‘Whether he liked it or not, Bobby was an icon of his age’

Julian Shea talks to Matthew Lorenzo about his Bobby Moore film plans

Never meet your heroes, they say. But if you are sports presenter Matthew Lorenzo, growing up, you had little say in the matter. ‘My father Peter was ITV’s main football commentator, and at the end of the season, he’d say ‘that’s it, football’s over, let’s go away now as a family’ but mysteriously we always used to end up on holiday at the same places as the likes of Bobby Moore – that’s how I grew up,’ Lorenzo told Blowing Bubbles.

It is that unparalleled insight and closeness to the story that has inspired Lorenzo Jr to make an upcoming documentary about the biggest West Ham and England hero of them all. Funding for the as-yet untitled Bobby Moore film, scheduled for release in time for the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup win, has already been secured.

With the Football Association, Bobby Moore Cancer Fund and both Moore’s wives Tina and Stephanie involved with the project, it is shaping up to be the definitive story of arguably one of the best known but also least known characters of modern English history. ‘Because it’s about Bobby, there’s so much good feeling behind the project — nobody has said no,’ Lorenzo explained. ‘Pele did an interview — for free — in the first week after we got the money secured, and we’ve already got David Beckham in the bag too. There have been attempts to tell the story before — there was a 2002 documentary called Hero, which was ok as far as it went, and a drama documentary which wasn’t great, so there’s a gap in the market, and I’m in a good position to portray it properly.’

Despite being one of the most famous people in the world, Moore was famously an extremely private person — his first bout with cancer, before the 1966 World Cup, was hushed up for years — so Lorenzo said the film would shed new light on a hugely familiar figure.

‘We’ve found up a lot of detail that people don’t know, which will make them think of him as even more of a hero,’ he said. ‘Bobby kept a lot of things close to his chest, but when people find out what he was hiding, and why, they’ll think even better of him. There are depths we have to explain.’ Having been sidelined by the football establishment in shocking fashion, Moore died from bowel cancer in 1993, aged just 52, in the early days of the Premier League, just as the game was about to be rebranded and reinvented as the all-singing, all-dancing form of the entertainment industry that it is today.

Now, seemingly any ex-footballer is showered with honours and attention. But Lorenzo is not sure that the greatest player England has ever produced would necessarily have received his fair share. ‘I’d like to think so — Pele and Franz Beckenbauer have certainly had it, and Beckham is everything Bobby should have been in terms of respect – but I don’t know if Bobby would have got it,’ he said. ‘The treatment he received by the footballing establishment was shameful. He never had a proper management post and when he wrote applying for the England job, he didn’t even get a reply. Maybe it’s like JFK — dying young, we always have the memory and image of a young man. We’ll never know what could have happened.’

Beyond the obvious market of West Ham and England football fans, Lorenzo hopes the film will have wider appeal as it shows Moore’s social significance in a changing Britain. ‘He went from being West Ham’s, to England’s, to the world’s footballer, and then found himself at the heart of a social revolution as Britain came out of the monochrome 50s into the multi-coloured swinging 60s,’ Lorenzo explained. ‘He was as much a part of it as Terence Stamp or Michael Caine, both of whom we’re hoping to speak to. Whether he liked it or not, he was an icon for an age.’

Aside from football, Lorenzo’s other great professional passion is motorsport, so his main inspiration in terms of making the film is no great surprise. ‘Senna is the benchmark in terms of documentary-making – without any reservation, that’s the template we’re looking at,’ he said. ‘Our film will be about 70 per cent archive and 30 per cent new material. It’s not cheap, but our archivist Richard Wiseman is very good and has already found footage of a disallowed goal Bobby scored in the World Cup final which the tv cameras didn’t pick up, so it’s worth paying for.’

The film will be directed by Ron Scalpello — ‘another’ West Ham fan – there seems to be some theme developing here, but there’s a lot of us in the media’ — as despite his own television background, Lorenzo said the big screen treatment demanded something more. ‘I can hack my way around something for tv, but cinema is something different, and I’m sure Ron will produce something revelatory,’ he said.

With finance in place and a production company set up, Lorenzo is looking forward to getting the project underway. ‘One of the things we’ll look at is all the ambassadorial things Bobby never got; when you look at David Beckham, he’s been managed in exactly the way Bobby should have been,’ said Lorenzo. ‘In fact when we spoke to him, the whole way through his interview, David kept referring him to as ‘Sir Bobby’. Apparently that can only be done posthumously if you’re in the military. But this is Bobby Moore we’re talking about. We must help get that put right.’

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