- ICON ENTERTAINMENT INTERNATIONAL
- A Mel Smith Film
- Written by Tim Firth
- Produced by James Gay-Rees
- Directed by Mel Smith
the world of spectator sports, there are of course the all time
greats: Football, Rugby, Tennis, Golf and
Inspired by the story of Griff
Sanders, the self-styled John McEnroe of lawn bowling,
who received a nationwide ban from the game for excessive swearing,
BLACKBALL is the fictional story of Cliff and his Rocky-style
rise and fall from local bowls maverick to national sporting
In the sleepy seaside town
of Torquay, on The English Riviera, the game reserved
for geriatrics and pensioners is taken VERY seriously. None more
so than by the reigning champion Ray Speight (James Cromwell),
conservative and stuffy he has been Torquays home grown
hero for over 20 years
but now his title is threatened.
Cliff Starkey (Paul Kaye) a
young pretender from the wrong side of town, is daring to go
up against him. Armed with his sexy bad-boy persona, a flashy
American agent Rick (Vince Vaughn) and an army of screaming female
fans, Cliff is a fresh and exciting new sex symbol in the game.
In fact, he is fast turning Lawn Bowls into the biggest spectator
sport in England - possibly the World!!! To add insult to injury,
Cliffs biggest fan is his new girlfriend Kerry (Alice Evans)...
This hilarious and life affirming
new British comedy is a classic tale of triumph over adversity
that will quite literally bowl you over!
whole idea is silly and so is the film, it certainly raises a
smile or two, especially when you realise you're being entertained
by a film about bowls....."
- Cliff Starkey - Paul Kaye
- Trevor - Johny Vegas
- Ray Speight - James Cromwell
- Kerry Speight - Alice Evans
- Mutley (Grandad) - Bernard Cribbins
- Rick Schwartz - Vince Vaughn
- Bridget - Imelda Staunton
- Hugh the Sideburns - Ian McNeice
- Alan the Pipe - James Fleet
- Chairman Collins - Kenneth Cranham
- Giles Witton - David Ryall
Mark Little - Aussie player
- Tony Slattery - Referee
There can't have been many
films made about the noble and refined sport of bowls. Even gardening
is ahead in the 'films about what old people do' stakes, although
I'm still waiting for Alan Titchmarsh - The Movie.
Blackball is the (somewhat)
true story of Cliff Starkey - the self-modelled bad boy of bowls
- and his battle of the classes with Torquay's stuffy club champion
Ray Speight (James Cromwell). The exceptionally talented Starkey,
portrayed by the brilliant Paul Kaye (of Dennis Pennis fame),
is expelled from the club after writing "Speight is a tosser"
on a championship scorecard. The media attention surrounding
Starkey's expulsion turns him into an overnight star and the
Torquay bowls club is put under pressure to revoke his 15-year
ban in order to collect the sponsorship offered.
Torquay is a splendid location
for this over-the-top comedy in which the humour comes not from
the sport (the film-makers assume the audience has never played
bowls and the basic rules of the game are gradually explained
in various artificial-looking scenes), but from the social differences
between Starkey - a piss-poor decorator from the wrong side of
the tracks (he has to throw the local footballing kids off their
pitch in order to practise) - and conservative, well-to-do Speight.
For instance, ahead of their
championship game, Starkey swaggers onto the green accompanied
by the music from Rocky played by a brass band while Speight
and the other club members try in vain to maintain some kind
of decorum. Of course, that idea alone wouldn't be enough to
keep the whole film together, so there is a flimsy plot about
some Australian champs (one played by ex-Neighbour Mark Little)
who Starkey is desperate to defeat - an obsession that sees him
lose touch with his roots and his friends. The predictable love
interest comes when Starkey falls for Speight's daughter Kerry
(Alice Evans), but the best supporting role goes to Johnny Vegas
who plays Starkey's best mate Trevor with his usual raw, expressive
On the whole it is an enjoyable
caper, even if Blackball only touches the surface in terms of
social satire. Kaye's Starkey is an entertaining and likeable
character and the stern-faced Cromwell is the perfect foil for
his lines. The whole idea is silly and so is the film, but it
certainly raises a smile or two, especially when you realise
you're being entertained by a film about bowls.
BLACKBALL is available on DVD
Other scripts, CDs and DVDs of Tim Firth's work are available.