Amidst today’s celebrity-obsessed and media-driven culture, it is not surprising that more and more footballers are turning to the big screen in an attempt to improve their public image and commercial opportunities. Some players, such as Rio Ferdinand, have even gone as far as co-producing their own television programmes. Rio Ferdinand’s World Cup Wind-Ups, produced in collaboration with Chris Nathaniel of Next Generation TV & Film, was a memorable prank show aired before the 2006 World Cup where Rio wandered around England training camps pranking his fellow teammates. The show succeeded in showing a more personal side of Rio to the watching public and creating an entertaining bit of telly, as well as prompting us to consider some of the most memorable past transitions from the pitch to the big screen.
Included in FIFA’s World Cup All-Time Team and one of only four players to score in two different World Cup finals, Paul Breitner’s status as one of Germany’s greatest ever players has long been secured. Breitner’s performances on the big screen, however, failed to live up to his previous exploits on the pitch. Starring in the German language spaghetti western Potato Fritz (yes it really is as bad as it sounds), and the action-adventure film Kunyonga – Mord in Afrika, Breitner’s performances were memorable mostly for seeing his outstanding perm on the big screen.
Eric Cantona’s presence and charisma on the football pitch mean it is unsurprising that he has found a regular place within the French film industry following his retirement from the game. Cantona’s first big screen role was in the Oscar-winning Elizabeth and he has since featured in several French and British films, including as himself in the Ken Loach film, Looking for Eric. Cantona has also become the commercial face of Alsace-based beer Kronenbourg, featuring in an amusing advertising campaign where he plays a French farmer.
Vinnie Jones had a mediocre career playing for Chelsea and Wimbledon amongst others, but his big-screen performances have been somewhat more successful. First appearing in Guy Ritchie’s 1998 film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, where he played a very convincing London gangster and ‘tough guy’, Jones managed to find a nice as the go-to British ‘hardman’. It was his appearance as Juggernaut in the X-Men franchise, however, that really secured Jones’ place as the most successful footballer-turned-actor of all time.