Looking for Eric
Eric Cantona made football an art, a philosophy, something beautiful. But can he put in a great performance in a movie? The United legend stars in the new Ken Loach film Looking for Eric which has its UK premiere in Manchester (June 1).
The film was shot on location in Manchester
'Oo ah Cantona!' They still sing his name at Old Trafford and he hasn’t played there for over a decade. It's not just in honour of his sublime talent on the pitch.
Looking for Eric (15)
Cantona strutted the biggest stage in football, chest puffed out, with a unique self-belief, attitude and set of principles that inspired devotion from the terraces and admiration from the wider world.
It was this legendary talismanic status that film director Ken Loach has made the focus of his latest movie, Looking for Eric, starring, and partly inspired by, Cantona himself.
Cantona played for United 1992-97
The film - shot entirely on location in Manchester - tells the story of Eric Bishop, a football-mad postman whose life is in a tailspin until his idol Eric Cantona appears in his imagination to give him back his confidence.
Loach, known for his social realism style of directing, cast a relatively unknown actor Steve Evets from Salford in his first lead role alongside Cantona who plays himself.
Here are the thoughts of director Ken Loach, Eric Cantona and Steve Evets:
Ken Loach: on Eric Cantona
"When Eric walks in a room you really know he's there. It's true of very few people but he's a man with considerable charisma and a magnetism. Actors talk about natural projection.. but Eric did that on a football field – he communicated to 70,000 people. That's an extraordinary natural ability.
Cantona rang Ken Loach with the idea
"I went to a game with him at Old Trafford. When they discovered he was there the roof went up. Grown men wept! Old fellas were coming up to him shaking him by the hand. Very few players have inspired such affection."
Eric Cantona: on Manchester
"It was nice to be back in Manchester. I love the people there. That never fades, or not from my side, no. It seems to be always the same. It is strange, of course, when you stop playing football. But I have been lucky to have other passions like acting. And the trumpet, yes, like you see in the film - but I'm having to practise a lot."
Ken Loach: on smuggling Cantona onto the set
"There was a moment! Surprise is the hardest thing to act, and Steve (Evets) had no idea he was in the film. On the day… Eric Cantona hid behind a black drape that we'd put round the camera. Steve was looking towards the life-size Cantona poster and Eric slipped out and stood behind him, and spoke. The first take it didn't quite work. But there was still surprise enough for the second take."
Steve Evets: 'a dream job'
Steve Evets: on his Cantona encounter
"They'd got him in there like a military operation behind this curtain. There he was, bang! in my room. It was dead surreal. It was like an acid trip condensed in to a minute. I was in a scene with Eric Cantona. In the film. And of course when he cut it was like, ‘My God!"
Eric Cantona: on Manchester United fans
"I was very proud of how the film showed the feeling I had with the fans, the way I saw the fans, the way I received the energy of the fans. That is all there in this movie. It's unusual to capture that - they are nice people, nice, beautiful people, always a lot of solidarity, a lot of friendship. I was moved by their energy. I love this kind of thing because these days it's unusual, solidarity, friendship."
Ken Loach: on casting Steve Evets
"It's always important that the film is rooted somewhere specific, so we did restrict it to people from Manchester or nearby. The Eric in the film is a Manchester United supporter when most United supporters came from Manchester. With Steve Evets we were able to sense that he was a man on the edge. He's also funny but not in a way that he's playing comedy: he's just being true."
Cantona is still adored by United fans
Steve Evets: on Eric Cantona
"He is a legend. Everybody knows about the seagulls thing. Which by the way makes total sense. Anyway, he has kind of adopted Manchester and people love him. I'm still in awe of him, although I have got to know him a bit better. He does seem quite distant, but his distance isn't arrogance. I think he's quite a shy person, a true gentleman."
Steve Evets: on his starring role
"This whole thing has been a dream job. I'm a jobbing actor me. Have been for years. But it doesn't matter because I've worked with Ken now, it's an ambition fulfilled. Eric Cantona's in it, I've got the lead role... I mean what actor wouldn't die for that job? It's on my CV and if I never work again, this has been an absolute adventure."
last updated: 20/05/2009 at 16:16