LONDON • David Beckham has confirmed reports he is to make the leap into acting and admitted he is braced for the brickbats that are likely to come his way.
The former Manchester United and England footballer was recently reported to have taken a cameo as a "grumpy knight" in Guy Ritchie's forthcoming film Knights Of The Roundtable: King Arthur.
Beckham, 40, said he was keen to impose himself in his new chosen profession, but was fully aware he faced an uphill battle to find success.
"I am very aware that many sportsmen and other celebrities have turned their hand to acting and failed," he told the Times. "I know that it is a tough profession, where you need a huge amount of skill and discipline and I wouldn't want to push myself forward too soon, without learning more about it and doing a lot more practice. But what I have done so far, I have loved. I can deal with most things. I am a well-known person, so I have got used to criticism."
Of his cameo for Ritchie, who plans a half dozen films based on the stories of Britain's once and future king, Beckham said he found the experience "nerve-racking" but was pleased that it had ultimately gone "really well".
He said: "I had 13 lines and practised a huge amount beforehand. Guy had someone come and rehearse with me and I did that an hour every day in the build-up."
Beckham's move into acting will see him follow in the footsteps of fellow footballers Eric Cantona, who starred in Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth as the French ambassador to the court of Cate Blanchett's Queen Elizabeth I in 1998, and former Wales and Wimbledon midfielder Vinny Jones, who made his name in Ritchie's British gangster movies Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels in 1998 and Snatch in 2000.
Before he makes leap...
News that David Beckham is about to enter the thespian arena fills one with particular trepidation, given the England hero's global celebrity and distinct lack of achievement in things that do not involve kicking a ball.
Here are a few things he could learn from those who have attempted the transfer to Hollywood before.
DON'T SPEAK TOO MUCH
Movie directors want deep, velvety voices: George Clooney, say, or Jose Mourinho. If your voice is more like a Thames Estuary castrato, best not to expose audiences to it all at once. Beckham's voice has reportedly been getting deeper and posher over the years, in preparation for his screen career perhaps, but less is still more.
DON'T BE SEXY
Stan Collymore's movie career took an even earlier bath than his footballing one, following his excruciating cameo in Basic Instinct 2 (2006), which saw him and Sharon Stone supposedly pleasuring each other in a fast car (and winding up at the bottom of the Thames as a result). If a script based on Calvin Klein underwear is pitched at you, Dave, don't even read it.
Eric Cantona: the footballer who actually pulled it off. But your former teammate already had a penchant for philosophy, poetry and other cerebral pursuits, which paved the way for his casting in Elizabeth (1998), Looking For Eric (2009), The Salvation (2014), and so on. Other Frenchmen who made the leap from football include Frank LeBoeuf (who played a doctor in last year's The Theory Of Everything).
Successful non-French footballers in movies have generally excelled at one role and one role only: themselves. Pele and Bobby Moore even held their own against Hollywood heavyweights such as Sylvester Stallone in Escape To Victory (1981). Admittedly, even the role of David Beckham looks to have been a challenge at times, but with enough preparation and a script involving a well-groomed Arthurian central midfielder, Hollywood won't know what has hit them.