We at Futfanatico are beyond delighted to give you exclusive coverage of the newest Olivier Stone film, “On Any of Shay Given’s Sundays.” This epic sports drama revolves around an aging coach and goalkeeper tandem that battle the rabid fans, fervent media, meddling female owners, and their own self doubt. It is based on the English Premiere League, but was not officially sanctioned.
I. “THE” Inspirational Speech Monologue
[Old white man paces around locker room full of young soccer players in various states of dress and undress.] I’m not quite sure what to say really. We are mere minutes from the biggest thermonuclear world war of our lives, and it all comes down to today. [Pauses to soak in brilliance of own words. Says a few of them silently to self. Nods in agreement.] We either uncrumble as a team, we mend like two pieces of jello that are left side by side over a period of 30 minutes – or we unmend. We crumble. Like two pieces of jello left in separate containers. [Shots of players in locker room.] In the fridge. O-v-e-r-n-i-g-h-t. [Pauses to glance around room] We gotta mend guys – inch for inch, kick for kick, tackle for tackle. Or we are done. [Pulls hands out of pocket to gesture. Puts hands back in pocket]. We are in Hell; and we can stick around, get our asses handed to us, or…we can fight our way to the upper place, the not Hell. [Player has towel draped over head]. We can jump out of Hell, but we have to do it together. Inch for inch. Jump for jump. [Pulls right hand out of pocket. Gestures. Puts hand back in pocket] I’d love to do it for you, but it’s not going to happen. I’m too young in the tooth. [Pulls left hand out of pocket. Opens mouth. Feels upper palate with index and forefinger. Puts hand back in pocket] I look around; I see these young guys on thousand pound a week wages, driving fancy cars, and I think – do they get it? [Pulls hands out of pockets. Unbuttons the top two buttons of dress shirt.] I…I can’t be in your shoes. And you don’t want to be in mine. I’m a mess. I’m old. I’m middle aged and have ran off everybody who ever loved me. [Star winger gently toys with skull cap] I burned through cash after getting addicted to online poker. I Believe it or not [Pulls hands out of pockets. Clasps hands. Unclasps hands. Puts hands back in pocket] As of late…I can’t…I can’t stand to see my own face in the mirror. The widow’s peak. The gray hairs. The untrimmed nose hairs. The gray hairs in the widow’s peak. The grayer hairs coming out of my nostrils. I…I’ve hit rock bottom. [Pulls hands out of pockets. Puts face in hands. Puts hands back in pockets] I… I still play Pokemon Go. [Central defender opens mouth in shock] When you get a bit older in life, like, say, 29, you start to lose things. [Pauses. Looks down. Takes right hand out of pocket. Scratches back of head. Looks at fingers. Thinks "white flakes...like snow."] That’s…it’s just a part of life. [Star winger in skull cap slowly nods head "no"] You have to get old to realize that. [Other central defender chews on gum, possibly Bubbalicious] You realize…life is a game of inches, and kicks, but also brotherhood. In the game of football, or life, the margin for error is tiny. Like, really small. [Star winger in skull cap slowly nods "yes" for a few seconds, then starts to nod "no" again. Licks lips] A half second slow to shoot, and it’s blocked. The chance goes begging. [Holding midfielder in tight white under shirt looks down at own chest; notices nipples are erect] You forget to pay child support for a decade in another country, and suddenly you find yourself in jail without a passport. Inches. Kicks. Mistakes. Brotherhood. [Coughs and then clears throat] But I’m still here. I’m here because I’m willing to fight, to kick, to push on for that inch. [Shouts of support] Because that inch is more than inch. That inch is the first inch in a series of inches, with inches all around us. Think about that. You. Me. Inches. [Slow hand clap starts; star winger in skull cap refuses to join] Now. Gentlemen. What we you gonna do? [Assistant coach picks nose] I mean, what are we gonna do? [Shouts] ARE WE GONNA KICK FOR THOSE INCHES???
II. The Obligatory Director Q &A // “Claws Retracted”
A: It’s just always blown my mind how different the real world of sport is from the sanitized clips we see on TV every Sunday. I’d wanted to do a film about it for about a decade, and then I read the novel On Any of Shay Given’s Sundays and knew it had to be a film.
Q: But why the English Premier League? Is there a hint of Anglophilia? And if that’s the case, why pick an Irish hero?
A: The Premier League is just such a fascinating bubble of a world – it’s, like, all over the world, on TV in every continent 10 months of the year, yet still so oddly insular. It’s almost island-like, but not island-like. You know, faux-peninsular in a sense, but surrounded by a body of water on four sides, not three.
Q: But why Shay Given?
A: Well, once we decided on the Anglophile premise, we had to go with an Irish hero. Given is basically living the dream: he plays sports for a living, and he gets to live and work in England. And I know my history is a little rusty, but Ireland was the home of Anglophilia before the US even existed. In the 1500′s, Ireland held the equivalent of a modern day referendum, if I recall correctly, and a super majority voted for “Breentry.” And, look, I know things got heated a few decades ago, but if you walk around the streets of Dublin today or even Cork or Limerick, you will still hear people young and old speaking English. That’s love. And I wanted to capture that.
Q: Just ignoring that remark and steering 180 degrees away from that topic, let’s talk sports. What about them captivates you as a filmmaker?
A: For me, sports are ritual. There’s just so much tribalism and conflict in a sense, but I care more about the individuals, their daily lives, what’s happening to these people. Like, for example, Shay Given’s gloves. Like, each day, early in the AM, Shay arrives to work, goes into the locker room, puts on a short and jersey, but waits until he walks out to the goal and soccer field before putting on the goalie gloves. He always puts on his left glove first, because he thinks it brings him good luck. And these gloves are huge. You could use them to pull a hot tray out of an oven!
Q: What sort of person, if any, do you think will see and enjoy this film?
A: Look, the role of the director is sometimes to water down topics so that the lay movie-goer can enjoy them. Like, I know a ton about soccer and the offsides rule and, for example, the little nuances and wrinkles of the game. For example, did you know that most goalies nowadays are a foot taller than back in the 1960′s? They have longer arms, so you’d think they’d stop more penalty kicks, but no. And people ask: why don’t these long-armed giants just lean over and swat away a penalty kick? Nobody knows. And I care to know, but, like, those things don’t interest general readers. The movie could have been 4 hours, but I cut it down to 2 hours, 50 minutes because you have to serve the plate to feed as many as possible. Yet still stay true to your artistic vision.
III. The Totally Random Ben Hur Images
IV. The Obligatory Director Q & A // “Claws Out”
Q: In the worst light, your film “On Any of Shay Given’s Sundays” glorifies already glorified athletes who rely largely on genetic advantages to succeed while at the same time demeaning the role of and possible entry of women into sports. What do you have to say for yourself?
A: As in all works of art and walks of life, a director has to make a decision on a project. Sometimes, you take a film with a male lead as your hero. Other times, it’s a dame. When I picked this novel to turn into a feature film, I knew it would be mostly screen time for dudes, but I wanted to go beyond the whole “sports films for bros” line of thinking. That’s why there are two arcs – one where the old coach is divorced three times but still texts with one ex-wife (and not just about their kid), and one where the star winger cheats on his wife but feels bad about it and buys her nice jewelry. It’s about the singularity of experience, not any of that meta stuff. I think chicks will dig this film. It’s relatable. And has Cameron Diaz!
Q: The old coach who is the dual lead is played by Al Pacino, but, in this film, Pacino feels, looks, and sounds like a parody of his character from Raging Bull. However, unlike Jack Nicholson in The Shining, this extreme parody-of-the-self portrayal advances the plot or themes in no discernible way. What were the actor-director dynamics like between you two on set?
A: I just have to disagree with you. Al was on fire. He was a breeze to direct.
Q: A lot has been said about the camera work and action shots. Basically, when the film finally approaches a climatic sporting moment, the camera suddenly focuses up close on some weird thing and at an odd angle. It’s part day-tripping, but really more “attention span of a gnat.” What were you thinking?
A: Look, if people want to see the typical ra ra “ball kicked into net”, then they have a TV on which they can watch an EPL game this Sunday. I am a filmmaker, and what’s most interesting is not always the superficial sports narratives within games. I absolutely loved the last soccer game scene when a free kick goal is scored, but the camera only shows the ball mid-flight, in slow motion, from underneath the spinning ball. I don’t want to tip my hat, but I’m sad the critics have not picked up on that particular motif and metaphor. I can forgive a lay moviegoer, but the folks on IMDB should know better.
Q: You randomly peppered shots from the classic film Ben-Hur throughout the film. There’s even one part where, right before a penalty kick is taken, you cut to Ben Hur and Sportacus enjoying a robust bout of wrestling before sharing a chalice of wine. However, unlike the film Ben-Hur, we don’t really know how to place the latent homoeroticism in the context of this largely soulless, Grade B Hollywood film about football. The cuts are too short to be sincere, too awkward to be ironic, yet still feel strangely heteronormative. Explain.
A: I just really liked the movie Ben-Hur as a kid and the studio behind On Any of Shay Given’s Sundays already owned the rights, so it was a no brainer.
V. More Totally Random Ben Hur Images
“I desired to wish you well tomorrow, Judah Ben-Hur. And I apologize for earlier. How shall I make it up to ye?”
“Before strangers batter our nude bodies with moist and freshly-cut palm fronds, may I make one suggestion?”
“Speaketh ye, damned Checker of Spell and Roman Dignitary, but be quick. My pores shall seal and the steam doth evaporate with haste.”
“May we please uninvite the creepy older guy with bad teeth whose breath reeks of tobacco and is always too eager in the offering of unsolicited back rubs?
“SO BE IT.”
VI. Critics’ Verdict
“Too much manly blather about sacrifice and honor but out of the mouths of rich, spoiled and immature babes.” Richard Groan, Daily Mail
“A decently acted ensemble piece that is more brash than brilliant, but decent enough.” Shawn Antipatico, Film Dot Com
“A quilt with fascinating patches, but falls apart at the seams halfway through the film.” Boris Jenson, The Guardian