Film: 2009: November: "The Damn United"

"The Damn United"

Release Date: November 4, 2009

Sony Pictures Classics

An examination of what went wrong for the dynamic, outspoken young football manager Brian Clough when he took over at Leeds United, the reigning champions in 1974.

Set in 1960’s and 1970’s England, THE DAMNED UNITED tells the confrontational and darkly humorous story of Brian Clough’s doomed 44 day tenure as manager of the reigning champions of English football Leeds United.

THE DAMNED UNITED stars Michael Sheen (The Deal, The Queen, Frost/Nixon) as the legendary, opinionated football manager Brian Clough with Timothy Spall (Secrets and Lies, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Sweeney Todd) as his right hand man, only friend, and crutch Peter Taylor. Colm Meaney (Layer Cake, Intermission, The Commitments) plays Clough’s nemesis Don Revie, Jim Broadbent plays Sam Longson, Derby Chairman. Stephen Graham plays Leeds Captain Billy Bremner and Peter McDonald his midfield partner Johnny Giles.

Previously managed by his bitter rival Don Revie, and on the back of their most successful period ever as a football club, Leeds was perceived by many to represent a new aggressive and cynical style of football - an anathema to the principled yet flamboyant Brian Clough, who had achieved astonishing success as manager of Hartlepool and Derby County building teams in his own vision with trusty lieutenant Peter Taylor.

Taking the Leeds job without Taylor by his side, with a changing room full of what in his mind were still Don’s boys, would lead to an unheralded examination of Clough’s belligerence and brilliance over 44 days. This is that story. The story of The Damned United.

Adapted for the screen by Peter Morgan (The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon) from the best-selling and critically acclaimed novel by David Peace. Directed by Tom Hooper (John Adams, Longford, Elizabeth I). and produced by Andy Harries. Christine Langan, Hugo Heppell and Peter Morgan are executive producers. Ben Smithard (Cranford) is the director of photography, costumes are by Mike O’Neill (Elizabeth I), Jan Archibald (La Vie En Rose) is hair and make-up designer, Eve Stewart (Topsy Turvy) is production designer. THE DAMNED UNITED was filmed on locations throughout Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Majorca.

"The Damned United" Movie Trailer

Watch the Official "The Damned United" movie trailer from SOny Pictures. Pictures through Hulu. Click on the white triangle to start the movie. The story of Brian Clough's 44-day reign as the coach of Leeds United.

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About The Production

David Peace’s extraordinary novel ‘The Damned Utd’ was published in August 2006 and was lauded by critics on its release, described by Rick Broadbent from The Times “probably the best novel ever written about sport” and by The Observer “as the book that brought legend back to life.” ‘The Damned

Utd’ went on to be nominated for the Granta Best of Young British Novelist Award. Critics were not the only people to pick up on the audacious book. Stephen Frears who had worked with screenwriter Peter Morgan, producer Andy Harries, actor Michael Sheen and Executive Producer Christine Langan on THE DEAL and THE QUEEN, also picked up a copy and later, at the Venice Film Festival, where

THE QUEEN was being triumphantly received, he lent Peter Morgan his copy.

Peter whose first play FROST/NIXON, which like THE QUEEN, THE DEAL and LONGFORD examined, presupposed and dramatised an important event in recent British history, had just opened to rave reviews at the Donmar Warehouse. Peter devoured the book in a couple of days and was invigorated by what he read, “I felt really excited when I read what David Peace had done, I felt that another writer is on the same sort of journey as me. I felt collegiate. I really felt the way he was fictionalising real events and allowing himself to write Clough like a fictional character and mix that with the careful research that he’d done, I suddenly thought wow, this really fits in with what I do, I felt very creatively connected to him.”

Michael Sheen was also out in Venice for his performance as Tony Blair in THE QUEEN and on the plane back with Peter Morgan read through various sections of the book and excitedly agreed that this would be their next project together; with Morgan adapting the novel into a screenplay and Sheen taking the role of the legendary outspoken football manager Brian Clough. Andy Harries who had produced THE DEAL and THE QUEEN would produce.

The novel presented Peter with narrative challenges as a lot of the story is told through Brian Clough’s repetitive, paranoid inner monologue. But what excited Peter and became the focus of his screenplay was the ‘love triangle’ between the impudent, dynamic Brian Clough, the loyal assistant Peter Taylor and the dour, superstitious but extremely successful Don Revie.
Taking the story out of Clough’s head gave the chance to alter the tone and neutralise some of the criticisms that the novel had received from Clough’s family and friends in inaccurately portraying Clough as a haunted, paranoid, chain-smoking obsessive man, consumed with anger. As Producer Andy Harries expands “We needed to make a slightly different take on Brian Clough than David Peace’s and I think what Peter has done is a script that is altogether lighter, it’s more entertaining, but because you’re not seeing the film as told through Brian Clough’s mind we were able to push a lot of the darkness out.”

With the script and the lead actor in place and with Stephen Frears moving onto CHERI, Tom Hooper who had worked with Morgan and Harries on the BAFTA and Golden Globe winning drama LONGFORD was the natural choice to take the directorial reins. Hooper had just finished the epic “John Adams” for HBO which won a record 13 Emmys and had also directed ELIZABETH I starring Helen Mirren which won him the Emmy for Best Director.

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