Tony Hawks on the making of ‘Playing the Moldovans at Tennis’, an independent film based on his best-selling book.
I feel a little like an unranked qualifier in a grand slam. Having made an independent British feature film based on my best-selling book, I’m now up against the big boys, the studios, the big distributors, and the cinema chains – in an attempt to get my film out there.
The film tells the true story of how I, Tony Hawks, a complacent and somewhat self-indulgent writer, attempted to win a silly bet in order to gather material for a light-hearted new book, but along the way became embroiled in an uplifting and life-changing adventure.
It’s an unusual project because it has been filmed ten years after the original events, and it is a dramatised version of the book, starring Tony Hawks playing….well, Tony Hawks.
I’d originally made the bet in a London pub during a televised World Cup qualifying match between England v Moldova and as a result I’d headed off to track down the entire Moldovan football team, and to challenge them individually to a game of tennis, and beat them all. However, along the way I discovered that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. In Europe’s poorest country, which was enduring daily power shortages, gun-toting gangsters, and even an illegal and lawless breakaway republic, I found that it wasn’t that easy to coax footballers onto a tennis court.
The film shows my friendship with the country grow as my intended ‘trivial and fun’ project begins to take on a far greater significance for everyone involved, and the result is an inspirational climax and unexpectedly enduring legacy.
I’ve decided to donate all the film’s profits go to the Tony Hawks Centru – the children’s care centre that I’ve started in Chisinau Moldova – for kids with chronic conditions who are living in socially vulnerable families.
I wanted the film of Playing the Moldovans at Tennis to be all about giving. From the word go, I felt any profits should go to the care centre, and to enable that I needed to fund the film myself. The story is about Moldova, so in a sense I’m taking from that country – it seems only fair that I should give back.
By making an independent production it also meant we were free to tell the story truthfully, with integrity, and with love and care – and I believe that we have done that.
Whilst it was the case that most of the Moldovan footballers I played were not good exponents of how to play the game of tennis, I can say, without giving too much of the story away, that there is one tennis match in the film which features some half decent tennis. It was good not to have to rely on trickery. I’m an ex county player, so I know how to hit a ball, and the ‘actor’ I played against was Maxim Dubarenco, one of Moldova’s top young players. Alistair McGowan and Pat Cash provide tennis commentary for the tennis match sequence in the film.
Whilst the film is not really about tennis – more one man becoming embroiled with a small country’s difficulties – we’ve decided to release the film the week before Wimbledon, and hopefully we can exploit the media’s insatiable desire to cover anything tennis related. With no funds for an advertising budget, we don’t have any choice.
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis is released on June 21st 2012.
About the book
Playing the Moldovans at Tennis was published by Ebury Press, has sold more than 200,000 copies and was a Sunday Times best seller. The book was serialised on Radio 4