"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.
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.
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.