Sunday, February 8, 2015

Mike Bassett: Interim Manager. The best sequel we never saw?

Much to my excitement, it was announced in October that a sequel to the 2001 cult classic Mike Bassett: England Manager was in the works, with Ricky Tomlinson set to reprise the role of everybody's favourite fictional manager, Mike Bassett.

Mike Bassett: England Manager is, for me, still the greatest fictional movie about football I have ever seen. There have been plenty of movies about the game from the good (The Damned United, starring Michael Sheen as Brian Clough), to the awful (The Goal trilogy, which got worse with each film), to the bizarre adaptations (Fever Pitch: a great autobiography chronicling Nick Hornby's life through his inextricable fandom of Arsenal converted into a rom-com starring Colin Firth where the protagonist's fandom becomes a sticking point in his relationship).

I can't claim to have seen every movie about football, but of the ones I have seen, Mike Bassett best encapsulates the true spirit of the game - and doing it satirically all the while. The point was not to mock the stereotypes football draws us into making, but rather acknowledge that they do exist and are rather funny. Put simply, it's a film football fans just "get" because it is so true to life. 

And there can be no better testament to a fictional creation's cultural impact than having it become so embedded in the society for which it was created that it can be referenced in conversation without needing it to be distinguished as fiction.

So while most cult classics are better off not getting a sequel (Samantha Darko anyone?), and while the Mike Bassett: Manager TV series wasn't great - though the signing of Ronnie van Needlemans on loan from Ajax for Wirral County FC in episode two is another bit of Bassett gold - the idea of a feature film sequel to Mike Bassett: England Manager is, to use some tabloid football jargon, "a tantalizing prospect." Even more so when the premise is introduced. See teaser trailer.

In Mike Bassett: Interim Manager, the England national team - under the managerial guidance of German Jorgen Mannstein and his exclusively German backroom staff - are breezing through the World Cup qualifiers thanks to a combination of efficient tactics and stylish football. Mike Bassett, meanwhile, is managing the Iranian ladies football team in Tehran. It doesn't take long for Bassett to offend the whole of Iran with his usual brash nature, which leaves him looking for yet another job in football.

Mannstein, a former protégé of Bassett's, decides to bring his former mentor into the England set-up as his number two. Inevitably, Mannstein jumps ship and the hopes of a nation fall once again on the shoulders of former Colchester United, Norwich City, Newcastle United and Wirral County boss, Mike Bassett.

Til Schweiger, perhaps best known for his role as Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, is set to take on the role of Mannstein, which would be hilarious. Imagine Hugo Stiglitz drilling English players ahead of a game against Germany.

But it seems that the film is struggling to get financing. A page on the crowd funding website was set up initially with the intention of raising £250,000 towards making the film. That page now says funding was cancelled by the project creator - director Steve Barron - on November 21st, 2014 having raised £136,571 in 40 days from (a perhaps foreboding) 666 backers. This was £113,429 short of their target. 

And according to the Kickstarter FAQs, when funding is cancelled on a project, all pledges are immediately voided. However, it seems that Kickstarter restrictions regarding project funding time frames forced Barron and the rest of the Mike Bassett team into a re-think which prompted the campaign's move to, another crowd funding site. 

In an update on on November 21st, Barron wrote that the pledges received on could be transferred to and that backers would receive an email detailing how they could go about doing this. The target on the new page was £100,000: crowd funding on this page was closed on December 28th, 2014 having raised £50,158.

So, assuming that all of the original 666 backers transferred their pledges from Kickstarter to Indiegogo, the total amount raised between the two pages would have been £186,729 - still £63,271 short of the original £250,000 target.

The last project update on the Indiegogo site was posted on January 22nd, 2015 and is the latest news I could find on the venture. It was written by Barron and Leo Pearlman, the producer (click on image to enlarge).

So the battle goes on to bring Mike Bassett back to the big screen. November 1st, 2015 is the new deadline the team have given themselves to complete the financing of the film. If they have been unable to procure the required finances by that date, they have promised to refund their crowd funding backers in full or provide them with the opportunity to glean their funding rewards from another film project, depending on each backer's preference.

But, as the lads wrote themselves, hopefully it won't come to that. Otherwise Mike Bassett: Interim Manager may very well become the best sequel we never saw. I wonder if Lonnie Urquhart could get some 
sponsorship from that used-car dealership he worked at?

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