In case you’ve been living under a rock these past weeks, you’ll have noticed that the FIFA World Cup 2018 is in full swing and that football fever has well and truly taken hold in Britain. The reason? Well, in case you haven’t heard, that would have a little something to do with the fact that it’s coming home.
Despite the odds, England’s national football team is having its best World Cup in almost three decades, reaching the semi-final for the first time since 1990 and now in with a serious chance at making the final two.
This makes England one of just four teams left from around the world with the chance of lifting the coveted World Cup trophy this weekend. For football fans, this is the stuff dreams are made of. For movie producers, meanwhile, it must surely be the stuff of inspirational sporting biopics.
Just imagine it: the man whose saved penalty in a crushing Euro 96 sent England home in the semis, redeemed some two decades later by taking the England team further in the World Cup than they had been in years as manager. And, so the story would go, he did it all with a team nobody ever expected would go the distance, lifting the spirits of a weary nation in the process.
It’s a hell of a tale, full of drama, comedy (all those memes!) and, no doubt, rousing pre-match speeches. It’s a story made for great British cinema, with plum roles just waiting to be filled by some of Britain’s finest young actors.
With this in mind, we look to casting what will now surely be an inevitable World Cup 2018 movie, starting with the man at the centre of it all. Here are some of our casting choices.
Gareth Southgate – Joseph Mawle
His spiffing smart-casual attire aside (the wardrobe department on this movie is going to spend half its budget on M&S waistcoats), Gareth Southgate is just about the definition of a regular, everyday English bloke. For that, you need a regular, everyday English character actor to inhabit the role.
Enter Joseph Mawle, AKA Game of Thrones’ Benjen Stark. Mawle is, like Southgate before now, one of Britain’s more undersung talents, but his time would surely come with his lead role in Three Lions (it’s a working title).
Mawle has all the deceptive ordinariness of Southgate, as well as the underlying intelligence and occasional intensity that an actor will need in the part. Physically, you’re unlikely to find a better match – Mawle like Southgate is tall and wiry, and he shares some of Southgate’s angular features – but in terms of finding a performer who could do the role justice, you’ll do no better.
Harry Kane – Tom Felton
One of the stars of this show is surely going to be Harry Kane, the captain of the England squad and the current frontrunner in taking the 2018 World Cup’s Golden Boot award for most goals scored.
When he isn’t found hamming it up as snarling villains in the likes of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the Harry Potter series, Felton is an accomplished and subtle depicter of real-world people (see: Belle). The role of Harry Kane will also give Felton the rare chance to play a good guy, which, according to those he’s worked with, is very much the case IRL.
Finally, Felton will get to tap into his innate nice-ness for the screen. In terms of physical resemblance, meanwhile, Felton’s got it in the bag. It’s the blond hair, the blue eyes, the long head and slightly jutting chin. Forget Draco Malfoy; the man was born to play Kane.
Jesse Lingard – Jordan Stephens
Manchester United and England winger Jesse Lingard has proven a key component of England’s fresh-faced 2018 squad, with a solid work rate seeing him stand out among some of the more capped players.
Though this makes the character of Jesse Lingard an essential part of Three Lions, this is set to be a more minor supporting role than that of Southgate or Kane. That means audiences need to recognise who the actor playing him is supposed to be without much in the way of explanation.
Jordan Stephens, formerly of Rizzle Kicks and now pursuing a career as an actor, has an almost uncanny resemblance to Lingard. Stephens has appeared in Rogue One and took a featured role in 2014’s Glue, so he’s got the requisite acting experience already.
Harry Maguire – Aneurin Barnard
Harry Maguire, son of Sheffield and now star of one of the most famous memes to emerge from this 2018 World Cup (of Maguire chatting to his fiancé in the stand after England’s victory against Colombia), has marked himself out as an invaluable presence at the back in this tournament.
Maguire also has such distinctive features that we must cast him with some delicacy. Fans have affectionately(?) nicknamed Maguire ‘Slabhead’, after teammate Jamie Vardy crashed a recent press conference and asked him “How big is the diameter of your head?” And so, we need a similarly lantern-jawed actor to match.
Aneurin Barnard, the Welsh star of Dunkirk and the BBC’s recent adaptation of War & Peace, is more than a good fit, with the square features and all-round good egg-ness that Maguire seems to exude.
Jamie Vardy – Jack O’Connell
Aforementioned cheeky chappie Jamie Vardy hasn’t made a great impact for England in the World Cup so far (though there’s still time for him to surprise us with, say, a legendary hat-trick against Croatia), but his reputation as class clown means he’s going to play a significant role in the World Cup movie. Every good sporting film, after all, needs the comic relief.
Fellow cheeky chappie Jack O’Connell, a modern working-class hero of British acting and one-time Skins actor, seems an obvious fit to play Vardy. The pair share a rough charm that has individually brought them numerous fans, as well as a reputation for hellraising, but the main appeal of O’Connell is that he’s one of the best young actors working today.
O’Connell also already has form in playing English footballers: in 2011, he played Bobby Charlton in BBC TV movie United. The actor also once dreamed of playing football professionally, having trials with Derby County as a younger man, so he has the skills to do his own footwork for the screen.
Jordan Henderson – Joe Dempsie
Now one of the most-capped players in an England team full of youngsters, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has become something of a trusted ‘veteran’. But considering he’s still only 27, we need to cast appropriately from a small selection of young-but-preternaturally-wise actors.
Something of a young veteran himself, Joe Dempsie got his big break 11 years ago in Skins – and he’s still only 31 now. Now part of the Game of Thrones ensemble, Dempsie like Jack O’Connell has played an English footballer before, previously starring as Duncan McKenzie in Tom Hooper’s The Damned United back in 2011.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to see Dempsie playing Henderson. Since Skins he’s proven himself adaptable, going from the role of precocious teen to wise young man – not unlike Henderson himself.
Ashley Young – Ashley Walters
Ashley Young came into this World Cup as not just one of only three England players over the age of 30, but the oldest squad member at 33. It’s going to take an actor of some life experience, then, to play him.
36-year-old indie film star, TV actor, ex-jailbird, former member of So Solid Crew and father-of-seven Ashley Walters should do the trick, and not just because he bears a passing resemblance to Young when clean-shaven. Walters, like Young, would be a dependably senior presence in our World Cup movie the way Young is for the England squad.
Currently, Walters is making a name for himself (again, having already established himself as a rapper with So Solid Crew and in the world of indie cinema with Bullet Boy) in television, lighting up shows such as Bulletproof and last year’s Safe House.
Gary Cahill – Michael Socha
The second-oldest member of the England squad at 32, Gary Cahill is another ‘character’ looking for an actor in his 30s who can capably bring intelligence and a sense of wisdom to the part.
Our pick to play Cahill? Michael Socha. For starters…well, just look at him. Physical resemblance aside, however, Socha is one of Britain’s most charismatic young actors, more than able to convey some of the intensity that Cahill displays in that Lidl World Cup advert.
You may have seen Socha on the big screen, but more likely you’ll have seen him on television, in the This Is England series, The Aliens or Electric Dreams.
Kyle Walker – Cosmo Jarvis
Manchester City right back Kyle Walker has, like Gary Cahill, proven himself to be a solid supporting presence for England in 2018. This means we’ll require yet another young character actor-in-the-making to step up to the ensemble role.
Musician and rising star actor Cosmo Jarvis isn’t exactly a name just yet, but anyone who saw last year’s savage period drama Lady Macbeth will know he’s a talented thesp destined for great things.
The role of Kyle Walker, then, would fit Jarvis like a glove. You only have to squint a little to mistake the actor for Walker as he is now, and Jarvis’ chameleonic ability would undoubtedly take care of the rest.
Raheem Sterling – John Boyega
Other than Harry Kane, the England team in 2018 is almost bereft of what you might call ‘star’ players, though there is one who went into the competition with real name recognition, perhaps more than any other player: mercurial Man City forward Raheem Sterling.
To play one of the true stars of the England World Cup team, you’re going to need a star to match. You’re also going to need an actor with the dramatic ability to take on what should be one of the more complex and emotional roles in the film (a star striker who can’t score for his country and who faces fierce fan and media criticism? The audience will be in pieces!).
There’s only one man for the job: John Boyega, Star Wars lead and a powerhouse in last year’s historical drama Detroit. Plus, it’ll be a role for Boyega to sink his teeth into after all those daft space movies.
Jordan Pickford – Thomas Turgoose
Maybe England’s breakout star in the 2018 tournament, and maybe even the breakout star of the tournament full-stop, Everton and now (hopefully, for years to come) England keeper Jordan Pickford has won legions of new fans thanks to some impossible saves and his characteristic mix of understatement and ultra-confidence.
As for who should play what will surely prove one of the most crucial roles in Three Lions? Well, the internet already did the job of casting for us. It wasn’t long after Pickford starting making wonder saves that memes began circulating that compared Pickford to This Is England actor Thomas Turgoose.
Turgoose himself tweeted Pickford to put himself forward for the role. It really couldn’t be anyone else: Turgoose announced himself as one of England’s most exciting young actors long ago, and he’s a virtual double for the goalie.