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How An Irish Director Went From 'Billie Jean' To 'Mike Bassett - England Manager'

How An Irish Director Went From 'Billie Jean' To 'Mike Bassett - England Manager'
By Mikey Traynor Updated

You've seen it countless times, familiar with every scene, every shot, Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is one of the biggest music videos ever.

But did you know it was directed by an Irishman? It's quite possible that you did, as Steve Barron also directed the iconic a-ha Take On Me video, Dire Straights' Money For Nothing, Bryan Adams' Run To You, and a staggering list of smash hits..

But did you know he directed Mike Basset - England Manager as well?

A film that we absolutely love here at Balls.ie and consider it arguably the best football film ever made, Mike Bassett has stood the test of time and never fails to make us howl with laughter. That's why we were delighted to have the film's director Steve Barron as our guest on The Football Show where we were told some fascinating tidbits from his ridiculously cool career.

We asked him straight up how he went from shooting what would become a world famous music video for the single biggest pop star of all time, to making a feature length comedy film taking the piss out of the England manager's position, as it's not exactly the most predictable transition.

Michael Jackson had seen the work Barron did with Human League and wanted a similar fantasy-style concept for Billie Jean, so that's how that came about, but for Bassett, it was more a bit more fortunate.

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It was a bunch of coincidences really, I was doing music videos and before I did 'Billie Jean' I did a bunch of English music videos for Adam and the Ants and Human League and that sort of thing, but after that I got together with Duncan Kenworthy and did a TV series called 'The Storyteller'.

Duncan knew, from that, that I really liked football, and he asked me to look at a three page treatment on Mike Bassett. He said he was sending this treatment that was loosely based on the Graeme Taylor fiasco, and said, well do you think we could make it into a film?

I thought absolutely, I'd love to have a go at it. He introduced me to two writers Rob Sprackling and John Smith who wrote the film, and at the time it was a treatment and we just developed it. We got together on Thursday nights for about six months and slowly put together our favourite moments, what would become our favourite moments for the film.

They're amazing [Sprackling and Smith], those two guys, they bounce off each other as writers. Some of it we did as we went along, like, we didn't know we we're going to get Pele..

Of the moments that did eventually make the cut, we asked Steve what his favourite scene was, as difficult a question as we knew that was to ask. After expressing his love of the final press-conference, and the half-time team talk against Mexico, he claimed the 'Benson and Hedges' scene was the best joke in the film.

A fine choice.

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Barron then explained what it was like having Pele on the set, before concluding that his love for the sport of football is what really made the whole film come about.

We got him for an hour.

So they were in the background writing another scene. We've got him for an hour, we can shoot our scene in half an hour with him finding Bassett on the bar, but we can do another scene with him.

So they came up with [Martin] Bashir interviewing him about who he thought might win the World Cup, and things like that were kind of on-the-fly, really.

So it came from that really, I've loved football from a young age.

I support Man United, actually, when I was on the playground it was all Best, Law, Charlton. I tried Shamrock Rovers, a freezing night against Dundalk when I was about six, I went on my own, and it was a 0-0 draw and I thought no, not Shamrock Rovers.

A blow for the League of Ireland there.

Steve Barron was a hugely enjoyable guest and if you would like to hear more, such as what the actor who also played Carl Fletcher in Dream Team is up to these days, which of the musicians he worked with like football the most, or what the story with the Mike Bassett sequel is, you can listen to the full interview on The Football Show from 18:30 onwards:

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SEE ALSO: 7 Reasons Why 'Mike Bassett: England Manager' Is The Best Football Film Ever Made

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