Newcastle United’s St James’ Park was today unveiled as the backdrop to a new Hollywood movie.
The ground has been chosen ahead of other Premiership rivals for a starring role in the forthcoming blockbuster GOAL!
The football-themed film will be a trilogy that will focus on the fortunes of a soccer-mad American Latino boy who comes to England to play in the Premiership.
St James’ Park will be the home for the fictional team and the producers have not ruled out cameo roles by Toon manager Bobby Robson and fans’ favourite Alan Shearer.
The sequel will see the player transfer to Real Madrid and play in the Champions League with the final chapter set during the 2006 World Cup.
Diego Luna will play the lead role, Swedish-born Good Will Hunting star Stellan Skarsgard will be the team’s manager, and also on board is top Hollywood director Michael Winterbottom.
Lancashire-born Winterbottom was behind the cult Manchester film 24-Hour Party People, which charted the rise and fall of Factory Records.
Speaking at a press conference at St James’ Park, Luna, who will play the lead role of Santiago, said the film was a dream come true.
He told reporters: “This movie is really important for me. It is like a dream.
“I am going to be doing two of the three things I like doing – I will be acting and I will be playing football.
“I just need a girlfriend and that will make my life perfect.”
But the actor added: “I still have Saturdays and Sundays for your girls as I will be training all the rest of the week.”
Newcastle United’s Portugal international midfielder Hugo Viana will be Luna’s body double on the pitch.
GOAL!, which has a $100m (€82.5m) budget, is being touted as being potentially as popular in the US as Bend It Like Beckham, which was a massive hit when it was released.
Filming has already begun. The movie will be released in February next year and the final instalment is due to hit cinema screens in time for the 2006 World Cup.
The production team travelled to Spain last week to film Newcastle’s 3-0 UEFA Cup win against Real Mallorca.
They will also be filming around Newcastle city centre and several of the city’s top nightspots.
Producer Mike Jeffries refused to say which soccer stars might make a guest appearance but said he wanted as many of the Toon Army as possible to in the movie.
“There will be cameo appearances from people within the football industry,” he said.
“We will not be mentioning any specific names but we are very excited by these appearances.”
“Newcastle is famous for a tradition of attacking and colourful football and incredibly passionate fans.
“We believe the club and the city will provide a truly wonderful setting for out story.”
Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd, who will also make a cameo appearance as the fictional club’s chairman, said: “The club is looking forward to GOAL! Because it will give Newcastle United world wide exposure.
“It’s fantastic news for this city and we’re looking forward to working with the GOAL! Team.
“For Newcastle it is a win, win situation.”
Also working on the film is Bruce Davey, the long-time business partner of Mel Gibson, who between them have produced Braveheart, What Women Want and the current Hollywood blockbuster The Passion Of The Christ.