Cinema | First impressions of ‘Damned United’

On Stephen Merchant‘s BBC 6Music program Dec 30, the actor who inhabited Tony Blair on screen and David Frost on stage said he soon will take on the persona of Brian Clough in the forthcoming film The Damned United.

Lookey-likeys? Sheen and Clough

Director Stephen Frears (The Queen) says he selected Michael Sheen for the Clough role “because he looks like him.” Sheen portrays the irascible Clough during an ill-fated 44 days in charge at Leeds United, a reign depicted by Brian Peace in the 2006 novel The Damned Utd.

The film’s first critic, before its release, is Clough’s widow, Barbara, who told the Times in November that “I am dreading the film. If it’s close to the character portrayed in the book, then I’m very apprehensive. It’s going to be pretty dire.” Son Nigel, manager at Burton Albion FC, echoed criticism of the novel for its stream-of-consciousness characterization of the overachieving Derby County and Nottingham Forest boss as a chain-smoking, drinking, effing-and-blinding control freak.

Filming is scheduled to begin in spring 08, but Sheen says he has yet to start working on his Cloughie impression.

Apropos of nothing, Sheen also disclosed to Merchant that Celtic manager Gordon Strachan does an excellent impersonation of Woody Allen.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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