think it’s a great new idea, people can get really involved and when it breaks all box office records they can say to their grandchildren ‘I helped to make that movie’,” said Tomlinson. While Barron, the man behind the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles picture and the music video for Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, added, “Its already been working as a method of funding films in the states – its just got be more understood here in the UK. I think it is the future.”
It’s likely the cult following of the Mike Bassett franchise will donate in their numbers, but to help their decision… what’s this sequel all about?
“The sequel is largely informed by the German national team’s world dominance,” said Barron. “We’ve looked on enviously, but respectfully at their superior football tactically and mentally. The writers have taken influence from Jurgen Klopp and Joachim Low. When they won the World Cup we had already written the script. Like with the first film a lot of the events in the film seem to come true (England then did beat Argentina 1-0, etc). With this one we already have a truth thats emerged out of our fiction. In the new movie Burkina Faso get disqualified out of the group stages, allowing England to progress despite finishing third. Burkina and Faso had separated through civil war in our fiction written 18 months ago. Last month it happened?!”
“The fan base for this character has grown considerably over the last five years. In that time he’s been compared to just about every manager from Capello to Strachan, McCarthy to Allardyce, and even the Mirror at one point asked if Guardiola was more Mike Bassett than Harry Redknapp!”
We asked Tomlinson if he’s based the role of any managers in particular. The first seemed akin to the Graham Taylor period of English football, and yet since Bassett we’ve had managers such as Steve McClaren take charge of the national side, who have been worryingly, and yet somewhat predictably similar to the comedy feature’s title role.
“Yes several I am sure you will be able to identify them in my performance,” said Tomlinson. “You can expect Mike to give his all to encourage his team, fill them with enthusiasm and to utter his famous expression ‘England expects every man to do his duty… or if your not feeling a hundred percent do what you can’.”
The first picture was one of the most quotable comedies in recent years, with lines such as “4-4-fucking-2” used on a regular basis by many fans, usually when complaining about their respective manager’s rigid system. Tomlinson is sure the sequel will be equally as memorable in that regard.
“I signed on to the sequel because we had so much fun doing the first one and it was so well received by the public I was delighted to hear that there would be a sequel and Amanda and Bradley would be working with me again, and it is so easy to slip back into the character again.”
Barron admits he isn’t feeling the pressure either, as despite the surprise success of the first, the sequel comes with far more expectation, from an already established fan base.
“No pressure,” he said. “The new screenplay is brilliant. The old team are back together. Can’t wait.” Not all of the old team though, it has to be said. “The players from the first movie haven’t quite got the legs anymore, but we hope for a few cameos.”
“I just love revisiting this character. He is the perfect hapless helpless soul you want to put your arm around and make sure he’s ok. Anyone with that kind of passion inside makes you want to hang around.”
So needless to say we’re unreservedly excited about the project, with fingers crossed it reaches its proposed target. So be sure to watch the trailer here, and if you wish to donate to the Indiegogo campaign, the link can be found here.
Here’s hoping for another triumphant spell on the touchline for Bassett – and to inspire us, Tomlinson finished with, “to quote Mark Twain, ‘the sun never shines if the windmill’s turning’.”
We can’t wait.