The Cable

FIFA’s $32 Million Biopic Performed About as Well as Its Anti-Corruption Rules

FIFA spent upwards of $30 million to make a biopic. It made $918 in the United States.

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Lost in all of the corruption charges against FIFA officials is a bizarre movie, United Passions, that the football governing body made about its own purported rise from humble beginnings in 1904 to a sprawling conglomerate in 2015. Starring Gérard Depardieu and Tim Roth, it cost between $25 and $32 million to make, depending on who you ask. FIFA put up about three-quarters of that money.

The reviews have been brutal, with critics deriding it as “cringeworthy” and “one of the most unwatchable films in recent memory.” It’s Rotten Tomatoes score is zero. Audiences seem to agree: It has so far made $918, the lowest box office opening in the history of the United States.

Its distributor, Screen Media Films, has now yanked it from American theaters after a 10-day run when it wasn’t quite able to recover from an opening weekend of $607.

Box office for one movie theater in Phoenix was $9. That means one person went to see it.

But apparently, $32 million can buy you quite a bit of star power. Roth, best known for his parts in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, stars as current FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, and Sam Neill, who was in the original Jurassic Park, plays its former president, João Havelange. Depardieu, who won a Golden Globe for Green Card and was nominated for an Academy Award for Cyrano de Bergerac, is also in the cast.

The film didn’t do much better overseas: It only made $158,000 in Russia, a country that might be expected to have warm feelings for FIFA after the organization controversially gave it the 2018 World Cup. It also opened at Cannes.

Unfortunately, I now can’t see it in the theater. But I can enjoy the trailer. And, my God, is it enjoyable. Lines include:

“Blatter is apparently good at finding money.” This is really, really true.

“You have everything you need to run our family. But you know, the slightest error, and you’re out.” Havelange says this to Blatter, which is obviously not the case. Also, the use of the word “family” is kind of ironic given the FBI is going after FIFA like it’s the Soprano family.

Blatter: “I don’t know where the money’s gone. I mean, I have my suspicions.” Do you now, Sepp?

Someone says to Blatter, “You’ve been betrayed. You could go to prison.” Yes, Sepp, you could.

“Gentleman, remember, you’re making history.” Yes, Sepp, you are.

The trailer is below.

Photo credit: Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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