When filmmaker Tom Hooper took on HBO’s monumental mini-series John Adams, the pressure for accuracy was intense. Surprisingly however, making an Emmy Award-winning show about America’s second president paled in comparison to the burden behind his latest movie.
“(In England), Brian Clough is a national icon and everyone has a fondness for him so it was like, ‘Don’t muck with a national treasure,’” said the British director of The Damned United — the stirring biopic of an enigmatic soccer manager whose tumultuous short-lived career was marred by his own conceit and envy.
“My journey with The Damned United started rather incongruously in a Hungarian hotel bedroom,” pointed out Hooper, noting that he read the script while filming John Adams. What mainly caught his eye were the stunning similarities between Clough and his then-current project’s subject.
“I came home and read the script by Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) about a man who struggled with his ego and hubris and was brilliantly flawed. He, however, was a soccer manager in the 1970s in England as opposed to a President of the United States but there was a definite connection.”
Hooper credits Morgan for truly tapping into the most fascinating elements of the man whose brief 44-day tenure leading famed Leeds United carries themes more in conjunction with a Shakespearean tragedy.
“He’s kind of singlehandedly reinvented the biopic by rejecting the cradle-to-grave biography,” said Hooper of his talented screenwriter.
But Hooper also spotlights Michael Sheen and the star’s powerful performance as Clough. Having previously played everyone from Tony Blair (The Queen) to David Frost (Frost/Nixon), it seems Sheen has a unique gift for capturing the essence of known personalities.
“Michael Sheen’s a genius in this movie,” praised Hooper.