Woman be­hind the icon

Tina & Bobby direc­tor John McKay tells why it’s more im­por­tant to make an in­ter­est­ing real-life drama than a com­pletely ac­cu­rate one.

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Known for his work on pop­u­lar polic­ing se­ries Life on Mars and Jean Shrimp­ton and David Bai­ley biopic We’ll Take Man­hat­tan, Scot­tish wri­ter­di­rec­tor John McKay dives back into the 1960s and 70s with his most am­bi­tious tale yet.

Tina & Bobby is the three-part story of Tina Dean and how her mar­riage to a tal­ented foot­baller called Bobby Moore trans­formed her from sub­ur­ban house­wife into the face of Bisto and the coun­try’s first WAG. I was born in 1964. I grew up with names like Bobby Charl­ton, De­nis Law, Ge­orge Best. They were as heroic and mythical to me as Cap­tain Scar­let, the

Thun­der­birds and James Bond. They ex­isted in the same cat­e­gory – they were all on bub­blegum cards and TV.

I’ve never been a foot­ball guy though, so in some ways, I was ex­actly the wrong direc­tor to make this show. But the thing is, what I recog­nised in the script, was that it was about the mar­riage of the icon – the woman be­hind the man – and their lower/ up­per mid­dle class as­pi­ra­tions which ex­actly mir­rored my par­ents own. They be­gan in rented ac­com­mo­da­tion and were su­per proud to own their first home, even if they didn’t have car­pet. They were peo­ple who knew that life was good be­cause they got a slightly big­ger car ev­ery two years, or be­cause their toaster was made of shiny metal, or be­cause next year they were go­ing to get a Ken­wood Chef. Life was good and would eter­nally progress as long as their ma­te­rial gains re­flected sta­bil­ity and progress.

What I said to the pro­duc­ers was, ‘‘I’m not a foot­ball guy. But I know what the drapes were, I know what Tup­per­ware she has in the cup­board, I know what frock she wears’’.

The weird thing is I have an older brother who is all foot­ball. As I be­gan to look at the foot­ball of the 1960s, I re­alised I knew it all any­way be­cause when I had been sit­ting on the car­pet play­ing with my Lego wait­ing for Doc­tor Who to come on, my brother was watch­ing Match of the Day. No. I guess it had al­most en­tirely passed me by. I must have seen pic­tures of Tina and Bobby in same way I’d seen them of John and Yoko. What’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing about their re­la­tion­ship was, when you delve back into the his­tory, you re­alise how im­por­tant she was in his life and suc­cess.

He had can­cer in the mid-’60s, just be­fore be­com­ing the World Cup win­ning cap­tain of Eng­land. She must have been very sup­port­ive and pro­tec­tive of him in re­tain­ing that se­cret. He couldn’t talk about it be­cause of so­cial at­ti­tudes of the time and also rep­u­ta­tion­ally. She must have been about the only per­son he could ever talk to.

By con­trast, foot­ballers are no­to­ri­ous shag­gers, just like any other slightly over­paid star sports­man. So, in a way, the sur­pris­ing thing was not that their mar­riage should ul­ti­mately founder, but how long it lasted. They were mar­ried for a good 20 years be­fore they could bear to ad­mit it wasn’t work­ing. I think that’s another in­ter­est­ing part of the story. If your life and mar­riage co­in­cides with rather as­ton­ish­ing suc­cess, given that we live, grow and change, what are you and your mar­riage when that suc­cess runs out? Yeah, I think you have to be re­spon­si­ble to ei­ther the ex­plicit wishes of liv­ing peo­ple or im­plied feel­ings and wishes of peo­ple who aren’t around any­more, but who may have liv­ing rel­a­tives. How­ever, the im­por­tant thing is not to make bor­ing drama be­cause you’re wor­ried about of­fend­ing some­one. Of­ten, when some­thing is truth­fully dra­matic, they will come to you and go ‘‘what a re­ally great movie’’, be­cause they would rather be in some­thing re­ally com­pelling, than bor­ing.

For in­stance, I was very wor­ried for a long time when I made We’ll Take Man­hat­tan about how Jean (Shrimp­ton) would feel about it be­cause she’s very reclu­sive. She’d given me per­mis­sion to make the story, but had been too shy to re­ally have an in­put dur­ing the process. I sent her a copy be­fore it was broad­cast as a cour­tesy and then I got a sur­prise phone call. ‘‘I can’t be­lieve you made this drama – how did you know all those things? It’s as if you were there.’’

I guess the process of mem­ory is odd. I think we all kind of guild and edit our mem­ory in ret­ro­spect – we’re all busy mak­ing the movie of our lives. So to have a movie or TV shows made about you – un­less it’s so of­fen­sive that you have to reach for your lawyer’s phone num­ber – can of­ten be very con­firm­ing, sup­port­ive. This was based on a mem­oir by Tina and she’s de­lighted with the re­sult, I think. Be­cause her prin­ci­pal agenda is that she be­lieves Bobby has been un­der-served by the UK, par­tic­u­larly the Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion. She likes the show be­cause it shows what he went through, what he suf­fered for the sake of foot­ball. Yes, it seems an un­likely piece of cast­ing for the most English per­son there is. Many ac­tors who au­di­tioned played foot­ball, which they of­ten im­pressed on me by bring­ing one with them. Lorne was a rugby player. I en­cour­aged him to do the same ex­er­cise regime as Bobby – which was very sim­ple early 60s PT (phys­i­cal train­ing) – jog­ging and push-ups. Within three to four weeks, he looked like Bobby Moore – v-shaped broad shoul­ders, flat chest, nar­row waist. He re­ally in­hab­ited at. And he was re­ally good at Bobby’s slightly shy, mach inar­tic­u­lacy. She is some­one I knew from mak­ing the first se­ries of Or­di­nary Lies. She’d come from six years on Corona­tion Street and I just found work­ing with her that she was a real star, a force of na­ture. She’s very mod­est too though and some­times doubts her abil­ity to act things apart from ‘‘naughty Man­cu­nian girl’’.

I had to con­vince her she could do this. She was go­ing to come for a meet­ing and then bot­tled at the last minute. I had to re­ally per­suade her, drag her to meet me. I think she was afraid of the ac­cent (Es­sex) and the age-range in­volved.

I think she does ter­rif­i­cally well – she’s the cen­tre of the show. Be­cause re­ally, al­though it has foot­ball in it, it’s re­ally a ‘‘woman’s show’’. Since it has been writ­ten pretty much for Gerry (Ger­ald) But­ler, we’re just wait­ing for him to get done with things that are Fallen

( Olym­pus, Lon­don). The direc­tor in­volved is Vadim Jean, who is a clas­sic English direc­tor, and he keeps me in­formed when there are win­dows in Gerry’s busy diary.

The movie re­mains there to be made and there is a big will in Scot­land to make it. It’s the kind of thing the SNP (Scot­tish Na­tional Party) Govern­ment would love to see hap­pen. Last we heard was that they were will­ing to close Ed­in­burgh for it.

Tina & Bobby de­buts 8.30pm, tonight, Rialto.

Tina & Bobby is the story of a fa­mous foot­baller and the woman be­hind his suc­cess.

Tina & Bobby looks at what hap­pens to a mar­riage when it is de­fined by one of the part­ner’s amaz­ing suc­cess.

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