Blackball (film)


DVD cover of Blackball
Directed by Mel Smith
Produced by James Gay-Rees
Written by Tim Firth
Starring Paul Kaye
Alice Evans
Vince Vaughn
James Cromwell
Distributed by Icon Entertainment International
Release dates
  • 5 September 2003 (2003-09-05) (UK)[1]
  • 11 February 2005 (2005-02-11) (U.S.)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $48,000 (USA)

Blackball is a 2003 British sports comedy film. Tim Firth wrote the screenplay, and it was directed by Mel Smith.[2] Its fictional plot is based on the bowls player Griff Sanders.[3]


Cliff Starkey (played by Paul Kaye), is a rebellious young bowls player. He dreams of playing for his country but always preferring to play by his own rules, was always disapproved by the local bowls club. After winning the local competition, he is subsequently banned from competing in the sport for fifteen years by Ray Speight (James Cromwell), the head of the local lawn bowls association, for writing an expletive on an opponent's scorecard. Picked up by sports agent Rick Schwartz (Vince Vaughn), Starkey is rebranded as the "bad boy of bowls", turning the normally sedate sport into a glitzy, in your face competition. He and Speight take on Australia's unbeaten Doohan brothers in "The Ashes", a one off tournament in a custom made bowls arena in Torquay. They make a comeback thanks to Speight's experience and Starkey's extravagance, while Cliff also bends the rules to the maximum to force the game into extra time, much to the disbelief of Carl and Mark Doohan.

Starkey's confidence, due to Speight's concentration and the power of the black balls, leads the film to an exciting finale with the Doohan brothers.

In addition to the main charactering being modelled after Griff Sanders, the film also spoofs Bjørge Lillelien's infamous commentary from Norway's 2-1 defeat of England at football in 1981. The first movie based on this theme was David Baddiel and Frank Skinner's Fantasy Football League, and the other commentator for the match was Angus Loughran, who played 'Statto' on Fantasy Football.

Blackball was filmed on the Isle of Man and Torquay during October and November 2002. It was released on DVD on 16 February 2004.[4] Various internet games were created in promotion of the movie.[5]



  1. Pierce, Nev (4 October 2003). "BBC Blackball Review". Archived from the original on 11 October 2003. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  2. "The Tim Firth Blackball Home Page". Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  3. Colley, Ed (16 September 2003). "Blackball Future Movies Review". Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2014.

External links

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