Lights, Camera, Action
Back in December, when England and the United States were drawn in the same World Cup group, an instant thought went round my head: This might just revive my flagging career as a Hollywood movie star.
Six decades before Saturday's clash in Rustenburg, the two nations met in Brazil in what turned out to be the biggest World Cup upset of them all. The shock 1-0 victory for the US was immortalised in film a few years back, with yours truly playing the part of the BBC radio commentator in order to help tell the story. The movie, released in 2005, was initially called The Game Of Their Lives, although it was later retitled The Miracle Match for DVD.
Getting roped in to do it is one of the more bizarre episodes of what I ludicrously call my career but also one of the most memorable. It happened in August 2003. Just back in Rio after a brief trip to London, my mobile phone was full of urgent requests to turn up to the stadium of Fluminense, not far from my house, where filming was taking place.
Still a bit jet-lagged, I wandered over and was offered the part. I wasn't sure. My previous acting experience was as Prince Charming in a primary school production of Cinderella. I said I would think it over. But later that night, while I was at a game, the phone rang and I was told that I had been hired, whether I liked it or not.
Hollywood remains just out of reach for Tim. Photo: BBC
The only thing I could remember about acting was Robert Mitchum's advice: Point your suit at the camera.
I was issued with a dapper 1950-style number, so that was a good start. Even better was the news that there were no lines to learn. I could make them up myself.
The production team did not have any idea of how a 1950s BBC announcer would sound, or what he would say. So I could improvise it all, with the request that I made it as authentic as possible. I tried a John Snagge "it's either Oxford or it's Cambridge" accent and used a couple of heroes for inspiration.
I tried to put in a bit of Peter Jones, who used to make football on the radio so dramatically terrifying, while there is also a homage to the great Brian Moore, known to my generation through television but a BBC radio man beforehand.
The production people liked what I did, so the part kept growing. It started as a small, incidental role, but I ended up doing a voiceover all through the match. As the film strains for its dramatic big climax, the last 20 minutes or so have me warbling away in an absurd antiquated accent.
When the reviews came out, I seemed to have fooled some of the critics as well. I got some great write-ups. There was one in the prestigious Variety magazine that still makes me giggle when I think about it now. My girlfriend started fretting that I would be invited to Hollywood, meet Jennifer Lopez and never come back.
It did not happen. I blame my supporting cast - lightweights such as Gerard Butler, Wes Bentley and John Rhys-Davies. I am, of course, joking.
One of the things that I carried away from the experience was respect for those who put films together, in front of the camera and behind.
For someone whose work is basically solitary - one man with a laptop or a microphone - the sheer collective scale of film-making was quite dazzling. My tiny involvement in the process has made me more charitable in my own judgment of films. It seems very harsh to dismiss so much work with a cheap, throwaway line.
In general, the critics were not very charitable with this particular movie. I suppose I can understand why. It hardly stands the test of historical accuracy and turns the English into cartoon villains - Stanley Mortensen transformed into Terry-Thomas.
The US were not expected to provide England with many problems in 1950. Photo: Getty
But one of the things the film does well is show how the US players gelled into a team. There were rival camps in the squad, of groups from varying backgrounds and different parts of the country. There was even a rank outsider in the shape of Joe Gaetjens from Haiti - later a victim of political violence in his homeland but in 1950 the scorer of the decisive goal that beat an England team that Brazil coach Flavio Costa had identified as tournament favourites.
Rather than the Hollywood treatment, perhaps the achievement of that US team deserves a top quality documentary. But I am quite happy that Saturday's rematch is giving a second lease of life to the movie version. And I am still very keen on meeting Jennifer Lopez.