The FIFA Scandal: Coming (Sooner or Later) to a Theater Near You
27 Jun, 2015By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Damon, Affleck Named as Producers of Film to be Based on Still-Developing Events
Lights! Camera! Oh, wait a minute; they just found some new incriminating evidence. We need a rewrite here.
Soccer American Daily recently reported that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon will produce the story of Chuck Blazer, the American who is a pivotal figure in the FIFA scandal. The Hollywood Reporter said the film will focus on the American side of the developing story.
The movie will be a gamble, to say the least: not only is the FIFA story nowhere near finished, the script for the movie is based on a book that is similarly in progress.
Only in Hollywood could this happen.
Warner Brothers secured the rights to Houses of Deceit, the book being written by BuzzFeed investigative reporter Ken Bensinger on Blazer, the former FIFA and CONCACAF executive who turned FBI informant. (Bensinger, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, left the paper for Buzzfeed, where a story about Blazer, published in June 2014, Mr. Ten Percent: The Man Who Built — And Bilked — American Soccer, became the basis for a book proposal that culminated in a deal with Simon & Shuster.)
From its book pickup, the story caught the attention of Hollywood, and the rest, as they say, is history. The film will be produced by Pearl Street Films, which is the film company of Affleck and Damon.
Perhaps we should repeat this: a movie deal for a book that hasn’t been written yet, about a scandal that is still developing.
But Blazer’s story, to be certain, is compelling. He went from unemployed soccer dad to FIFA executive committee member and executive vice president of the U.S. Soccer Federation as well as general manger of CONCACAF, the soccer governing body for North and Central America.
So far, so good, but Blazer too had been sucked into the web of corruption surrounding FIFA. He earned the nickname of "Mr. Ten Percent" for his slice of lucrative sponsorship and television deals that allowed him -- and everyone around him -- to live the good life. (It was Blazer who had a palatial New York apartment just for his cats.)
His previously unassailable position in the soccer world began to unravel when in the 2010s, allegations of bribery began to surface as well as reports of massive tax evasion. Even as he admitted to conspiring to accept bribes with other FIFA executives, he was also informing for the FBI. And he was also a deemed a cooperating witness in May’s arrests of FIFA executives. Now, he has been banned from the sport for life.
Good guy? Bad guy? The casting will be interesting.
There is no word yet on (a) when the book will be finished, (b) when the script will be finished or (c) when the movie will go into production and be released – all of which seems to be par for the course at this point.
Maybe the movie should be about Bensinger instead. He seems to be the only person in this storyline who took a chance with his career and got a happy ending.
It’s certainly not the first movie based on soccer events, but with Affleck and Damon in charge, it’s sure to go over at least a little better than “United Passions,” the most recent FIFA film and cinematic train wreck. That movie, which cost $27 million to make, grossed $918 (yes, you read that correctly) on its opening weekend, officially setting the record for worst box office opening ever in the United States. It was financed by FIFA and was intended to portray Blatter as working to clean up corruption.
Unsurprisingly, the film was widely panned by critics, including Tim Appelo, who noted, “United Passions” is one of those rare films so unfathomably ghastly you could write a better one while sitting through its interminable 110 minutes.” Others called it "pure cinematic excrement" and "cringe-worthy, self-aggrandizing," among other things.
Pass the popcorn. It's going to be a long scandal.