Taken from BBC online, Tim Mackenzie-Smith talks about directing the BBC One documentary Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals.
In 2015 I was in the pub with my good mate and producer, Molly Armstrong. We were having a brainstorm over a couple of beers and he piped up: “Isn’t Rooney gonna break the England goals record soon?” He was right. At that point, at the age of 28, Rooney was fewer than 10 goals away from Bobby Charlton’s total, which had stood for 44 years.
We knew it wouldn’t be easy to get Wayne to agree to do a documentary. He’s uncomfortable in the media spotlight. He just wants to play football. Being the centre of attention off the pitch doesn’t come naturally to him. Nonetheless, this was potentially a piece of history.
I contacted my mate and long-term collaborator, Tony Pastor of Goalhanger Films. We had worked together on a number of sport documentaries such as Keane & Vieira – Best of Enemies and Gary Lineker On The Road to FA Cup Glory. I felt that a co-production between Goalhanger and my company Deadpan Films would work. Tony runs Goalhanger with Gary Lineker, and we knew that if anyone could persuade Wayne of the merits of making a documentary it would be the face of football on the BBC. Lineker also just happened to be number two on the goal-scoring record list at that point.
Gary contacted Wayne, and he was receptive. He and his agent Paul Stretford understood that if there was any time for Wayne to allow the cameras in, it was now, as he approached a huge milestone in his career and a huge moment in English football history.
Once they agreed to take part, Paul Stretford was hugely important in helping us get to the other big names in football who agreed to be interviewed for the film: the likes of Ronaldo, Gerrard, Beckham and Zlatan. Paul put calls in to his colleagues, but the reason these players were willing to take part was down to respect they had for Wayne. For me, that was one of the most striking parts of the process: the love these guys had for Wayne. The Wayne they talked about was not the man the public knew and it was important for us to get that across.
One element that really helped us show the grounded man, still true to his roots, was the set-up in the car. Wayne drove us round his old Croxteth haunts. It was apparent straight away that this was a man who had not forgotten where he came from. This came quite early on in the filming process. It was supposed to last 45 minutes but Wayne drove us round for nearly three hours, being really open and honest about his early years, and meeting some old friends and neighbours too.
The cornerstone of the film, however, was the access we were allowed to the Rooney family home. It was this that elevated the film beyond a simple football story. The Rooneys showed us round, including Wayne's trophy room and guitar collection and allowed us to film them with their two sons Kai and Klay. We were given a really warm welcome and this material showed them to be a down-to-earth, loving young family.
We didn’t promise anything about any subjects being off limits in return for our access to Wayne and his wife Coleen. The film touched on some of what’s put Wayne in the tabloids – apart from football - when Coleen talked about Wayne’s mistakes upsetting her. She said she understood that was part of growing up in public. But this wasn’t our focus. The film was commissioned as a celebration of an historic sporting achievement and for us there were three pillars of the story. Wayne’s Croxteth roots, the sporting journey to become England's greatest goal scorer and getting to know the man behind the goals. We had no interest in defining him by the mistakes of his youth.
The shoot at Rooney’s home kept being delayed - to the point where we had nearly finished a very different version of the film. By the time we could get everyone’s schedules synched up, we were deep into the edit of a film that would have sat fine at half past ten in the schedules. But the Rooneys let us have more than two hours in their home. Alison Kirkham, the BBC Head of Factual and our commissioning executive, made it clear that with this material the film could get a prime time, nine o’clock slot.
But that meant we had to change our focus to incorporate as much of the new material as possible. We knew Alison was right and we also knew we would have to do some hard yards and seriously long hours in the edit suite to make it happen in time for transmission.
Sir Bobby Charlton, Wayne Rooney and Gary Lineker
The edit was tricky for other reasons too - not least because we didn’t know when Wayne would break the record. We watched every game praying he wouldn’t get injured. When Roy Hodgson took him off in San Marino at the time he needed one more goal, I was screaming at the TV!
As it turned out we should thank Roy because Wayne broke the record at Wembley in front of a full house of expectant fans. And it was a penalty, which you might think is not the most exciting way to break a historic record. But we knew we could build a really emotional sequence around it - the build-up, the hush of suspense and finally the emotional release when the ball hit the back of the net.
That was on September 8th. Less than a month later, on October 5th, the film was shown on BBC One. It was a race to finish, not least because we could only schedule our interview with Cristiano Ronaldo for a week before the end of the edit. The hours were long but we knew what we had. The Rooneys had been kind enough to give up their time for us and we needed to do them justice.
The reaction to the film has been very gratifying. Way more than anything I’ve ever done, it has had a real crossover appeal. Footy fans seemed to enjoy it but it also appealed to the non-footy fan too. It was a tough process but ultimately very rewarding.
Hopefully sportspeople might watch it and see that by opening up a little and not trying to manage the process too much, they can reveal their true selves to a public who would like to get closer than they can from reading a tabloid story.