Imagine Entertainment’s chairman Brian Grazer is not one to miss an opportunity. With the World Cup taking place in Brazil next year, the producer behind Robin Hood, The Da Vinci Code and Cinderella Man was in Cannes flanked by one of the most famous men on the planet, Edison Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé.
Together, they announced that they are to make a biopic of the early life of Pelé. Grazer said: “I can only say very little about the film. It’s going to focus on the events that lead to Pelé being 17 years old and winning the World Cup at that time of his life. It will show the obstacles in his life growing up that make it difficult for him to triumph and sustain the life that he’s had.”
Shooting will begin in August in Brazil. It will be directed by Michael Zimbalist and Jeff Zimbalist, who have form in the cinematic football field having directed The Two Escobars, which details how Colombian soccer benefited from the influx of money from the drug baron Pablo Escobar and how this led to the death of the footballer Andrés Escobar. Zimbalist, who resembles the American footballer Clint Dempsey, was also a co-director on Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.
However, in Cannes, all eyes were on Pelé. The ex-footballer, now 72, gave away signed football shirts at a function for buyers and found time to chat to The National. Recalling his feelings as a 17-year-old when he helped Brazil win the World Cup for the first time in Sweden, the moment at which the film will end, Pelé says: “I was very proud, because I was an idol. I helped Brazil become famous throughout the world.”
The filmmakers are currently searching for two young Brazilians to play Pelé. One for before, and another for during, his teenage years. Jeff Zimbalist says: “It would be a bonus if they can play football. But what we are looking for most is someone who looks like Pelé, is athletic and hopefully can act.”
The story will also touch upon the social changes that took place in Brazil in the 1950s. It’s a subject dear to Pelé: “I saw in Brazil a lot of poverty and unfortunately corruption. Brazil is a very rich country but unfortunately people die of hunger.”
The biopic is scheduled for release one month before the World Cup commences next summer.
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