For what I’ve found in my researches is that by the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s he had a lot of plans and then nothing. In many interviews he said he had his own production company (Tinsell Town) to make the films he wanted, that he had plans for writing and directing.
What happened? I don’t know, and I don’t intend to give an answer, apparently at the beginning of the 80s the British film industry was in agony. Maybe that explains why he made his most important films of that period in Australia, but it’s only a guess. Maybe he invested a lot of money for his production company and decided to stop before losing more money, I don’t know.
I feel really bitter about those projects because I really feel he never made the “perfect” film I wish him to be, and the films he never made seemed to be interesting and could have been that “perfect never made film”. Today I start with the most accomplished of all his projects : MacKinnon, Man of the Match.
Again, I have to quote the excellent interview made by Gordon Gow for Films and Filming on March 1978:
“[on his next film] the next one will be a first, and it’s very dear to my heart because it’s also my first film as executive producer. It’s about a football player, McKinnon, Man of the Match. I’m going to play him. At the beginning of the film he’s about thirty-two, not over the hill, yet not the man he used to be. We work forwards and backwards, progressing through a new period of his life, at the same time always counterpointing it with his youth, indicating why he is who he is now.”
‘At the start, he has gone to the United States to play for an American club, but has patently lost his nerve. He can still play but all the magic has gone: he doesn’t really believe he can do it any more. And we see the reason why: this destruction of individuality that occurs in all commercialised sports. It not only destroys him, it brings out the worst in his own personality and makes him destructive as well.’
Powell used to play a good deal of soccer himself. ‘I’ve got to go back into training now fairly rigorously to get into shape for it. I played at the university, and through the years I’ve played for a shwobiz eleven. As soon as I got into this I couldn’t believe my luck. It’s everything coming together at the same time. My desire to be involved totally in the making of a film from the beginning to the end of it, and I’m going to place McKinnon in my own background. I was born in Salford, and he’ll be a northener too. So it gives me a chance also to explore certain other aspects of my own personality: the sort of person I might have been rather than the one I am.’
|Training with Dennis Law (picture from Woman magazine March 1978)|
Like many interviews of this period, 1978 was “his year” (Indeed it was HIS year as it was the year his best fan was born!). In another interview for Woman magazine (March 4 1978) with the evocative title “Don’t go Robert, don’t go” he even said he was ready to go away from UK for tax reasons. About Man of the Match (in the interview it was named “The Soccer player” :
"But the project closest to his heart at the moment is The Soccer Player. For Robert, born two miles from Manchester United’s ground and a fanatical supporter ever since (“I’m celebrating my Silver Jubilee as a United fan”) it’s a dream come true.
“It’s impossible to describe what he film’s about without mentioning the Georges Best story. It’s not his story but it’s about a character who’s had very similar experiences. I’m being coached by Denis Law and I will be playing with Franz Beckenbauer because we’re doing it with the Cosmos football team in New York. I can’t believe that I’m a partner in the film, I am paid to be executive producer and I’m playing football with Denis Law. That’s one terrific thing about success,” he grinned, “you get a chance to live out your fantasies!”
|Georges Best and Robert Powell at the time of the project.|
Finally, on May’s 1978 Photoplay, Robert gave more details about the plot :
“You might call it the George Best story, but it isn’t. And yet it is. Mackinnon is not George Best. He’s not Irish, but he’s a man who’s been through a similar pattern of life as Best.
“It’s very much a present day story. The guy is 32. English clubs think he’s over the hill. But he believes he’s still got a few more years left in him. His career is in ruins, partly because of his own life-style, partly because the ‘method style’ of English football over the last ten years has ruined his individuality as a player. Then comes a chance to go to America and regain the position he once held.
[On playing the part] Yes, I will be doing the football stuff myself. I’m McKinnon. I was born but two miles from Old Trafford so football’s in my blood, I suppose. But I’ve also made sure that I’m getting expert training and tuition. I’ve got .
The article even mentions that the film was going to be directed by Chris King and the screenplay was written by Barry Hines (and he even mentions that “a major pot star will be doing the music”).
I looked for Chris King in the IMDB and I found a Christopher King, whom I believe to be THE man. He appears to have directed some episodes of Holby City! What a coincidence! He directed the episode “Bad reputation” in which Robert’s character takes drugs.
So, after reading all this I can’t help but feeling bitter, really bitter! Not that I’m a football fan, but Robert had a pearl there, a niche, I mean the story sounded good and there are not much football films, so it was pure gold! The film seemed to be at such an advanced state that I cannot understand why it wasn’t made.
When I met Robert Powell about 6 years ago, the thing I was eager to question was about this film, what happened?
“They all stayed in the project state because there were hard times for the British film industry, the two major production companies, the Rank and IMI – I’m not sure of the name of this last one - went in bankrupt because their last films were all flops.”
Film industry is really strange... I like to watch films and sometimes I just can’t believe how a lot of stupid films (mainly French boring films) found financing. Waste of money and film! And why, why, OH WHY? Robert didn’t make this film? If I ever win lottery ( a LOT of money) I wish to produce this film, with Robert Powell! Oh yes! I’m sure special effects can do that!